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Wilson v. Azinkhan

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 25, 2017

GEOFFREY FITZGERALD WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
TANNAZ H. AZINKHAN, Ph.D, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          HONORABLE JAMES V. SELNA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY

         On October 31, 2016, Geoffrey Fitzgerald Wilson ("plaintiff"), who is at liberty, is proceeding without a lawyer (i.e., "pro se"), and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed a Civil Rights Complaint (“Complaint” or “Comp.”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against: (1) Tannaz H. Azinkhan, Ph.D. (“Azinkhan”); (2) Sharper Future; and (3) multiple unnamed individuals identified only as “Does 1-10" (“Doe Defendants”) (collectively "defendants"). (Comp. at 1-4). Plaintiff seeks monetary relief from defendant Azinkhan in her individual capacity only, from defendant Sharper Future in its official capacity only, and from the Doe Defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         As the Complaint is deficient in multiple respects, including those detailed below, it is dismissed with leave to amend.

         II. THE SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         As plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must screen the Complaint, and is required to dismiss the case at any time it concludes the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B).

         When screening a complaint to determine whether it states any claim that is viable (i.e., capable of succeeding), the Court applies the same standard as it would when evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Rule 12(b)(6), in turn, is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rule 8”). Zixiang Li v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 998-99 (9th Cir. 2013). Under Rule 8, a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, at a minimum a complaint must allege enough specific facts to provide both “fair notice” of the particular claim being asserted and “the grounds upon which [that claim] rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (Rule 8 pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”) (citing id. at 555).

         Thus, to avoid dismissal, a civil rights complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2014) (citations and quotation marks omitted). A claim is “plausible” when the facts alleged in the complaint would support a reasonable inference that the plaintiff is entitled to relief from a specific defendant for specific misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). Allegations that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, or reflect only “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not “show[] that the pleader is entitled to relief” (as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)), and thus are insufficient to state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citations and quotation marks omitted). At this preliminary stage, “well-pleaded factual allegations” in a complaint are assumed true, while “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” and “legal conclusion[s] couched as a factual allegation” are not. Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted); Jackson v. Barnes, 749 F.3d 755, 763 (9th Cir. 2014) (“mere legal conclusions ‘are not entitled to the assumption of truth'”) (quoting id.), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 980 (2015).

         Pro se complaints in civil rights cases are interpreted liberally to give plaintiffs “the benefit of any doubt.” Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If a pro se complaint is dismissed because it does not state a claim, the court must freely grant “leave to amend” (that is, give the plaintiff a chance to file a new, corrected complaint) if it is “at all possible” that the plaintiff could fix the identified pleading errors by alleging different or new facts. Cafasso v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1058 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. THE COMPLAINT

         Liberally construed, the Complaint alleges the following:

         Defendant Sharper Future provides mental health services under a contract with the State of California. (Comp. at 2, 4). As a condition of his parole, plaintiff was required to attend therapy sessions conducted by defendant Azinkhan, a psychologist and employee of Sharper Future. (Comp. at 2, 5).

         On October 25, 2014, during a group therapy session, defendant Azinkhan read plaintiff's arrest record to the attendees without plaintiff's consent. (Comp. at 4-5). Defendant Azinkhan had privileged access to plaintiff's arrest record and had a duty to refrain from releasing the private, confidential, or privileged information, and a duty to attempt to protect persons from harm, misuse, or misrepresentation as a result of her statements. (Comp. at 5). Defendant Azinkhan breached her duty by disclosing information from plaintiff's arrest record to members of the therapy group. (Comp. at 5).

         On November 1, 2014, starting at approximately 12:05 p.m., defendant Azinkhan conducted a group therapy session with plaintiff in attendance. (Comp. at 5). Defendant Azinkhan told plaintiff that he would not be allowed to answer questions during the session by saying “I did not commit the crime.” (Comp. at 5). When plaintiff wrote down the defendant's prohibition on the back of a questionnaire, defendant Azinkhan asked plaintiff, “What are you writing?” (Comp. at 5). Plaintiff replied, “What you said.” (Comp. at 5). Defendant Azinkhan ordered plaintiff to ...


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