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Parks v. Christian

United States District Court, C.D. California

August 28, 2019

JAILEN PARKS, Plaintiff,



         On May 20, 2019, Plaintiff, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed a civil-rights action against Defendant Chocano Christian in his official capacity, seeking compensatory damages and possibly “plasti[c] surgery” and “therap[]y.” (Compl. at 3, 6.) He was subsequently granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff's claims arise from his arrest on unspecified charges, during which Defendant, an Inglewood Police Department police officer, allegedly deployed a police dog against him after he had surrendered.

         After screening the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court finds that his allegations fail to state a claim on which relief might be granted. Because at least some of his claims might be cured by amendment, they are dismissed with leave to amend. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (holding that pro se litigant must be given leave to amend complaint unless absolutely clear that deficiencies cannot be cured). If Plaintiff desires to pursue any of his claims, he is ORDERED to file a first amended complaint within 28 days of the date of this order, remedying the deficiencies discussed below.


         On December 7, 2017, at “approximately around 10:30/11:00 a.m., ” Defendant “attempted to detain [Plaintiff].” (Compl. at 1; see id. at 2.) Although Defendant “gave no direction” that he was under arrest, he nonetheless got down on the ground with his hands on his head. (Id. at 1.) While he was “subdu[ed]” on the ground, Defendant allegedly “deployed” a police dog against him. (Id.) The dog “vi[ci]ously” bit his right ear, left bicep, arm, and neck. (Id.) He was then “arrest[ed].” (Id. at 5.) In the arrest report, Defendant “false[ly]” stated that the police dog bit Plaintiff in the leg and chest and only after he had “kicked” and punched it and had attempted to “evade arrest.” (Id.) He doesn't state what crime he was arrested for but asserts that because he wasn't charged with “assault on a police officer” or “evad[ing” arrest, ” Defendant must be lying. (Id.)

         He claims that “[e]verything that transpired was . . . premeditated through care less [sic] racism and neglect” and that he was “harass[ed]” and “racial[ly] profil[ed].” (Id. at 3, 6.) He also contends that his “right to be treated equal” under the 14th Amendment was violated, his “22nd Amendment” right was violated through “accessive [sic] brutal force, ” and his right to “life liberty and property” under the Declaration of Independence “was abused.” (Id. at 5.) He requests compensatory damages, including that his “plasti[c] surgery bills” be paid. (Id. at 6.)


         A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim “where there is no cognizable legal theory or an absence of sufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory.” Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (as amended) (citation omitted); accord O'Neal v. Price, 531 F.3d 1146, 1151 (9th Cir. 2008). In considering whether a complaint states a claim, a court must generally accept as true all the factual allegations in it. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 892-93 (9th Cir. 2011). The court need not accept as true, however, “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); see also Shelton v. Chorley, 487 Fed.Appx. 388, 389 (9th Cir. 2012) (finding that district court properly dismissed civil-rights claim when plaintiff's “conclusory allegations” did not support it).

         Although a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, it “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Yagman v. Garcetti, 852 F.3d 859, 863 (9th Cir. 2017). A claim is facially plausible when it “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citations omitted); Byrd v. Phx. Police Dep't, 885 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 2018) (per curiam).


         I. The Complaint Does Not State Any Official-Capacity Claim

         Plaintiff sues Defendant exclusively in his official capacity. (Compl. at 3.) The Supreme Court has held that an “official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); see also Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985). Such a suit “is not a suit against the official personally, for the real party in interest is the entity.” Graham, 473 U.S. at 166 (emphasis in original).

         Municipalities and local-government entities are considered “persons” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and therefore may be liable for causing a constitutional deprivation. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 694 (1978); see also Long v. Cnty. of L.A., 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). California police departments are independently suable public entities. See Streit v. Cnty. of L.A., 236 F.3d 552, 565 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Shaw v. Cal. Dep't of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 788 F.2d 600, 605 (9th Cir. 1986), and Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 624 n.2 (9th Cir. 1988)). Because no respondeat superior liability exists under § 1983, a municipality is liable only for injuries that arise from an official policy or longstanding custom. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694; City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385-87 (1989). A plaintiff must show “that a [municipal] employee committed the alleged constitutional violation pursuant to a formal governmental policy or a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the local governmental entity.” Gillette v. Delmore, 979 F.2d 1342, 1346 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) (citation omitted).

         In addition, a plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that the policy was “(1) the cause in fact and (2) the proximate cause of the constitutional deprivation.” Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996). “Liability for improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents; it must be founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and consistency that the conduct has become a traditional method of carrying out policy.” Id.; see also Thompson v. City of L.A., 885 F.2d 1439, 1443-44 (9th Cir. 1989) (“Consistent with the commonly understood meaning of custom, proof of random acts or isolated events are [sic] insufficient to establish custom.”), overruled on other grounds by Bull v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 595 F.3d 964, 981 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc). “A custom can be shown or a policy can be inferred from widespread practices or ...

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