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Smith v. Siskiyou County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 22, 2017

JAMES ANTHONY SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
SISKIYOU COUNTY JAIL, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IFP AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          EDMUND F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).

         II. Screening Requirement and Standards

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915A(b).

         A pro se plaintiff, like other litigants, must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) “requires a complaint to include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). While the complaint must comply with the “short and plaint statement” requirements of Rule 8, its allegations must also include the specificity required by Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-557. In other words, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

         III. Screening Order

         In the complaint (ECF No. 1), plaintiff names the Siskiyou County Jail, the Siskiyou County Jail Medical Staff, and Lieutenant Houston as defendants. Plaintiff alleges that another inmate injured plaintiff's eye during a physical altercation. Plaintiff received treatment for the injury at a nearby hospital. Upon his return to the Jail, his eye was reinjured. Plaintiff alleges he is in pain and that despite his requests for medical care, his eye has still “not been fixed.” He claims that he has been in “real need of medical attention” for over 90 days.

         Plaintiff fails to link defendant Houston to any violation of his federal rights. In addition, plaintiff's naming of unnamed “medical staff” as defendants is problematic. Unknown persons cannot be served with process until they are identified by their real names and the court will not investigate the names and identities of unnamed defendants. Moreover, plaintiff does not identify any claims for relief. Under the standards governing Eighth Amendment claims based on failure to protect or to provide adequate medical care, discussed below, the allegations fail to state a cognizable claim. To proceed, plaintiff must file an amended complaint.

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) the violation of a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim unless the facts establish the defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978).

         Moreover, a municipal entity or its departments is liable under section 1983 only if plaintiff shows that his constitutional injury was caused by employees acting pursuant to the municipality's policy or custom. Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977); Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Villegas v. Gilroy Garlic Festival Ass'n, 541 F.3d 950, 964 (9th Cir. 2008). Here, plaintiff fails to state a claim against the Siskiyou County Jail because he has not sufficiently alleged that he was injured as a result of employees acting pursuant to any policy or custom of the County. Local government entities may not be held ...


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