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Drake v. Kernan

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 17, 2017

SAM DRAKE, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT KERNAN, et al., Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING CLERK OF COURT TO RANDOMLY ASSIGN DISTRICT JUDGE (ECF NO. 1) THIRTY DAY DEADLINE

         On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff Sam Drake, appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Northern District of California. On November 7, 2017, the action was transferred to the Eastern District of California.

         I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that “fail[] to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek[] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         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). 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) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         II.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Complaint Fails to Comply with the Eastern District's Standing Order and Does Not Contain a Short, Plain Statement as Required by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (“CSATF”) in Corcoran. CSATF is participating in a pilot program allowing for the initial electronic filing of prisoner complaints in civil rights cases involving conditions of confinement claims. Pursuant to this Court's Standing Order, initial complaints may not exceed twenty-five (25) pages in length. See Standing Order, In Re: Procedural Rules For Electronic Submission Of Prisoner Litigation Filed By Plaintiffs Incarcerated At Participating Penal Institutions, March 1, 2016, at ¶ 4.

         Plaintiff's complaint is thirty-seven pages in length, excluding exhibits, names fourteen defendants, and spans a period of time since 1995. It appears that Plaintiff attempted to avoid the Standing Order by filing this action in the Northern District. Further, Plaintiff's complaint fails to comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Plaintiff's complaint is neither short nor plain. The complaint is over thirty five pages in length, names fourteen defendants from different correctional institutions, and spans twenty-two years. Additionally, upon review of Plaintiff's complaint it is largely composed of conclusory allegations that are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         For these reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint violates the page limits in the standing order and Rule 8's requirement that the complaint contain a short, plain statement of the claim. Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, leave to amend shall be freely given when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Court shall grant Plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         B. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Must Comply With Rules 8, 18, and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         In filing his amended complaint, Plaintiff is advised that a basic lawsuit is a single claim against a single defendant. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) allows a plaintiff to add multiple claims to the lawsuit when they are against the same defendant. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2) allows a plaintiff to join multiple defendants to a lawsuit where the right to relief arises out of the same “transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions” and “any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” However, unrelated claims that involve different defendants must be brought in separate lawsuits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a), 20(a)(2); Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 2011); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). This rule is not only intended to avoid confusion that arises out of bloated lawsuits, but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees for their lawsuits and prevent prisoners from circumventing the three strikes rule under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         In other words, all claims in the complaint must be permitted by either Rule 18 or Rule 20. A plaintiff may state a single claim against a single defendant and may then add any additional claims to his action that are against the same defendant under Rule 18. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18. Plaintiff may also add any additional claims against other defendants if those claims arise from the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions as his original claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2). Review of ...


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