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Laneley v. Garcia

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 12, 2017

RANDY LANGLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
GARCIA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO EITHER FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON EXCESSIVE FORCE CLAIMS AGAINST E. GARCIA AND G. COOK (DOC. 10) TWENTY-ONE (21) DAY DEADLINE

          SHEILA K. OBERTO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         A. Background

         Plaintiff, Randy Langley, 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. Plaintiff has stated cognizable claims for excessive force against E. Garcia and G. Cook and may be able to correct the deficiencies in his pleading on other claims. As such, he may either file a second amended complaint correcting the deficiencies, or advise the Court that he is willing to proceed only on the claims found cognizable herein.

         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) 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. 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 First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff complains of acts that occurred while he detained at the pretrial facility in Visalia, California. Plaintiff names E. Garcia, G. Cook, and the Tulare County Sheriff Department as defendants in this action and seeks monetary damages.

         Plaintiff alleges that in October of 2015, E. Garcia directed him to step out of his cell. Plaintiff complied and was placed in restraints. Once the restraints were on, E. Garcia and G. Cook held Plaintiff while E. Garcia began punching Plaintiff in the face. G. Cook then tripped Plaintiff and took Plaintiff to the ground where E. Garcia placed his knee on Plaintiff's neck and punched the left side of Plaintiff's face. After the assault, Plaintiff's request to loosen the restraints was denied. Plaintiff's request for x-rays of his left wrist, which was in pain, was also denied. Plaintiff was not given aspirin, or ibuprofen, or anything for his headache and pain from the assault.

         Plaintiff's allegations state a cognizable claim for excessive force against G. Cook and E. Garcia on which he should be allowed to proceed. However, as discussed below, he fails to link the Tulare County Sheriff Department to any of his allegations, fails to show a basis for any municipal liability, and fails to link his medical claims to any defendant. Thus, Plaintiff may choose to proceed on excessive force claims against G. Cook and E. Garcia, or he may attempt to cure the defects in his pleading by filing a second 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.” 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 ...


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