United States District Court, E.D. California
CHRISTOPHER J. LANGLEY, Plaintiff,
PLACER COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
M. COTA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court
is plaintiff's complaint (ECF No. 1).
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).
Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that
complaints contain a “. . . short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims
must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See
McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996)
(referring to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are
satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of
the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it
rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th
Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some
degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants
which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations
fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible
for the court to conduct the screening required by law when
the allegations are vague and conclusory.
an inmate at the Auburn Main Jail, names the following as
defendants: (1) Placer County; (2) Devon Bell, the sheriff of
Placer County; and (3) Well Path Medical. See ECF
No. 1, pg. 2. Plaintiff alleges: “For 3 plus weeks I
was taken off medication lithium and was hearing voices and
PTSD bipolar episodes that wierded [sic] me out.”
Id. at 3. Plaintiff further states: “3 weeks
off a medication lithium that doctors and nurse say not to
quite [sic] cold turkey but medical staff say they can do so
because there is a policy, practice, or procedure that ties
their hands.” Id. at 4.
reasons discussed below, the court finds plaintiff's
complaint is appropriate for service on municipal defendant
Placer County but not on defendants Bell or Well Path Medical
for failure to allege a causal link between such defendants
and an alleged constitutional violation.
and other local government units are among those
“persons” to whom § 1983 liability applies.
See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 690 (1978). Counties and municipal government officials
are also “persons” for purposes of § 1983.
See Id. at 691; see also Thompson v. City of Los
Angeles, 885 F.2d 1439, 1443 (9th Cir. 1989). A local
government unit, however, may not be held responsible for the
acts of its employees or officials under a respondeat
superior theory of liability. See Bd. of County
Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997). Thus,
municipal liability must rest on the actions of the
municipality, and not of the actions of its employees or
officers. See id. To assert municipal liability,
therefore, the plaintiff must allege that the constitutional
deprivation complained of resulted from a policy or custom of
the municipality. See id. A claim of municipal
liability under § 1983 is sufficient to withstand
dismissal even if it is based on nothing more than bare
allegations that an individual defendant's conduct
conformed to official policy, custom, or practice. See
Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d
621, 624 (9th Cir. 1988).
the court finds plaintiff's complaint sufficiently
alleges that he was denied medication in violation of his
Eighth Amendment rights due to a custom, policy, or practice
of defendant Placer County. In particular, plaintiff alleges
that jail medical personnel were precluded from dispensing
him medication due to a “. . .policy, practice, or
procedure that ties their hands.” ECF No. 1, pg. 4.
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, 436 U.S. 658; 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).
personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the
actions of their employees. See Taylor v. List, 880
F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that there is no
respondeat superior liability under § 1983). A
supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations
of subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed
the violations. See id. The Supreme Court has
rejected the notion that a supervisory defendant can be
liable based on knowledge and acquiescence in a
subordinate's unconstitutional conduct because government
officials, regardless of their title, can only be held liable
under § 1983 for his or her own conduct and not the
conduct of others. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 676 (2009). Supervisory personnel who implement a policy
so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation of
constitutional rights and the moving force behind a
constitutional violation may, however, be liable even where
such personnel do not overtly participate in the offensive
act. See Redman v. Cnty of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435,
1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc).
defendant holds a supervisory position, the causal link
between such defendant and the claimed constitutional
violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v.
Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher
v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague
and conclusory allegations are not sufficient. See
Ivey, 673 at 268. “[A] plaintiff must plead that
each Government-official ...