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Daniels v. City and County of San Francisco

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 2, 2018





         On October 16, 2017, Plaintiff Scott Daniels filed a Complaint and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. Compl., Dkt. No. 1; Appl., Dkt. No. 3. The Court granted Plaintiff's Application and screened the Complaint, dismissing it with leave to amend. First Screening Order, Dkt. No. 5. The Court screened the First Amended Complaint (FAC), and ordered issuance of summons and service upon Defendant City and County of San Francisco. See FAC, Dkt. No. 6; Second Screening Order, Dkt. No. 7. Without leave of Court, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (SAC, Dkt. No. 9), which the Court struck (Minutes, Dkt. No. 17). Defendant answered the FAC. Dkt. No. 12.

         At the Initial Case Management Conference, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a third amended complaint, which Plaintiff filed. See Minutes; Case Sched. Order, Dkt. No. 22; Third Am. Compl. (TAC), Dkt. No. 24. The Court now screens the TAC pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         SUA SPONTE SCREENING UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)

         A. Legal Standard

         While the Court has granted Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, it must also review the TAC to determine whether the action may be allowed to proceed. The Court must dismiss the TAC if it is frivolous, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To make this determination, courts assess whether there is a factual and legal basis for the asserted wrong, “however inartfully pleaded.” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984) (quotation omitted). Pro se pleadings are liberally construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). Moreover, the Ninth Circuit has “repeatedly held that a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). Unless it is clear that no amendment can cure the defects of a complaint, a pro se plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is entitled to notice and an opportunity to amend before dismissal. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires Plaintiff to provide a “short and plain statement” of the claims, but “more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” to help the Court logically connect how the defendant caused Plaintiff's injury and show what claims for relief exist. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' for . . . ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions . . . .” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). For instance, in Ashcroft, the Supreme Court rejected conclusory assertions that “petitioners ‘knew of, condoned, and willfully and maliciously agreed to subject [him]' to harsh conditions of confinement ‘as a matter of policy, solely on the account of [his] religion, race, and/or national origin and for no legitimate penological interest.'” 556 U.S. at 680. The Court reasoned that such allegations were akin to the “formulaic recitation of the elements” dismissed in Twombly, and therefore, insufficient to meet Rule 8(a). Id. In doing so, the Court explained, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678.

         B. Allegations in the Complaint

         The only amendment Plaintiff has made in the TAC pertains to the Battery claim. See TAC ¶ 45 (abandoning allegation that Defendants slammed Plaintiff to the ground, punched, and kicked him; retaining allegation that Defendants placed Plaintiff in debilitating control holds and placed unnecessary weight on his back and head; adding allegation that Defendants forced Plaintiff to sit on filthy ground). The Court's present screening analysis accordingly does not change materially from the analysis it applied in screening the FAC.

         Plaintiff asserts a number of claims arising from his arrest by SFPD Officers on or about October 15, 2015. He alleges Does 1 and 2 are SFPD Officers who acted under color of authority and/or under state law, and committed these acts pursuant to custom or policies adopted by the City and County of San Francisco. TAC ¶¶ 7-9, 11-12, 14, 23. Plaintiff alleges Doe 1 instructed him to stop on the street, but when Plaintiff began to leave after confirming he was not being detained, Doe 1 again instructed him to stop and detained him. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Doe 2 was present; Does 1 and 2 repeatedly verbally admonished Plaintiff; taunted him; used slurs against him; and indicated Plaintiff did not need an attorney, should answer questions, and should submit to detention and questioning. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff was arrested for asserting his rights; he was handcuffed in an unlawfully tight fashion and left to sit in a hot patrol car for a significant period of time; he also was placed in debilitating control holds and unnecessary weight was placed on his back and head. Id. ¶¶ 19-20, 45.

         Plaintiff asserts three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) unlawful search and seizure in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution; (2) excessive force in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and (3) violations of his right to petition the government for a redress of grievances under the First Amendment. Plaintiff also asserts a number of claims under California state law: violation of the Bane Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1; assault; battery; and negligence. Plaintiff names the City and County of San Francisco and Does 1 and 2 as defendants. The caption of the TAC lists an eighth claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but Plaintiff does not actually assert such a claim in the TAC.

         C. Analysis and Screening

         1. Fe ...

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