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Leon v. San Jose Police Department

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 12, 2017

STEVEN ANDREW LEON, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER SERVING COGNIZABLE CLAIM

          KANDIS A. WESTMORE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Steven Andrew Leon, incarcerated at the Santa Clara County Jail, has filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the violation of his constitutional rights by San Jose Police Officer Guzman, #3968, and the San Jose Police Department. Plaintiff has consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge over this action. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted in a separate order. The Court now reviews Plaintiff's complaint.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Preliminary Review of Complaint

         A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant's actions both actually and proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. Lemire v. Cal. Dept. Corrections & Rehabilitation, 756 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). A person deprives another of a constitutional right within the meaning of section 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do, that causes the deprivation of which the plaintiff complains. Leer, 844 F.2d at 633.

         Under no circumstances is there respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Lemire, 756 F.3d at 1074. Or, in layman's terms, under no circumstances is there liability under section 1983 solely because one is responsible for the actions or omissions of another. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village, 723 F.2d 675, 680-81 (9th Cir. 1984). A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 upon a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Henry A. v. Willden, 678 F.3d 991, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 2011)). It is insufficient for a plaintiff only to allege that supervisors knew about the constitutional violation and that they generally created policies and procedures that led to the violation, without alleging “a specific policy” or “a specific event” instigated by them that led to the constitutional violations. Hydrick v. Hunter, 669 F.3d 937, 942 (9th Cir. 2012).

         II. Plaintiff's Claim

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges the following: On October 7, 2016, Plaintiff, who was unarmed and no threat, was struck by Officer Guzman with his baton. Plaintiff fell down unconscious and awoke with Officer Guzman striking him while he lay in a pool of his own blood. As a result of Officer's Guzman's actions, Plaintiff suffered a fractured left hand and right elbow and a laceration on the back of his head. Plaintiff's elbow is now held together by eight screws and a large plate.

         Liberally construed, the allegations appear to give rise to a cognizable Fourth Amendment claim for excessive force against Officer Guzman. However, even liberally construed, the allegations do not give rise to a claim against the San Jose Police Department about which there are no allegations in the complaint. As discussed above, there is no supervisor liability under § 1983. Therefore, to state a cognizable claim against the Police Department, Plaintiff would have to allege a specific policy or procedure implemented by the Police Department which led to the constitutional violation by Officer Guzman. Plaintiff is given leave to amend his complaint to remedy this deficiency, if he truthfully can do so.

         CONCLUSION

         Based on the foregoing, the ...


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