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Bracken v. Duran

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 19, 2017

JUSTIN BRACKEN, Plaintiff,
v.
DURAN, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (DOC. 4) 21-DAY DEADLINE

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to three incidents of excessive force at the hands of correctional officers at the California Correctional Institute (“CCI”) in Tehachapi, California. As discussed below, the complaint violates Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 18 and 20 because Plaintiff's allegations against the officers do not appear to be related. Thus, the complaint is dismissed with leave to file a first amended complaint.

         A. 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).

         B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for of three incidents: (1) on September 9/25/2015, Plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by correctional officers after Officer Duran discovered Plaintiff masturbating during 5:00 p.m. counts; (2) on January 8, 2016, around 8:00 p.m. Officer Hernandez came into Plaintiff cell and kicked Plaintiff five times in the back while he slept; and (3) on February 25, 2016, Officer Lima rushed into Plaintiff's cell and removed the papers Plaintiff had used to cover his door and left; Officer Lima returned to escort Plaintiff to the sergeant regarding Plaintiff having “boarded-up, ” but during the escort, Officer Lima had Plaintiff in a choke hold and kept shoving Plaintiff's head against the wall while the other escorting officer hit Plaintiff a few times in the back. Plaintiff delineates claims for “excessive force” and “threat to safety” and seeks monetary damages.

         Though Plaintiff has stated two cognizable claims for excessive force, the Court is unable to discern any relation between his claims to allow them to proceed in a single action. Thus, Plaintiff is given the pleading requirements, the standards for his stated claims, and leave to file a first amended complaint.

         C. Pleading Requirements

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

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) allows a party asserting a claim for relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim to join, either as independent or as alternate claims, numerous claims 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 claims 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. excessive force by different actors on different dates, under different factual events) does not make claims related for purposes of Rule 18(a). Plaintiff's allegations against each of the three correctional officers he named as Defendants do not appear related. All claims that do not comply with Rules 18(a) and 20(a)(2) are subject to dismissal. Plaintiff is cautioned that if he fails to elect which category of claims to pursue and 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.

         2.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.

         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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