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Simpson v. Brewster

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 6, 2015

EARL SIMPSON, Plaintiff,


MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (ECF No. 4.) No other parties have appeared in the action. Plaintiff's complaint is before the court for screening.


The in forma pauperis statute provides, "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).


Section 1983 "provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States." Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

To state a claim under § 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. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987).

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 677-78.


Plaintiff is civilly committed as a Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) at Coalinga State Hospital (CSH). Defendant Brewster is a trust account agent at CSH. Plaintiff's allegations are very difficult to decipher. However, he seems to be protesting CSH's practice of attaching his social security benefits, stating that he "is filing a claim against the state agent of the prison for concealing annual fundings [sic]... in the amount of $117, 336, 746 dollars that was taking [sic] from the petitioner's social securety [sic] account...." (ECF No. 1, at 4.) He also alleges, more generally, that "the state charges the patients who are civilly committed daily in the amount about $467.00 a day through $573.67 daily... without consent from the patient, "[1] and that the Department of State Hospitals and CSH, specifically, have acted as "debt collectors" by "continuously charging the patient for the cost of care... without consent." (ECF No. 1, at 6.) He alleges this conduct is tortious and constitutes an invasion of a patient's right to his own money, trespass, and libel insofar as it "states to the patient that they [sic] are incompetent to conservator [sic] their own account activities." Plaintiff requests restitution of the funds unlawfully attached.


Construed liberally, plaintiff appears to be claiming that Defendant violated procedural due process and the Social Security Act by taking and using Plaintiff's money, including his Social Security benefits, to pay for his care at CSH. Plaintiff apparently also wants to allege several state tort law violations. Plaintiff has not provided sufficient information to support a federal claim, and the Court declines to consider his state claims because he has not alleged compliance with the California Tort Claims Act. The Court will therefore dismiss the complaint, giving Plaintiff leave to amend to correct deficiencies. The Court explains its reasoning and describes the relevant legal standards below.

A. Plaintiff's Status

Plaintiff is being held at CSH pursuant to California's Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) statute. CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 2960 et seq. Pursuant to this statute, an individual convicted of certain enumerated crimes and meeting other criteria may be civilly committed for "involuntary treatment of a severe mental disorder" at a state psychiatric hospital as a condition ...

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