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Gibbs v. Webb

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 2, 2019

ROBERT A. GIBBS, Plaintiff,
J. WEBB, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a former pretrial detainee proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, together with an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Because plaintiff has made the required showing to proceed in forma pauperis, the application will be granted. Plaintiff's complaint is now before the Court for screening.

         I. Screening Requirements

         “[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that ... the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). This provision applies to all actions filed in forma pauperis, whether or not the plaintiff is incarcerated. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam).

         II. Pleading Standard

         Section 1983 “provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987).

         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)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 677-78.

         III. Plaintiff's Allegations

         At all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee housed at Shasta County Jail (“SCJ”) in Redding, California. Plaintiff's caption and complaint identifies the following Defendants: the California Forensic Medical Group (“CFMG”), Shasta County, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Basenko, Captain Dave Kent, Deputy J. Webb, Deputy C. Barnhart, Sergeant C. Reed, and Sergeant B. Rodgers. Other than CFMG and Shasta County, each Defendant is sued in his or her individual and official capacities. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and damages.

         Plaintiff's allegations may be fairly summarized as follows:

         On September 28, 2017, Plaintiff and Defendant Webb had a verbal dispute regarding the conditions at SCJ and the mistreatment of prisoners. Webb became agitated and threatened to shoot Plaintiff.

         Less than two hours later, Defendants Webb and Barnhart were picking up breakfast trays, but Plaintiff refused to hand his over until Webb provided him with an inmate grievance form. Webb refused. Instead, he called Barnhart over to assist him; they both entered Plaintiff's cell; Webb directed Plaintiff to sit on his bunk, which Plaintiff did; and Webb choked and assaulted Plaintiff without provocation or any resistance from Plaintiff. Barnhart stood near Webb and witnessed the assault but did nothing to stop it. Later, Webb and Barnhart drafted false reports accusing Plaintiff of being aggressive and of initiating the assault.[1]

         Following this assault, Plaintiff was taken to medical in handcuffs. The unidentified deputies who transported Plaintiff did so “very roughly” and then sat on him as he laid face down. This resulted in a large facial contusion and cuts on Plaintiff's wrists from the handcuffs.

         At medical, Plaintiff told the examining nurse, Barbara Littleton, that Webb hit him, but Littleton did not report the incident and tried to minimize Plaintiff's injuries. Per Plaintiff, “CFMG personnel are not properly trained and/or are too intimidated by deputees [sic] to report any incidents of assault by deputees [sic].”

         When Plaintiff returned to his cell, he told multiple officers that he wanted to report an assault, but none would allow him. Plaintiff also wrote several grievances and spoke to several deputies about making a police report to no avail. He also claims that Defendants Reed and Rodgers “were asked on [Plaintiff's] behalf to allow [him] to make a police report and the request was denied.”

         Plaintiff claims there is a custom at SJC of excessive force and abuse, that Sheriff Bosenko is aware of it, and that none of the supervising Defendants (Reed, Rodgers, South, Tanner, Marlar, and Kent) properly supervise their deputies.

         Plaintiff also claims that “deputees and corrections sargeants [sic] went on to file a false criminal complaint in retaliation, placed me on ‘chain-all movement' status in retaliation, allowed several other deputees [sic] to retaliate with invidious ‘disciplinary' reports and continued to make threats against me.”

         IV. DiscussionA. Private v. ...

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