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Meyers v. Downing

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

December 10, 2014

SHERIFF MIKE DOWNING, et al., Defendants

Mika Lee Meyers, Plaintiff, Pro se, Eureka, CA.


SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff, who is currently housed at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility (" HCCF"), filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that he was subjected to excessive force on July 21, 2013, while he was a pretrial detainee. Dkt. 1 at 3. Plaintiff also claims that he was later wrongfully disciplined and transferred to " punishment housing" as a result of this incident. Id. at 3. In his complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants the following jail officials from HCCF: Sheriff Michael Downing; Lieutenant Flint; Sergeant Lisa Yount; Correctional Officer Lewis; and " other unknown [jail officials] at present time . . . ." Dkt. 1 at 2. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

On May 1, 2014, the Court issued an order to show cause, directing Plaintiff to explain why the case should not be dismissed for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action. Dkt. 5. Subsequent to the issuance of that Order, the Ninth Circuit rendered its decision in Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc), which establishes that it is the defendant's burden to prove that there was an available administrative remedy, and that the prisoner did not exhaust that available remedy. Accordingly, the Court vacates its prior order to show cause and conducts a pre-service review of the complaint.


A. Standard of Review

A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988).

A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 upon a showing of personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citation omitted). A supervisor therefore generally " is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). A supervisor may be liable for implementing " a policy so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights and is the moving force of the constitutional violation." Redman, 942 F.2d at 1446; see Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 917 (9th Cir. 2001).

B. Legal Claims

1. Excessive Force Claim

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects a post-arraignment pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-39, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979)); see also Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1197 (9th Cir. 2002) (" The Due Process clause protects pretrial detainees from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment . . . Graham therefore explicates the standards applicable to a pretrial detention excessive force claim in this circuit.") (citations omitted). The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process clause, not the Eighth Amendment, protects pretrial detainees from excessive force that amounts to punishment. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1197 (9th Cir.2002).

" [T]he Fourth Amendment sets the 'applicable constitutional limitations' for considering claims of excessive force during pretrial detention." Id. (quoting Pierce v. Multnomah Cnty., 76 F.3d 1032, 1043 (9th Cir. 1996)). The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the use of reasonable force. Tatum v. City & County of San Francisco, 441 F.3d 1090, 1095 (9th Cir.2006). Whether the force was excessive depends on " whether the officers' actions [were] 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Graham, 490 U.S. at 397 (1989); Tatum, 441 F.3d at 1095. The Court must balance the nature and quality of the intrusion against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396.

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on July 21, 2013, he was subjected to excessive force by Defendant Lewis. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Lewis handcuffed him too tightly, and that when he " asked for relief from [the] painful restraints, " Defendant Lewis grabbed both Plaintiff's forearms and ran him " about twenty feet into an outward facing stainless steel corner of a[n] elevator . . . ." Dkt. 1 at 3. Plaintiff claims that his head " split open" as a result of the impact, and that prison medical staff used " two epoxy glue type tubes to stop [the] bleeding." Id. Plaintiff claims that he now has an " ugly scar" and a " healed knot on [his] forehead." Id. Plaintiff alleges that the entire incident was recorded on tape, and that it will show that ...

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