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Lookadoo v. Los Angeles Sheriffs Department

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 26, 2016

BURT ANTHONY LOOKADOO, Plaintiff,
v.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

         On May 28, 2015, plaintiff filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff subsequently was granted leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee.[1] On September 1, 2015, defendant Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (“LACSD”) filed a Motion to Dismiss (“Motion”) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Rather than filing opposition to the Motion, on October 8, 2015, plaintiff sought leave of Court to file an amended complaint. On October 16, 2015, the Court granted plaintiff’s request, denied defendant’s Motion as moot, and ordered plaintiff to file a first amended complaint within thirty days. Following an extension of time, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on February 1, 2016. (ECF No. 23.)

         In accordance with the terms of the “Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995” (“PLRA”), the Court screened the FAC prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action 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)(2), 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The FAC named 26 defendants, including the LACSD and Sheriff McDonnell. After careful consideration of the FAC, the Court found that plaintiff’s allegations appeared insufficient to state any federal civil rights claim on which relief may be granted. Plaintiff was advised that: (1) the allegations in the FAC failed to comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 because each “claim” included numerous legal grounds as well as factual allegations pertaining to unrelated incidents, and it would be extremely difficult for each defendant to discern what specific facts or legal theories applied to which potential claim or claims against them; (2) the FAC failed to state a claim against the LACSD or defendants in their official capacities because plaintiff did not allege that any policy, custom, or practice caused his civil rights violations; (3) plaintiff could not hold Sheriff McDonnell or any other defendant liable solely as a supervisor; and (4) the allegations were insufficient to state a claim for a violation of plaintiff’s right of access to the courts or for retaliation. Plaintiff was instructed, if he wished to pursue his claims, to set forth a short and simple statement of the actions each defendant was alleged to have taken that caused each civil rights violation.

         Accordingly, the FAC was dismissed with leave to amend, and plaintiff was ordered, if he wished to pursue this action, to file a Second Amended Complaint no later than March 7, 2016, remedying the deficiencies in the FAC. Further, plaintiff was admonished that, if he failed to timely file a Second Amended Complaint, or failed to remedy the deficiencies of the pleading as discussed in the Court’s Order, the Court would recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice. (See ECF No. 24.)

         On March 3, 2016, plaintiff filed a 48-page Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) (ECF No. 28) accompanied by 123 pages of exhibits (ECF No. 32).[2] Once again, in accordance with the PLRA, the Court screened the SAC. After careful consideration of the SAC, the Court found that plaintiff continued to set forth the similar claims against the same list of 26 defendants without having cured the deficiencies in his FAC as set forth in the Court’s Order Dismissing First Amended Complaint. However, because plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se, the Court provided him an additional opportunity to cure the deficiencies of his claims by amendment. Plaintiff once again was advised that: (1) the allegations in the SAC again failed to comply with Rule 8 because each “claim” continued to include numerous legal grounds and factual allegations pertaining to unrelated incidents, and it would be extremely difficult for each defendant to discern what specific facts or legal theories applied to which potential claim or claims against them; (2) the SAC failed to state a claim against the LACSD or defendants in their official capacities because plaintiff did not allege that a specific policy, custom, or practice caused his civil rights violations; (3) plaintiff could not hold Sheriff McDonnell or any other defendant liable solely as a supervisor; and (4) the allegations were insufficient to state a claim for a violation of plaintiff’s right of access to the courts or for retaliation. Plaintiff was further advised that, in order to state a plausible claims for retaliation, he must set forth factual allegations suggesting a causal connection between a specific adverse action taken by a specific defendant and plaintiff’s protected conduct. Further, plaintiff was instructed, if he wished to pursue his claims, to set forth a short and simple statement of the actions each defendant was alleged to have taken that caused each civil rights violation.

         Accordingly, the SAC was dismissed with leave to amend, and plaintiff was ordered, if he wished to pursue this action, to file a Third Amended Complaint no later than April 29, 2016, remedying the deficiencies in the SAC. Further, plaintiff was admonished that, if he failed to timely file a Third Amended Complaint, or failed to remedy the deficiencies of the pleading as discussed in the Court’s Order, the Court would recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice. (See ECF No. 34.)

         On May 9, 2016, plaintiff filed a 28-page Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”), containing only two claims with 41 pages of exhibits. (See ECF No. 36.) In his TAC, plaintiff names the LACSD, LACSD Sheriff Jim McDonnell, LACSD Sergeants Lavey and Chase, and “Doe” defendants “5 through 26.” The individual defendants are named in their official as well as individual capacities. (ECF No. 36 at 3-4.) Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights have been violated as a “pre-trial detainee” at the Los Angeles County Jail. (Id. at 5.) He seeks damages. (Id. at 27-28.)

         On June 27, 2016, plaintiff filed a “Request for the [Court] to Intervene Due to Cruel and Unusual Punishment” (“Request”). (ECF No. 38). Plaintiff does not specify what intervention he is seeking apart from asking the Court send to a new address at the Los Angeles County Jail any “reply, order, or notification” issued by the Court since plaintiff’s TAC was filed. (Id. at 5, 7.) In addition, plaintiff sets forth factual allegations concerning a petition for writ of habeas corpus that he filed with the Superior Court “challenging the conditions of confinement at Los Angeles County Jail” and investigations that are pending with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Justice. (Id. at 2-3, 6.) Plaintiff also alleges that he was placed (by unnamed officials) in High Observation Housing as a “suicidal inmate” on June 2, 2016, in a “retaliatory motivated move.” (Id. at 4.) Because plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se in this matter, the Court has considered the factual allegations in plaintiff’s Request as if set forth in his TAC. In addition, along with this Order, the Court will include a copy of the one Court order that was issued since plaintiff filed his TAC.

         The Court’s screening of the TAC under the foregoing statutes is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (in determining whether a complaint should be dismissed under the PLRA, courts apply the standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)). In determining whether the pleading states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the “tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In addition, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the pleading liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep’t, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). The Supreme Court has held, however, that, “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted, alteration in original); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ . . . 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.” (internal citation omitted)); Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (“the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation”), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 2101 (2012).

         After careful consideration of the TAC under the foregoing standards, the Court finds that plaintiff’s allegations remain insufficient to state any federal civil rights claim on which relief may be granted and fail to give each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff’s claims are or the factual and legal grounds upon which they rest. Plaintiff has been provided with four opportunities to state a claim on which relief may be granted, and he has been apprised of the deficiencies in his claims in the Court’s two detailed Orders dismissing each of the FAC and the SAC with leave to amend. Plaintiff’s TAC, however, fails to cure the deficiencies in his SAC as set forth in the Court’s Order. However, because plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se, the Court will provide him with one final opportunity to cure the deficiencies of his federal civil rights claims by amendment. Accordingly, the TAC is dismissed with leave to amend. See Rosati, 791 F.3d at 1039 (“A district court should not dismiss a pro se complaint without leave to amend unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). Certain of the critical legal principles that guide the Court’s review have been highlighted in the discussion below.

         If plaintiff still desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a Fourth Amended Complaint no later than August 31, 2016, remedying the deficiencies discussed below. Further, plaintiff is admonished that, if he fails to timely file a Fourth Amended Complaint, or fails to remedy the deficiencies of this pleading as discussed herein, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice.[3]

         A. The allegations of the TAC once again fail to comply with the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.

         Plaintiff’s TAC still fails to comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a) and 8(d). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) states:

A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction . . .; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought, which may ...

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