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Brown v. Brown

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 12, 2016

LONNIE CHARLES BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
EDMUND JERRY BROWN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          JOSEPH C. SPERO CHIEF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this federal civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint lacks sufficient factual detail and it is unclear who the proper defendants are. Accordingly, after conducting a review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court DISMISSES the complaint with leave to file an amended complaint on or before August 15, 2016.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         In its initial review of this pro se complaint, this Court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         A “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Furthermore, a court “is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged.” Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994).

         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. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Legal Claims

         Plaintiff's allegations are nearly incomprehensible. It appears that plaintiff alleges his jailors are violating his First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. Exactly how or who is doing this is quite unclear. Plaintiff names supervisory defendants, e.g., the Governor of California, but alleges no specific facts showing that they are liable. In his amended complaint, plaintiff must allege specific facts, such as names, dates, places, a description of the actions taken or words spoken, what religious activity was interfered with, etc.

         The Court instructs plaintiff to carefully consider the following. It is very difficult to plead claims against persons based on their role as supervisors, especially where, as here, there are no facts showing that any of these persons had a personal involvement in any of the allegedly unconstitutional acts. There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, see Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989), which means that a person is not automatically held responsible simply because he or she is a supervisor of an employee who commits a wrong. It is not enough that the supervisor merely has a supervisory relationship over the defendants; the plaintiff must show that the supervisor “participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them.Id. (emphasis added). Furthermore, supervisor defendants are entitled to qualified immunity where the allegations against them are simply “bald” or “conclusory” because such allegations do not “plausibly” establish the supervisors' personal involvement in their subordinates' constitutional wrong. Iqbal, 129 U.S. at 675-82. There is nothing in the complaint that indicates personal knowledge or involvement.

         It is recommended that plaintiff focus his allegations on the persons he had direct contact with, such as prison guards. He is encouraged to carefully consider the following when amending his complaint. “A person deprives another 'of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which [the plaintiff complains].” Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). The inquiry into causation must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation. Id.

         CONCLUSION

         The complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint on or before August 8, 2016. The first amended complaint must include the caption and civil case number used in this order (16-2518 JCS (PR)) and the words FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT on the first page. It must address all deficiencies discussed above. Because an amended complaint completely replaces the previous complaints, plaintiff must include in his first amended complaint all the claims he wishes to present and all of the defendants he wishes to sue. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). Plaintiff may not incorporate material from the prior complaint by reference. Any claims not raised ...


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