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Williams v. Coalinga State Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 3, 2017

ROBERT C. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
COALINGA STATE HOSPITAL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (DOC. 1)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff alleges that his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were violated following an incident when the psychiatric technicians assigned to unit nine left their stations to play pinball in the back room. Though Plaintiff has not stated any cognizable claims, he may be able to correct the deficiencies in his pleading. Thus, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.

         A. Screening Requirement

         “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss [a case brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983] at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). A complaint will be dismissed if it lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege sufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         B. Pleading Requirements

         1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

         When screening, the court applies the requirements found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). “Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, ” none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). “Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512.

         Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal. at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557.

         While “plaintiffs face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . ., ” Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners (and detainees) are still construed liberally and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Blaisdell v. Frappiea, 729 F.3d 1237, 1241 (9th Cir. 2013); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations, ” Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), “a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled, ” Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff must identify specific facts supporting the existence of substantively plausible claims for relief. Johnson v. City of Shelby, __ U.S. __,, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014) (per curiam) (citation omitted).

         2. Linkage Requirement

         The Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983) requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that “[a] person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

         Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant(s) he feels are responsible for each violation of his constitutional rights and their factual basis as his Complaint must put each Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).

         3. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Plaintiff names the Coalinga State Hospital as a defendant. Plaintiff may not sustain an action against a state hospital. The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from hearing suits brought against an un-consenting state. Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Co., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991); see also Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1122 (1996); Puerto Rico Aqueduct Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993); Austin v. State Indus. Ins. Sys., 939 F.2d 676, 677 (9th Cir. 1991). The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against state agencies as well as those where the state itself is named as a defendant. See Natural Resources Defense Council v. California Dep't of Tranp., 96 F.3d 420, 421 (9th Cir. 1996); Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Co., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (concluding that Nevada Department of Prisons was a state agency entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity); Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College Dist., 861 F.2d 198, 201 (9th Cir. 1989). “Though its language might suggest otherwise, the Eleventh Amendment has long been construed to extend to suits brought against a state by its own citizens, as well as by citizens of other states.” Brooks, 951 F.2d at 1053 (citations omitted). “The Eleventh Amendment's jurisdictional bar covers suits naming state agencies and departments as defendants, and applies whether the relief is legal or equitable in nature.” Id. (citation omitted). Because the Coalinga State Hospital is a part of the California Department of Corrections, which is a state agency, it is entitled to dismissal based on Eleventh Amendment.

         C. Summary ...


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