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Gonzalez v. East Los Angeles Sheriffs Department

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 7, 2019

MAURICIO GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
EAST LOS ANGELES SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          HONORABLE STEPHEN V. WILSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On September 11, 2019, plaintiff Mauricio Gonzalez, who is currently in custody at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, California, is proceeding pro se, and has been granted leave to proceed without prepayment of filing fees (“IFP”), filed a Civil Rights Complaint (“Complaint” or “Comp.”) with an exhibit (Comp. Ex.) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) against the East Los Angeles Sheriff Department (“Department”). (Comp. at 1, 3). Plaintiff essentially complains about the circumstances of his detention, and seeks monetary and unspecified injunctive and declaratory relief. (Comp. at 5-6).

         As the Complaint is deficient in multiple respects, including those detailed below, it is dismissed with leave to amend.

         II. THE COMPLAINT

         Construed liberally, the Complaint essentially alleges the following:

         On an unspecified hot and sunny day in the Fall of 2017, between approximately 12 and 1 p.m., plaintiff, who was with his brother-in-law, was pulled over in a traffic stop by two Department deputies - one male and one female - because plaintiff had paper license plates. (Comp. at 3, 5; Comp. Ex. ¶ 20). The deputies searched and then detained the men for no apparent reason. (Comp. at 5; Comp. Ex. ¶ 20). The deputies placed plaintiff in the rear passenger seat of a black and white patrol unit and kept him there for several hours without ventilation - the windows were up and the internal climate unit was off. (Comp. at 5; Comp. Ex. ¶ 20). At some point, the heat became unbearable and plaintiff blacked out. (Comp. at 5; Comp. Ex. ¶ 20). To his shock and terror, plaintiff regained consciousness in a holding cell with EKG patches on his body and pain from what an x-ray revealed to be a dislocated right shoulder. (Comp. at 5). Plaintiff was fingerprinted and released without further incident. (Comp. at 5). This incident caused plaintiff lingering emotional scars, including PTSD and night terrors, and left him with an irrational fear of authority figures. (Comp. at 6; Comp. Ex. ¶¶ 19, 21).

         Plaintiff appears to claim that the foregoing conduct violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from seizure without a warrant and probable cause and his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

         III. PERTINENT LAW

         A. The Screening Requirement

         As plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding IFP on a civil rights complaint against governmental defendants, the Court must screen the Complaint, and is required to dismiss the case at any time it concludes the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B); Byrd v. Phoenix Police Department, 885 F.3d 639, 641 (9th Cir. 2018) (citations omitted).

         When screening a complaint to determine whether it states any claim that is viable, the Court applies the same standard as it would when evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Rule 12(b)(6), in turn, is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Zixiang Li v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 998-99 (9th Cir. 2013). Under Rule 8, each complaint filed in federal court 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). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, at a minimum a complaint must allege enough specific facts to provide both “fair notice” of the particular claim being asserted and “the grounds upon which [that claim] rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (Rule 8 pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”) (citing id. at 555). In addition, under Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint, among other things, must (1) state the names of “all the parties” in the caption; (2) state a party's claims in sequentially “numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances”; and (3) where “doing so would promote clarity, ” state “each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence . . . in a separate count. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a), (b).

         To avoid dismissal on screening, a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Byrd, 885 F.3d at 642 (citations omitted); see also Johnson v. City of Shelby, Mississippi, 574 U.S. 10, __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014) (per curiam) (Twombly and Iqbal instruct that plaintiff “must plead facts sufficient to show that [plaintiff's] claim has substantive plausibility”). A claim is “plausible” when the facts alleged in the complaint would support a reasonable inference that the plaintiff is entitled to relief from a specific defendant for specific misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted); see also Keates v. Koile, 883 F.3d 1228, 1242 (9th Cir. 2018) (“[A] [Section 1983] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”) (quoting id. at 676); Gauvin v. Trombatore, 682 F.Supp. 1067, 1071 (N.D. Cal. 1988) (complaint “must allege the basis of [plaintiff's] claim against each defendant” to satisfy Rule 8 requirements) (emphasis added). Allegations that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, or reflect only “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not “show[] that the pleader is entitled to relief” (as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)), and thus are insufficient to state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         At this preliminary stage, “well-pleaded factual allegations” in a complaint are assumed true, while “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” and “legal conclusion[s] couched as a factual allegation” are not. Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted); Jackson v. Barnes, 749 F.3d 755, 763 (9th Cir. 2014) (“mere legal conclusions ...


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