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Towns v. Cash

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 12, 2014

SHELLEY GRAHAM TOWNS SR., Plaintiff,
v.
B.M. CASH, WARDEN, ET AL., Defendants

Shelley Graham Towns, Sr, Plaintiff, Pro se, Soledad, CA.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

RALPH ZAREFSKY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

The pro se, in forma pauperis plaintiff is a state inmate. He claims that 16 prison employees were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and violated other civil rights when they revoked or refused various medical accommodations or failed to uphold Plaintiff's administrative complaints. The Court will dismiss his civil rights complaint, with leave to amend, for several reasons discussed below, but principally because it (1) fails to provide any " short and plain" statement of any claim (and is well over 100 pages long), and (2) uses conclusory labels about Defendants' actions without factual allegations to support those labels.

I.

THE COURT'S OBLIGATION TO SCREEN IN FORMA PAUPERIS FILINGS

The Court must screen all complaints, including Plaintiff's, brought in forma pauperis. See Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) ( per curiam ); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (screening of in forma pauperis actions generally). The law requires this Court to " dismiss the case if at any time it determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

A " complaint . . . must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory"; otherwise, it is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting, and including original emphasis from, Car Carriers Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984)). In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), the Supreme Court explained that Twombly effectively required more definite pleading of evidentiary facts, as opposed to conclusions or boilerplate. A court weighing dismissal in a civil rights action must determine whether the plaintiff has " plead[ed] factual matter that, if taken as true, states a claim that [defendants] deprived him of his clearly established constitutional rights[.]" Id. at 666. " A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Id. at 678 (citation omitted) (quoting Twombly, supra, 550 U.S. at 555, 557) (brackets as in Iqbal ).

A pro se plaintiff's civil rights complaint must be construed liberally, and the plaintiff must be given leave to amend his complaint, " unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987). A dismissal with leave to amend is a non-dispositive matter within the purview of a Magistrate Judge. McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).

II.

THE COMPLAINT IS FAR TOO LONG AND PROVIDES NO " SHORT AND PLAIN STATEMENT" OF ANY CLAIM

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that " [a] pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." " A claim is the 'aggregate of operative facts which give rise to a right enforceable in the courts.'" Bautista v. Los Angeles County, 216 F.3d 837, 840 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Original Ballet Russe, Ltd. v. Ballet Theatre, Inc., 133 F.2d 187, 189 (2d Cir. 1943)). To comply with the Rule, a plaintiff must plead a short and plain statement of the elements of his or her claim, " identifying the transaction or occurrence giving rise to the claim and the elements of a prima facie case, " which elements, of course, will vary depending on the species of claim being asserted. See Bautista, 216 F.3d at 840.

Here, the complaint is neither " short" nor " plain." Although it has over 100 pages, the exact number is difficult to ascertain, for Plaintiff improperly resets the page numbers to 1 every time he begins discussing another of his nine claims. Those claims appear to assert the following rights:

Claims 1-5, 8: Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs (Eighth Amendment) by various groups of Defendants

Claim 6: Retaliation (First Amendment)

Claim 7: Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, although Plaintiff also cites deliberate medical indifference and violations of his Due Process and Equal Protection rights

Claim 9: Violation of Cal. Gov't Code 845.6 (failing to provide immediately-needed medical care)

It is not the complaint's length per se that troubles the Court. What is troubling is how much shorter the pleading could be while thereby gaining much clarity. The Court refers Plaintiff to the ...


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