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Davis v. Wheeler

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

Z. WHEELER, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint (ECF No. 19). Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment and Eighth Amendment.


         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require complaints contain a “…short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1)). 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)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572F.3d at 969.


         Plaintiff names the following as defendants: (1) Z. Wheeler (2) N. Romney (3) Scott Kernan (4) D. Baughman. See ECF No. 19, at 2. Plaintiff raises two claims. First, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Z. Wheeler and N. Romney retaliated against him, in violation of his First Amendment rights, by threatening Plaintiff with physical violence because he is a patient of the Enhance Out Patient Program (“EOP”) and because he attempted to reach out for help when having suicidal ideations. Id. at 17. Second, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Z. Wheeler and N. Romney violated his Eighth Amendment rights by using excessive force, despite Plaintiff allegedly not violating any prison rules or acting disruptively at the time. Id. Plaintiff claims while Defendants Z. Wheeler and N. Romney escorted him to a medical triage treatment area, he was verbally harassed, taunted, and ridiculed by both Defendants. Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges Defendants, in order to prove a point, twice threw Plaintiff face first into the pavement, twisting and jumping on Plaintiff's back, wrist, and left shoulder. Id. Plaintiff alleges he was handcuffed and in leg restraints and did not jerk, yank, or pose any threat to the officers. Id. at 4. Plaintiff states he was immediately treated by emergency room staff for wounds to both of his wrists and abrasions to his left shoulder. Id. Plaintiff does not specifically address Defendants Scott Kernan and D. Baughman in the complaint.


         As currently set forth, this Court finds Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts in his Eighth Amendment claim to pass screening. However, Plaintiff's First Amendment claim fails because it is unclear to the Court whether Plaintiff is alleging retaliation for being an EOP member and needing mental health care, or if Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Scott Kernan and D. Baughman fail to meet the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8, as Plaintiff fails to specify which Defendant engaged in conduct that lead to an alleged constitutional violation.

         A. Claims Against Defendants Scott Kernan and D. Baughman

         1. Causal Link

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege an actual connection or link between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged deprivations. See Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). “A person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Rather, the plaintiff must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's causal role in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988).

         Here, Plaintiff failed to specifically name or address Defendants Scott Kernan and D. Baughman in the complaint, and Plaintiff does not allege facts to establish how these defendants' personal conduct violated Plaintiff's constitutional or statutory rights. Because Plaintiff fails to allege any facts indicating how Defendants Scott Kernan and D. Baughman engaged in the alleged unconstitutional action, Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the Rule 8 pleading standard. Further, because Plaintiff failed to attribute any of the alleged unconstitutional conduct to either Scott Kernan and D. Baughman, this Court is unable to engage in a substantive analysis to determine if sufficient facts exist to support a claim. Plaintiff will be provided an opportunity to amend the ...

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