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Connors v. Baca

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 13, 2014

LEROY BACA, et. al., Defendants.


ALKA SAGAR, Magistrate Judge.


On May 21, 2013, Plaintiff, a prisoner currently housed at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by former Sheriff Leroy Baca, Sheriff's Deputy Castro and "Sergeant John Doe, " which allegedly took place on March 13, 2012 while Plaintiff was detained at the Los Angeles County Jail. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in addition to compensatory damages of $500, 000 against each defendant and a jury trial. For the reasons discussed below, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.[1] 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

Congress mandates that District Courts perform an initial screening of complaints in civil actions where a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portions thereof, before service of process if it concludes that the complaint (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Pro se litigants in civil rights cases, however, must be given leave to amend their complaints unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Id., at 1127-29.


Plaintiff sues the following Defendants in their individual and official capacities: (1) Deputy Sheriff Castro (Court Bailiff); (2) Sergeant John Doe (Sergeant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department); and (3) Sheriff Leroy Baca (former Los Angeles County Sheriff). (Compl. 3).

Plaintiff alleges that on March 13, 2012, while he was being transported from Department 133 in the Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles, to a holding cell, he asked Defendant Castro, a Sheriff's Deputy who was transporting him, if his handcuffs could be removed so that he could use the bathroom. (Compl. Exh. F). Defendant Castro refused to remove Plaintiff's handcuffs and instead "threw [plaintiff] to the ground and began punching [plaintiff]." Id . Plaintiff alleges that three other deputies began to beat him along with Defendant Castro and that during this beating, an unknown Sergeant ("Defendant John Doe") appeared "but didn't do or say anything." Id. at 1-2. Accordingly, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Doe, who watched the illegal assault, is liable for "failing to correct the misconduct, and encouraging the continued misconduct." (Compl. at 6). Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Baca, the "final policy maker over the operation of the jail, " violated his civil rights "by not handling the incident." Id. at 7). Plaintiff claims that the beating caused him to suffer bleeding and severe facial bruising and that a subsequent CAT scan revealed a "hemorrhage in his skull." Id. at 2. Based on these facts, Plaintiff claims that all three Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights.

Although Plaintiff also alleges that the defendants violated his First Amendment rights, the only facts that Plaintiff provides in support of this claim is a statement in a civil rights complaint, dated October 2013, attached to the instant complaint which states that Defendant Castro was "beating plaintiff [] for exercise of his right to speak with a captain regarding Defendant Castro's wrong." (See attached Civil Rights Complaint "incorporated by reference, " at 3).


A. The Complaint Fails To Conform To The Requirements Of Rule 8

Under Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(d)(1). Conclusory allegations are insufficient. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 686 (2009). "Experience teaches that, unless cases are pled clearly and precisely, issues are not joined, discovery is not controlled, the trial court's docket becomes unmanageable, the litigants suffer, and society loses confidence in the court's ability to administer justice." Bautista v. Los Angeles County, 216 F.3d 837, 841 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations and quotations omitted). A complaint is subject to dismissal if "one cannot determine from the complaint who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory...." McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Chevalier v. Ray and Joan Kroc Corps. Community Center, 2012 WL 2088819, at *2 (N.D. Cal. June 8, 2012) (complaint which did not "simply, concisely, or directly identify which wrongs were committed by which Defendant" violated Rule 8). As set forth below, the Complaint fails to conform to the requirements of Rule 8.

B. The Complaint Fails To State A Claim Under The Eighth Amendment

The Complaint fails to state a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation. The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment applies only after conviction. Pierce v. Multonomah County, 76 F.3d 1032, 1042 (9th Cir. 1996). The same standards, however, generally apply to pretrial detainees under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010); Lolli v. County of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff states that the complained-of actions took place while he was a "pretrial detainee of the County Jail of Los Angeles." (See attached Civil Rights Complaint "incorporated by reference, " at 1). Therefore, if Plaintiff chooses to amend his complaint, as discussed below, and if the incident at issue took place while he was in ...

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