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Webb v. Ahern

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 11, 2017

CEDRIC WEBB, Plaintiff,
GREGORY AHERN, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff, a state prisoner who is currently incarcerated at California State Prison-Solano (“CSP-Solano”), has filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, stemming from a July 18, 2014 incident during which excessive force was used against him while he had been previously incarcerated at the Santa Rita County Jail (“SRCJ”). Plaintiff, who is an African American, further alleges that “the excessive force in which he was subjected was predicate[d] on a racial animus in violation of 42 [U.S.C.] § 1985 in which Caucasian deputies conspired to assault plaintiff based on race.” Dkt. 1 at 3.[1]

         Plaintiff names the following Defendants from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office: Sheriff Gregory Ahern; Deputy Sheriff Jenkins; Lieutenant C. Nobriga; Sergeant R. MacIntire; “Sheriff's Deputies John Does (1-6)”; and “Chief Medical Officer (CMO) John Doe (7).” Id. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         Plaintiff has filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which will be granted in a separate written Order.

         Venue is proper because the events giving rise to the claim are alleged to have occurred at SRCJ, which is located in this judicial district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).


         A. Injunctive Relief Claims

         As mentioned above, Plaintiff seeks both injunctive relief as well as monetary damages. The jurisdiction of the federal courts depends on the existence of a “case or controversy” under Article III of the Constitution. PUC v. FERC, 100 F.3d 1451, 1458 (9th Cir. 1996). A claim is considered moot if it has lost its character as a present, live controversy, and if no effective relief can be granted: “Where the question sought to be adjudicated has been mooted by developments subsequent to filing of the complaint, no justiciable controversy is presented.” Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95 (1968). Where injunctive relief is involved, questions of mootness are determined in light of the present circumstances. See Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 528 (9th Cir. 1996).

         When an inmate has been transferred to another prison and there is no reasonable expectation or demonstrated probability that he will again be subjected to the prison conditions from which he seeks injunctive relief, the claim for injunctive relief should be dismissed as moot. See Dilley v. Gunn, 64 F.3d 1365, 1368-69 (9th Cir. 1995). A claim that the inmate might be re-transferred to the prison where the injury occurred is too speculative to overcome mootness. Id.

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to remedy his alleged injuries stemming from various constitutional violations during his previous incarceration at SRCJ. However, Plaintiff has since been transferred to CSP-Solano. Because Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at SRCJ, his claims for injunctive relief based on his confinement at SRCJ are DISMISSED as moot. The Court now proceeds to review Plaintiff's remaining claims for monetary damages.

         B. Claims for Monetary Damages

         1. Standard of Review

         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).

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

         2. Eighth Amendment Claims

         A prisoner has the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, including physical abuse by guards. Whenever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the core judicial inquiry is whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause ...

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