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Rhodes v. Ohta

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 24, 2017

SAM OHTA, et al., Defendants.


          PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner, has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The second amended complaint was dismissed with leave to amend and plaintiff has filed a third amended complaint (Docket No. 19).



         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek 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 which 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. at 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only '"give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The United States Supreme Court has recently explained the “plausible on its face” standard of Twombly: “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

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


         Plaintiff presents many allegations of mistreatment and violations of his rights by correctional officers, prison officials, attorneys and judges at two prisons over the course of several years.

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a plaintiff must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief....” Rule 8 requires “sufficient allegations to put defendants fairly on notice of the claims against them.” McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir.1991)). Accord Richmond v. Nationwide Cassel L.P., 52 F.3d 640, 645 (7th Cir.1995) (amended complaint with vague and scanty allegations fails to satisfy the notice requirement of Rule 8.) “The propriety of dismissal for failure to comply with Rule 8 does not depend on whether the complaint is wholly without merit, ” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Moreover, “[M]ultiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2.” George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). “Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, ” not only to prevent the sort of “morass” that a multi-claim, multi-defendant suit can produce, “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 required fees.” Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)).

         The third amended complaint is 51 pages and names approximately 58 defendants. Plaintiff presents allegations concerning events at two different prisons over the course of several years. He also names as defendants several attorneys, including deputy attorneys general who litigated his previous cases and a superior court judge. Plaintiff alleges that all defendants are engaged in a multi-district racketeering conspiracy to retaliate against plaintiff for the filing of a prior federal civil rights lawsuit. He also raises many other claims and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act.

         The majority of plaintiff's allegations concern conduct that occurred at Kern Valley State Prison, which lies in the Eastern District of California. Plaintiff presents allegations that occurred between February 1, 2014 and August 30, 2016 at Kern Valley State Prison that were committed by more than 30 defendants who were employed at that facility. He also alleges that several attorneys and a judge retaliated against plaintiff while he pursued a prior federal action. Plaintiff's complaint also contains allegations against several defendants who were employed at Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”), which is in this district. Plaintiff alleges that the PBSP defendants violated his rights after he was transferred to that facility on August 30, 2016.

         Plaintiff's complaint in this action illustrates the “unfair burdens” imposed by complaints, “prolix in evidentiary detail, yet without simplicity, conciseness and clarity” which “fail to perform the essential functions of a complaint.” McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1179- 80. Plaintiff has also presented many unrelated claims. The first and second amended complaints were dismissed with leave to amend to focus on the events that occurred at PBSP. Plaintiff was informed that the allegations that occurred during plaintiff's incarceration at Kern Valley State Prison and elsewhere were dismissed from this action without prejudice. Plaintiff could file a case or cases concerning these events ...

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