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Smith v. Hernandez

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 17, 2017

DELBERT J. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
C. HERNANDEZ, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF NOS. 19, 22) THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE

         Plaintiff Delbert J. Smith is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint.

         I.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on August 26, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) The Court screened Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), and found that it stated a cognizable claim for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendants Hernandez, Cramer, and Zuniga. (ECF No. 6.) On October 13, 2016, an order issued requiring Plaintiff to either file an amended complaint or notify the Court that he wished to proceed only on those claims that were found to be cognizable. (Id.) On October 26, 2016 an order issued directing service on Defendants Hernandez, Cramer, and Zuniga and dismissing all other claims and defendants from this action. (ECF No. 8.)

         Defendants Hernandez, Cramer, and Zuniga were served with the complaint and filed an answer on January 31, 2017. (ECF Nos. 14, 16.) On February 1, 2017, the discovery and scheduling order issued setting the pretrial deadlines in this action. (ECF No. 17.) On February 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint and a first amended complaint was lodged. (ECF Nos. 18, 19.) On February 24, 2017, Defendants filed an opposition to the motion to amend the complaint. (ECF No. 22.)

         II.

         MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND

         Plaintiff brings his motion for leave to amend stating that although the Court found his excessive force claims to be cognizable, after receiving help from other prisoners, he realizes he did not plead unlawful intent by the defendants in his complaint. Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to correct his perceived deficiencies in the complaint.

         Defendants oppose the motion on the ground that Plaintiff has added new claims related to denials of water, food, and medical without identifying the specific defendant's actions related to these claims. Defendants contend that since Plaintiff has failed to allege any additional claims, leave to amend the complaint should be denied on the ground of futility.

         A. Legal Standard for Granting Leave to Amend

         Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend the party's pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Otherwise, a party may amend only by leave of the court or by written consent of the adverse party, and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).

         In determining whether to exercise its discretion to grant leave to amend, the court considers five factors: “(1) bad faith; (2) undue delay; (3) prejudice to the opposing party; (4) futility of amendment; and (5) whether the plaintiff has previously amended his complaint.” Nunes v. Ashcroft, 375 F.3d 805, 808 (9th Cir. 2004); Serra v. Lappin, 600 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2010). The factors are not given equal weight and futility alone is sufficient to justify the denial of a motion to amend. Washington v. Lowe's HIW Inc., 75 F.Supp.3d 1240, 1245 (N.D. Cal. 2014), appeal dismissed (Feb. 25, 2015). “[I]t is the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party that carries the greatest weight.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). “Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the remaining [ ] factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend.” Id.; see also Griggs v. Pace Am. Grp., Inc., 170 F.3d 877, 880 (9th Cir. 1999) (the analysis should be performed with all inferences in favor of granting leave to amend).

         B. Allegations in First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff is an African-American inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 19.) At the time of the incidents alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff was housed at the California Correctional Institute, Tehachapi (“CCI Tehachapi”). (FAC ¶ 1.)

         On March 1, 2016, Plaintiff was placed in an administrative segregation housing unit with a broken hand after a fight with a Sureno gang member. (FAC ¶ 1.) After hours of crying “Man Down” to get medical attention, Plaintiff was handcuffed by a group of Hispanic correctional officers and taken to the sally-port where he was kicked and beaten while in handcuffs, thrown back into his cell, and told not to tell about the beating or he would be beaten again. (FAC ¶ 2.) Officer C. Hernandez, who was the primary officer who beat Plaintiff, called him a “black nigger” before putting Plaintiff back in handcuffs. (FAC ¶ 2.) There were four other officers who participated in beating and kicking Plaintiff while he was handcuffed and on the ground. (FAC ¶ 2.)

         Plaintiff remained in his cell for the next five hours crying out for help continuously. (FAC ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was again handcuffed, taken across the yard, and without any provocation on Plaintiff's part, he was told to stop resisting. (FAC ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was placed in a chokehold, thrown on the ground, and beaten with batons by Officer Zuniga and other officers. (FAC ¶ 3.) Plaintiff's teeth were broken and he received bloody flesh wounds and has scarring on his back and bicep from ...


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