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Peoples v. Los Angeles County Sheriff Department

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 23, 2017

CHARLES LEE PEOPLES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Charles Lee Peoples, Jr. ("Plaintiff"), a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a Civil Rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. No. 1) . Congress mandates that district courts perform an initial screening of complaints in civil actions where a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portion thereof, before service of process if the complaint (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (1-2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) . For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend.[1]

         II.

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND CLAIMS

         It is not entirely clear who Plaintiff is attempting to sue. The "Los Angeles County Sheriff Department" ("LACSD") is the named defendant in the caption of the Complaint. (Complaint ("Compl.") at 1) . However, in the list of defendants in the body of the Complaint, he names only an anonymous employee of the North County Correctional Facility ("NCCF"), where he was housed at the time of the alleged incident. (Id. at 3) . In his prayer for relief, he also requests an official review of "the deputies involved." (Id. at 6) . He does not specify whether Defendants are sued in an individual or official capacity. (Id.).

         The Complaint summarily alleges that, on May 14, 2016, a lieutenant ordered Plaintiff and other inmates to clean a dorm. (Id. at 5) . The room had recently been used for welding, which left the air polluted by "hazardous and toxic fumes." (Id.). Plaintiff and five other inmates worked in the room without ventilation, lost consciousness, and were "emergency escorted" to the infirmary. (Id.). Plaintiff claims to suffer from continuing injuries as a result of the incident. (Id. at 5-6) .

         The specific grounds for Plaintiff's claims are unclear. However, the Complaint appears to allege that LACSD and Doe Defendants are liable under the Eighth Amendment for cruel and unusual punishment, as a result of requiring forced labor, "inflicting harm to inmates, " "safety violations" and "abuse of authority." (Id. at 5) . He also alleges a state law negligence claim. (Id.) . Plaintiff prays for five million dollars in damages, "disciplinary action" and an "official review" of the deputies and the facility. (Id. at 6).

         III.

         DISCUSSION

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the Complaint due to pleading defects. However, a court must grant a pro se litigant leave to amend his defective complaint unless "it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). It is not "absolutely clear" that at least some of the defects of Plaintiff's Complaint could not be cured by amendment. The Complaint is therefore DISMISSED with leave to amend.

         A. The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Is An Improper Defendant

         There is "no constitutional impediment to municipal liability" under Section 1983. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.54, 691 (1978); see also Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483 (1986) (extending Monell's analysis of municipal liability to counties). However, a department, agency or unit of a local government is an improper defendant. See Hervey v. Estes, 65 F.3d 784, 701 (9th Cir. 1995) (police narcotics task force not a "person" or entity subject to suit under section 1983). Accordingly, the LACSD is not a proper defendant in this action, and Plaintiff's claims against LACSD must be dismissed. If Plaintiff wishes to sue the County of Los Angeles, he must meet the standard indicated below.

         B. Plaintiff Fails To State A Claim ...


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