United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) DISMISSING CIVIL ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) AND 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) AND (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND TO APPOINT COUNSEL AS MOOT [Doc. Nos. 2, 3]
BARRY TED MOSKOWITZ, Chief District Judge.
David Rowland Young ("Plaintiff"), currently incarcerated at Centinela State Prison ("CEN") in Imperial, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Compl.") (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff claims an unnamed Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") has violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment since March 2004 at four separate prisons by failing to provide "proper and professional prison management, " and generally permitting "institution heads" at North Kern State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, and CEN to subject him to "the laws of Jim Crow." See Compl. at 1, 3, 6-11. Plaintiff seeks $150 million in general and $125 million in punitive damages. Id. at 15.
Plaintiff has not prepaid the civil filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); instead, he has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Doc. No. 2). Plaintiff has also filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. No. 3).
I. SCREENING OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT PER 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
A. Standard of Review
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, enacted as part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), "the court shall review, ... as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 892 n.3 (9th Cir. 2011). A prisoner under § 1915A is "any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c).
"On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if [it] (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); Hamilton, 630 F.3d at 892 n.1. "Failure to state a claim under § 1915A incorporates the familiar standard applied in the context of [a motion to dismiss] under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)." Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).
"A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show the plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007); see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (a complaint fails to state a claim if it fails to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.") (citing FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1121.
B. Plaintiff's Allegations
First, Plaintiff names only an unidentified Secretary of the CDCR as the sole Defendant. He seeks damages against the Secretary based on claims that he is tasked with the responsibility to manage the State's prisons pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 5054, yet has failed to properly supervise "correctional... officer[s]" at four separate prisons where Plaintiff has been confined over the last ten years. See Compl. at 2, 3. Plaintiff concludes the Secretary's "dereliction of duty" and "mismanagement" of subordinates violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 12.
There is no respondeat superior liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, however. Palmer v. Sanderson, 9 F.3d 1433, 1437-38 (9th Cir. 1993); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 ("[V]icarious liability is inapplicable to... § 1983 suits."). Instead, a plaintiff "must plead that each government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see also Jones v. Community Redevelopment Agency of City of Los Angeles, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984) (even pro se plaintiff must "allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in" in order to state a claim). "The inquiry into causation must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976)); see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207-08 (9th Cir. 2011).
Supervisory prison officials may only be held liable for the allegedly unconstitutional violations of a subordinate if Plaintiff includes sufficient facts in his Complaint to show: (1) how or to what extent they personally participated in or directed a subordinate's actions, and (2) in either acting or failing to act, they were an actual and proximate cause of the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978); Starr, 652 F.3d at 1207-08. "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions'" fails to state a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
As pleaded, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to include any "factual content that [would] allow the court to draw [a] reasonable inference" that an unnamed Secretary of the CDCR personally participated in, directed, or caused him to suffer the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. See Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. For this reason alone, Plaintiff's Complaint fails ...