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Lake v. Weiss

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 31, 2019

JOHN LAKE, Plaintiff,
v.
J. WEISS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding pro se. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Plaintiff submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.

         Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         As discussed below, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.

         Screening Standards

         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). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that 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)(1), (2).

         A claim is legally frivolous when 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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) (“[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). 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.” Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. However, “[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555, citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93, and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

         Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiff claims that his right to access the courts has been impaired, he has been denied access to his legal and other personal property, defendant Dr. Wong-Do denied plaintiff access to x-ray, MRI, and pain medication, and defendant Yonus, Muslim Senior Chaplain, denied plaintiff access to LDS Services. Plaintiff also alleges violation of the Code of Silence - Zero Tolerance identified in a State of California Department of Corrections memo dated February 17, 2004. (ECF No. 1 at 7). Plaintiff names as defendants Assistant Warden J. Weiss, Muslim Chaplain Yonus, S.H. Wong-Do, Ph.D., Correctional Officer Tillery, and John Does.

         Discussion

         The court has reviewed the complaint pursuant to § 1915A and finds it must be dismissed with leave to amend because the claims asserted in the complaint are not properly joined under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a) concerning joinder of claims and defendants. Rule 20(a) provides that all persons may be joined in one action as defendants if “any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences” and “any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2). See also George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Unrelated claims against unrelated defendants belong in different suits”). If unrelated claims are improperly joined, the court may dismiss them without prejudice. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21; 7 Alan Wright, Arthur Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Richard Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1684 (3d ed. 2012); Michaels Building Co. v. Ameritrust Co., 848 F.2d 674, 682 (6th Cir. 1988) (affirming dismissing under Rule 21 of certain defendants where claims against those defendants did not arise out of the same transaction or occurrences, as required by Rule 20(a)).

         Where parties have been misjoined, the court may drop a party or sever the claims against that party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. “[D]istrict courts who dismiss rather than sever must conduct a prejudice analysis, including ‘loss of otherwise timely claims if new suits are blocked by statutes of limitations.'” Rush v. Sport Chalet, Inc., 779 F.3d 973, 975 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting DirecTV, Inc. v. Leto, 467 F.3d 842, 846-47 (3d Cir. 2006)). Here, because such unrelated claims are based on relatively recent incidents, August and September of 2019, plaintiff will not be prejudiced by their dismissal, without prejudice, from this action. Plaintiff may ...


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