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Zietz v. Bernardino

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 9, 2019




         PROCEEDINGS (IN CHAMBERS): Order Dismissing Complaint with Leave to Amend (Dkt. 1)

         Pro se Plaintiff William Frederick Zietz (“Plaintiff”), an inmate in the custody of San Bernardino County, has filed a civil rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against an unnamed San Bernardino County Sheriff. (Dkt. 1.)

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the Court must screen any “complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or from an officer or employee of a governmental entity.” The Court must dismiss the complaint 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).

         The Court has reviewed the Complaint and, as explained more fully below, finds that it fails to state a claim. The Complaint is therefore DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.


         A complaint may fail to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990) (as amended). In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Further, where the plaintiff is appearing pro se, the court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and must afford the plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, the liberal pleading standard only applies to a plaintiff's factual allegations. “[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).

         If the Court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, then the Court has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Complaint names as the sole Defendant an unnamed San Bernardino County Sheriff, who “oversee[s] inmates in the county jail, ” in his/her official capacity.[1] (Dkt. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated his rights to “medical, due process, access to the courts, [and] freedom of religion.” (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges: (1) he was “denied proper medical care and Dr. prescribed treatment or medicines”; (2) he was “not allowed to go to court and was held against [his] will in ROC program”; (3) there was an “unwarranted delay of time”; and (4) he was “not allow[ed] to practice Catholic religion or full kosher diet.” (Id.) Plaintiff requests damages and an injunction to prevent “further ill/vain treatment or possibility of any further incarceration.” (Id. at 7.)

         The Complaint does not contain sufficient facts to state any claim. To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added); see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (holding that “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do”). Plaintiff does not include sufficient factual allegations to permit the inference that Defendant is liable for any of the four violations alleged.

         Plaintiff's inadequate medical care claim does not allege, for example, the nature of his medical need, whether he reported his medical need to Defendant or other jails officials, or the extent of the care provided. Plaintiff's access to the courts claim does not allege, for example, how Defendant interfered with his access to the courts, the nature of his injury (e.g., whether he was unable to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim), or the nature of the impeded action (e.g., what the claim was and whether the action was criminal or civil). Plaintiff's due process claim does not allege, for example, the nature of the proceeding that was delayed or why the delay was “unwarranted.” Plaintiff's religious freedom claim does not allege, for example, how a jail regulation is burdening his sincerely-held religious belief (e.g., how is the jail preventing him from practicing Catholicism, and how does a Kosher dietary restriction factor into his Catholic beliefs?).

         In sum, to state a claim for relief, Plaintiff must include more facts. Plaintiff may attach exhibits to illustrate his claims (e.g., any forms he submitted and any denials he ...

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