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Anaya v. Vugt

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 19, 2017

PETER ANAYA, Plaintiff,
v.
VAN VUGT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (DOC. 12) THIRTY (30) DAY DEADLINE

          SHEILA K. OBERTO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         A. Background

         Plaintiff, Peter Anaya, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As discussed below, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim upon which relief may be granted. The First Amended Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to file a second amended complaint.

         B. Screening Requirement and Standard

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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 or malicious, ” that 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). “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).

         C. 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 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 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, 556 U.S. 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 prisoners 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).

         Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint violates Rule 8 as it does not provide a short and plain statement of his claims. Plaintiff instead repeats various mutations of his allegations throughout 10 claims. Plaintiff's sparse factual allegations are largely obscured by interjected legal phrases and conclusory statements of liability which render his allegations convoluted and nearly indecipherable. If he chooses to file a second amended complaint, Plaintiff should make it as concise as possible by merely stating which of his constitutional rights he believes were violated by each Defendant and its factual basis. Plaintiff need not and should not cite legal authority or conclusions in a second amended complaint as his factual allegations are accepted as true.

         2. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) & 20(a)(2)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) allows a party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim to join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims as the party has against an opposing party. However, Plaintiff may not bring unrelated claims against unrelated parties in a single action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a), 20(a)(2); Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 2011); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff may bring a claim against multiple defendants so long as (1) the claim(s) arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions and occurrences, and (2) there are commons questions of law or fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1351 (9th Cir. 1997); Desert Empire Bank v. Insurance Co. of North America, 623 F.3d 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980). Only if the defendants are properly joined under Rule 20(a) will the Court review the additional claims to determine if they may be joined under Rule 18(a), which permits the joinder of multiple claims against the same party.

         The Court must be able to discern a relationship between Plaintiff's claims or there must be a similarity of parties. The fact that all of Plaintiff's allegations are based on the same type of constitutional violation (i.e. retaliation by different actors on different dates, under different factual events) does not necessarily make claims related for purposes of Rule 18(a). All claims that do not comply with Rules 18(a) and 20(a)(2) are subject to dismissal. Plaintiff is cautioned that if his amended complaint sets forth improperly joined claims, the Court will determine which claims should proceed and which claims will be dismissed. Visendi v. Bank of America, N.A., 733 F.3d 863, 870-71 (9th Cir. 2013). Whether any claims will be subject to severance by future order will depend on the viability of claims pled in the amended complaint.

         3. Linkage and Causation

         Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). “Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Crowley v. Nevada ex rel. Nevada Sec'y of State, 678 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94, 109 S.Ct. 1865 (1989)) (internal quotation marks omitted). To state a claim, Plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating the existence of a link, or causal connection, between each defendant's actions or omissions and a violation of his federal rights. Lemire v. California Dep't of Corr. and Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2013); Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-08 (9th Cir. 2011).

         A number of Plaintiff's claims are asserted against “Defendants - CDCR/Officers” which is insufficient to link any specific officer to Plaintiff's allegations. Plaintiff's allegations must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at ...


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