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Chavez v. San Bernardino Police Dept.

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 29, 2014

MANUEL REYNA CHAVEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN BERNARDINO POLICE DEPT., et al., Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

KENLY KIYA KATO, Magistrate Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

On October 22, 2014, plaintiff Manuel Reyna Chavez, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges he was the victim of excessive force committed by defendants San Bernardino Police Officers Geraldo Orozco, Mark Blackwell and Nick Martin. The complaint names all three individual defendants in both their individual and official capacities. Although there is some discrepancy between the caption and the body of the complaint, the named defendants may also include the San Bernardino Police Department which is included in the caption, but not listed as a named-defendant on pages 3 or 4 of the complaint.

After careful review and consideration of the allegations of the complaint under the relevant standards, the Court finds the complaint subject to dismissal for various deficiencies. However, dismissal will be with leave to amend.

II.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The Prison Litigation Reform Act obligates the court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding in forma pauperis, and by all prisoners seeking redress from government entities. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. Under these provisions, the court may sua sponte dismiss, "at any time, " any prisoner civil rights action and all other in forma pauperis complaints that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek damages from defendants who are immune. Id., see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

The dismissal for failure to state a claim "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In making such a determination, a complaint's allegations must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1990). Further, because Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and must afford Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). But the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Thus, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads enough factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

III.

DISCUSSION

A. The Complaint Does Not Unambiguously Identify the Defendants

Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that each defendant be named in the caption of the complaint. A complaint is subject to dismissal if "one cannot determine from the complaint who is being sued, [and] for what relief...." McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996).

Here, it is unclear whether Plaintiff is suing the San Bernardino Police Department, along with the three individual officers. While the three individual officers are named in both the caption and body of the complaint, the San Bernardino Police Department is only named in the caption. The court is therefore unable to determine whether Plaintiff intended to name the San Bernardino Police Department as a defendant. If Plaintiff decides to include any or all of these defendants in an amended complaint, he must clarify exactly who the defendants are - at a minimum, the caption and body of the complaint must agree. Moreover, as ...


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