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Pearson v. Bakersfield Police Department

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 22, 2018




         Cory Joe Pearson is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action for a violation of his civil rights against the Bakersfield Police Department, asserting its officers used excessive force after he surrendered to an arrest. (Doc. 7) Because Plaintiff fails to identify facts sufficient to support his claims against the defendants identified, the Court will grant him leave to file a second amended complaint.

         I. Screening Requirement

         When an individual seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is required to review the complaint and shall dismiss a complaint or claim, if it is “frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A claim is frivolous “when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992).

         The Court must review Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint because it supersedes the previously filed complaint. See Forsyth v. Humana, 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987).

         II. Pleading Standards

         General rules for pleading complaints are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A pleading must include a statement affirming the court's jurisdiction, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief; and . . . a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a).

         A complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the plaintiff's claim in a plain and succinct manner. Jones v. Cmty. Redevelopment Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). The purpose of the complaint is to inform the defendant of the grounds upon which the complaint stands. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). The Supreme Court noted,

Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Vague and conclusory allegations do not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). The Court clarified further,

[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” [Citation]. 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. [Citation]. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. [Citation]. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.' Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted). When factual allegations are well-pled, a court should assume their truth and determine whether the facts would make the plaintiff entitled to relief; legal conclusions are not entitled to the same assumption of truth. Id. The Court may grant leave to amend a complaint to the extent deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by an amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-28 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         III. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts he was arrested by officers with the Bakersfield Police Department's Violent Criminal Apprehension Team (“VCAT”) on April 4, 2017. (Doc. 7 at 10) According to Plaintiff, he exited a motel room to smoke a cigarette, when he “noticed a suspicious SUV with blacked out tinted windows slowly approaching in [his] direction.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges when the doors of the vehicle opened, he saw guns and heard someone say, “Get the fuck on the ground.” (Id.) He asserts that he “immediately [got] on the ground in a prone out position and yell[ed] that [he was] unarmed.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that once the officers reached him, an officer kneed him in the face, while another officer got on Plaintiff's back and handcuffed his hands behind his back. (Doc. 7 at 10) He asserts that once “4 or 5 officers” were around him, an officer said “Welcome to the party” and started hitting Plaintiff “with his retractable police baton repeatedly while [he] was already handcuffed and held down.” (Id.) Plaintiff ...

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