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Fruits v. Shasta County Sheriffs

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 19, 2017

JOHN P. FRUITS, Plaintiff,
SHASTA COUNTY SHERIFF, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, and former Shasta County Jail inmate, proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). On November 22, 2016, plaintiff's amended complaint was dismissed, and he was ordered to file a second amended complaint. Plaintiff subsequently filed the Notice of Amendment form, but as discussed below, the undersigned disregards the filing as improperly filed and grants plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint that complies with this court's order.

         II. Plaintiff's “Amendment”

         In the prior order, plaintiff was informed that because he does not know the identity of any of the deputies, his pleading must make clear the date and actions of each deputy to facilitate the discovery of the appropriate deputy's identity. For example, plaintiff could identify the first deputy as: “Plaintiff made contact with ‘John Doe 1, ' the deputy supervising the module on [date] . . . .” (ECF No. 16 at 3 n.1.)

         On December 22, 2016, plaintiff filed the notice of amendment form;[1] however, the appended pages do not comply with the form of pleadings required under Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For example, plaintiff did not include a caption; even if the court presumed the “Notice of Amendment” form was the caption, the caption does not set forth the John Doe defendants, and does not bear the title “Second Amendment Complaint.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). Moreover, the pages included by plaintiff do not include even the bare factual allegations included in his prior pleadings, not even the date of the alleged incident. Rather, plaintiff includes case citations and arguments concerning his claims. (ECF No. 17 at 2-3.)

         Plaintiff does not need to include any legal authority or argument in his pleading; instead, he must set forth specific factual allegations identifying what the named defendant did or did not do that allegedly violated plaintiff's constitutional rights. Even if plaintiff does not know the name of the individual, he must identify the John Doe in such a way that the John Doe can be identified for purposes of service of process. Even if plaintiff does not recall the exact date of the alleged incident, he must provide as many details as possible to assist in identifying the John Doe. For example, he previously indicated that he suffered two different assaults: one in October of 2013, and the other in 2014. Such dates may be sufficient to ascertain the identity of the John Doe defendants working at the Shasta County Jail (but also may not be sufficient absent more precise dates). Plaintiff is reminded that “[a] plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights.” Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff must include sufficient facts to demonstrate he states a cognizable civil rights claim against each John Doe.

         In addition, plaintiff attempts to revisit the court's ruling that the two incidents are unrelated and must be pled in separate actions. Plaintiff argues that because all of the civil rights violations fall under the same constitutional violation, he may bring them in the same action, even though they occurred on separate days. (ECF No. 17 at 5.) Plaintiff is mistaken. As he was previously informed:

Plaintiff may join multiple claims if they are all against a single defendant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). If plaintiff has more than one claim based upon separate transactions or occurrences, the claims must be set forth in separate paragraphs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b). Unrelated claims against different defendants must be pursued in multiple lawsuits.
The controlling principle appears in Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a):
‘A party asserting a claim . . . may join, [] as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims . . . as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2) (joinder of defendants not permitted unless both commonality and same transaction requirements are satisfied).

(ECF No. 16 at 4.) Because plaintiff is unaware of the defendants' names and also appears unaware of their particular actions, it is unclear whether he can allege facts demonstrating that the two assaults are related or involved the same defendant or defendants. Plaintiff alleges no facts demonstrating that any defendant was aware of any prior assault, or that any of the defendants were deliberately indifferent to a risk of serious harm that was objectively unreasonable.

         Because of these shortcomings, the undersigned declines to construe plaintiff's “notice of amendment” as a second amended complaint. However, the court will grant plaintiff another opportunity to file a second amended complaint that complies with the court's orders. In addition, the court will order the Clerk of Court to provide plaintiff with copies of his prior pleadings to assist him in accumulating as many factual allegations as possible into his second amended complaint to assist in identifying the Doe defendants. Plaintiff is required to file his second amended complaint on the form complaint provided with this order.

         III. Doe Defendants

         Plaintiff alleges that he is ignorant of the true names of the defendants, but will amend the complaint once he discovers their true names. Plaintiff claims he will state in the summons: “To the Person Served”: You are hereby served in the within action as the person sued under the fictitious name of “Does 1 - 5.” (ECF No. 17 at 4.) Plaintiff relies on California case law from 1941 and 1955. (ECF No. 17 at 4.)

         However, in federal court, “[a]s a general rule, the use of ‘John Doe' to identify a defendant is not favored.” Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). “Absent a name, the court is unable to order service of process on the individual.” Mosley v. Broyles, 2013 WL 593716, at *2 n.1 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 14, 2013); Gibson v. Sacramento Cty. Jail, 2013 WL 460435, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 5, 2013). John Doe defendants cannot be served by the United States Marshal until plaintiff has sufficiently identified them to enable service of process and he has been allowed to substitute names for Doe defendants.

         Plaintiff claims that he must discover the identities of the Doe defendants through discovery because the Doe defendants “may have committed their acts in multiple locations and at multiple times.” (ECF No. 17 at 5.) The Ninth Circuit has held that where a defendant's identity is unknown prior to the filing of a complaint, the plaintiff should be given an opportunity through discovery to identify the unknown defendants, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities or that the complaint would be dismissed on other grounds. Wakefield v. Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1163 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Gillespie, 629 F.2d at 642). However, discovery requests can be propounded only ...

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