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Smith v. Ahlin

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 25, 2017

REGINALD SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
AHLIN, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, DENYING EXTENSION OF TIME, and GRANTING MOTION TO AMEND (Docs. 10, 11, 14)

          SHEILA K. OBERTO. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         A. Background

         Plaintiff, Reginald Smith, is a civil detainee, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Original Complaint, Plaintiff contended that he was attacked by another patient at Coalinga State Hospital. (Doc. 1.) Upon screening, it was found that Plaintiff failed to state any cognizable claims and he was granted leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 8.) On November 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint which is before the Court for screening. (Doc. 11.) As discussed below, instead of providing specific factual allegations to perfect his pleading, Plaintiff has added rambling statements which are not clearly linked to any of the named Defendants. This exceeds the scope of leave granted and violates Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus, the First Amended Complaint is dismissed and Plaintiff is granted leave to file a second amended complaint.

         B. Screening Requirement and Standard

         “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). A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log OwnersAss'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff complains of incidents that occurred at Coalinga State Hospital (“CSH”) where he is detained pursuant to California's Sexually Violent Predator Act contained within Welfare & Institution Code sections 6600 et seq. (“SVPA”). Plaintiff was detained as a Sexually Violent Predator (“SVP”) which is statutorily defined as an individual with “a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.” Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600(a).[1] The SVPA authorizes the involuntary civil commitment of a person who has completed a prison term, but has been given a “full evaluation” and found to be a sexually violent predator. Reilly v. Superior Court, 57 Cal.4th 641, 646 (2013); People v. McKee, 47 Cal.4th 1172, 1185 (2010).

         Plaintiff appears to contend that the named Defendants failed to protect him from another detainee, Stallworth, and seeks monetary damages as well as injunctive and declarative relief. However, Plaintiff no longer states factual allegations showing the specific altercations with Stallworth. It appears that Plaintiff believed the First Amended Complaint would simply add to the allegations in his Original Complaint. However, Plaintiff was specifically informed in the prior screening order that “an amended complaint supercedes the original, Lacey v. Maricopa County, Nos. 09-15806, 09-15703, 2012 WL 3711591, at *1 n.1 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2012) (en banc), and must be ‘complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded pleading, ' Local Rule 220.” (Doc. 8, p. 12.)

         In light of Plaintiff's pro se status, he is given the legal standards for the claims he identifies and is granted leave to file a second amended complaint which is no longer than twenty-five (25) pages. Plaintiff is warned that his second amended complaint must not violate Rule 8(a) and must link each named defendant to his factual allegations.

         B. Pleading Requirements

         1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

         As stated in the prior screening order, Rule 8(a) requires a complaint to 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.” Ashcroft 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, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557.

         While “plaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . ., ” Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se inmates and detainees are still construed liberally and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations, " Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), "a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled, " Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” fall short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         Further, “repeated and knowing violations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)'s ‘short and plain statement' requirement are strikes as ‘fail[ures] to state a claim, ' 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), when the opportunity to correct the pleadings has been afforded and there has been no modification within a reasonable time.” Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1108-09 (9th Cir. 2013).

         If he chooses to file a second amended complaint, Plaintiff should endeavor to make it as concise as possible. He should simply state which of his constitutional rights he believes were violated by each Defendant and the factual basis for each violation. As previously directed, Plaintiff need not and should not cite legal authority for his claims in a second amended complaint. His factual allegations are accepted as true and need not be bolstered by legal authority or catch phrases at the pleading stage. If ...


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