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Chavez v. Orozco

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 18, 2014

GERALDO OROZCO, et al., Defendants.


KENLY KIYA KATO, Magistrate Judge.



On October 28, 2014, Manuel Reyna Chavez ("plaintiff"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a Civil Rights Complaint in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF Docket No. ("dkt.") 3. In the Complaint, plaintiff alleged he was beaten by San Bernardino City Police Officers Geraldo Orozco, Mark Blackwell and Nick Martin, in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Compl. at 5. The Complaint sued Orozco, Blackwell, and Martin in their individual and official capacities and also appeared to sue the San Bernardino City Police Department.[1] Id. at 1, 3. On October 29, 2014, the Court issued an Order Dismissing the Complaint with Leave to Amend, finding plaintiff had failed to state viable official capacity claims against the three individual defendants and any claim against the San Bernardino City Police Department. Dkt. 5. The Court reasoned the Complaint had not alleged any of the defendants acted pursuant to an unconstitutional policy or custom, as required for stating such claims. Id. at 5.

On December 11, 2014, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") asserting the same central Eighth Amendment claim. Dkt. 8. The FAC names six defendants: (1) Geraldo Orozco; (2) Mark Blackwell; (3) Nick Martin; (4) the City of San Bernardino; (5) the San Bernardino City Police Department; and (6) the unnamed Police Chief of the San Bernardino City Police Department ("Police Chief"). Id. at 3-4. The FAC sues defendants Orozco, Blackwell, Martin, and Police Chief in both their individual and official capacities. Id.

After careful review and consideration, the Court finds the FAC subject to dismissal for primarily the same deficiencies identified in the original Complaint.[2] However, dismissal will be with leave to amend.



The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 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, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).



A. The Complaint Fails to State a Claim Against the Entity Defendants or Against the Individual Defendants in Their Official Capacities

In order to state a claim for a civil rights violation under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a particular defendant, acting under color of state law, deprived plaintiff of a right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution or a federal statute. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988). However, a local government cannot be held liable under Section 1983 on a respondeat superior theory, that is, solely because it employs a tortfeasor. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Serv. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Local government entities, such as defendants City of San Bernardino and San Bernardino City Police Department, may be held liable only if the alleged wrongdoing was committed pursuant to a government policy, custom or usage. See Board of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty., Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 402-04, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997); Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Gibson v. Cnty. of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1185 (9th Cir. 2002) (describing "two routes" to municipal liability: (1) where municipality's official policy, regulation, or decision violated plaintiff's rights, or (2) alternatively where municipality failed to act under circumstances showing its deliberate indifference to plaintiff's rights). Under certain circumstances, a single act, when carried out by a ...

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