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Geyer v. Ferrara

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 29, 2019

THOMAS A. FERRARA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, who was an inmate at the Solano County Jail when he filed the instant complaint, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff has paid the filing fee.

         I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).[1]The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are “frivolous, malicious, or fail[] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek[] monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim “is [legally] frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). “[A] judge may dismiss . . . claims which are ‘based on indisputably meritless legal theories' or whose ‘factual contentions are clearly baseless.'” Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227-28 (citations omitted).

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915A incorporates the familiar standard applied in the context of failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). “‘[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004)).

         “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of the Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976) (citation omitted), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969) (citations omitted).

         II. Complaint

         The complaint presents two claims, respectively asserting violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, both based on plaintiff's objection to the sharing of electric razors among inmates at the Solano County Jail. Named as defendants are the County Sheriff, the Mayor, and two jail officers. Plaintiff alleges generally that requiring pretrial detainees to use shared razors is unsanitary and poses “an unreasonable risk of serious damage to one's future health.” ECF No. 1 at 3. He alleges that disinfection protocols for the electric razors are inadequate and/or not adequately followed, and that inmates are being exposed to blood-borne pathogens including HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Id. Plaintiff specifically alleges that in January of 2017 two different officers rejected his requests that a razor be properly disinfected. Id. at 4. He alleges that “one detainee/inmate has had to take antibiotics because he got some kind of fungus on his face.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff seeks $50, 000, 000.00 in damages and an injunction requiring the provision of disposable razors to all pretrial detainees at the Jail. Id. at 8.

         III. Plaintiff Lacks Standing

         “[F]ederal courts are required sua sponte to examine jurisdictional issues such as standing.” B.C. v. Plumas Unified Sch. Dist., 192 F.3d 1260, 1264 (9th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). The Article III case or controversy requirement limits federal courts' subject matter jurisdiction by requiring that plaintiffs have standing. Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 (1982). To have standing, a plaintiff must plead and prove that he has suffered sufficient injury to satisfy the “case or controversy” requirement of Article III of the United States Constitution. Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA, 568 U.S. 398, 409 (2013) (citations omitted). To satisfy Article III standing, a plaintiff must therefore allege: (1) an injury-in-fact that is concrete and particularized, as well as actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) that the injury is redressable by a favorable ruling. Monsato Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, 561 U.S. 139, 149 (2010) (citation omitted); Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992).

         Plaintiff's objections to Solano County Jail razor sterilization practices do not support standing, because plaintiff has not personally suffered any injury in fact. Plaintiff does not allege that he suffered any injury or contracted any disease due to his use of a shared razor, he merely complains that his objections to the jail's sanitation practices were ignored. The complaint asserts future harms that are entirely speculative, and speculative future injury does not confer standing. See Clapper, 568 U.S. at 409 (to have standing based on future harm, plaintiff must face “a credible threat of harm” that is “both real and immediate, not conjectural or hypothetical.”). Plaintiff's allegation that another inmate experienced a fungal infection would not give plaintiff standing even if that infection were traceable to use of a shared razor. See Weaver v. Wilcox, 650 F.2d 22, 27 (3rd Cir. 1981) (“[A]n inmate does not have standing to sue on behalf of his fellow prisoners. Rather, the prisoner must allege a personal loss and seek to vindicate a deprivation of his own constitutional rights.”)

         For the same reason, plaintiff lacks standing to seek the requested injunctive relief on behalf of all pretrial detainees at the Jail. And the request for injunctive relief is moot as to plaintiff himself, because he is no longer incarcerated at the Jail. See Pride v. Correa, 719 F.3d 1130, 1138 (9th Cir. 2013) (transfer from the facility at issue moots claim for injunctive relief regarding conditions of confinement).

         IV. The Alleged Facts ...

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