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Wilson v. Cambell

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 6, 2017

CAMPBELL, et al., Defendants.




         A. Background

         Plaintiff, Christopher Wilson, is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         B. Screening Requirement

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). If an action is dismissed on one of these three bases, a strike is imposed per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015).

         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) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) 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).

         C. Summary of the Complaint

         Plaintiff complains of events that occurred while he was housed at Wasco State Prison (“WSP”). Plaintiff names Correctional Officers T. Campbell and Michelle Miller, Sergeant M. Dhout, Lieutenant C. Villanueva, and LVN Jones as defendants in this action. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and declaratory relief.

         Plaintiff alleges that on July 26, 2014, while held in the reception center at WSP, he was denied a religious meal. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-6.) He repeatedly attempted to speak with a sergeant; when he was ignored, he admittedly got upset and yelled “Fuck you bitch!” (Id.) Another inmate echoed his outburst and C/O Campbell waived his hand “as though he would take care of Plaintiff later.” (Id.) C/O Campbell came to Plaintiff's cell, yelling for his cellmate to step out of the cell so Plaintiff could be escorted to speak with the sergeant. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that, while he was in restraints and trying to exit the cell, C/O Campbell grabbed him in a choke-hold, leaving him unable to breathe. (Id.) C/O Campbell asked C/O Miller if she saw Plaintiff push him. (Id.) C/O Campbell then slammed Plaintiff to the concrete pavement and placed his knees on Plaintiff's back while smashing Plaintiff's face into the concrete. (Id.) C/O Miller assisted C/O Campbell hold Plaintiff down while C/O Campbell punched Plaintiff in the face and body while C/O Miller punched his legs and back. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he neither resisted, nor struggled with them during this incident. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that LVN Jones failed to record his numerous injuries (id., pp. 8-9) and that though he reported his condition to prison officials Sgt Dhot and Lt. Villanueva, they did not “exercise[] supervisory responsibility and prevent defendants from repeatedly striking Plaintiff” (id., pp. 7, 9-10). Plaintiff alleges that these actions subjected him to excessive force and amounted to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs.

         As discussed in greater detail below, Plaintiff's allegations state a cognizable claim for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment against C/Os Campbell and Miller. However, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against any of the other defendants. Plaintiff is thus given the choice of proceeding on the excessive force claim against C/Os Campbell and Miller, or filing a first amended complaint.

         D. Pleading Requirements

         1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

         "Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, " none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512.

         Violations of Rule 8, at both ends of the spectrum, warrant dismissal. A violation occurs when a pleading says too little -- the baseline threshold of factual and legal allegations required was the central issue in the Iqbal line of cases. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The Rule is also violated, though, when a pleading says too much. Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1058 (9th Cir.2011) (“[W]e have never held -- and we know of no authority supporting the proposition -- that a pleading may be of unlimited length and opacity. Our cases instruct otherwise.”) (citing cases); see also McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179-80 (9th Cir.1996) (affirming a dismissal under Rule 8, and recognizing that “[p]rolix, confusing complaints such as the ones plaintiffs filed in this case impose unfair burdens on litigants and judges”).

         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.'' ''shcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting 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 that is plausible on its face.''' Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, ...

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