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Blackwell v. Jenkins

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 6, 2019

A. JENKINS, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Presently before the court is plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 3) and three separate amended complaints filed simultaneously (ECF Nos. 16, 17, 18). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the motion to proceed in forma pauperis, dismiss the complaints, and direct plaintiff to file one amended complaint.


         Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (ECF No. 2.) Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be 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 for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison 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).


         Plaintiff initiated this action on March 13, 2019. However, plaintiff did not sign his complaint. (See ECF No. 1 at 20.) Because the court cannot consider unsigned filings, the original complaint was stricken from the record pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and Local Rule 131. (ECF No. 8.) The court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint and advised plaintiff that unrelated claims against multiple defendants should be brought in separate actions.

         It appears that plaintiff took literally, the court's advisement that separate claims belong in separate complaints. The court will clarify that unrelated claims against different defendants should be brought in entirely separate actions. Allegations related to different defendants may only be brought in the same case if the allegations arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions and occurrences. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a); Desert Empire Bank v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 623 F.2d 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980).

         Additionally, an amended complaint supersedes a prior complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once an amended complaint is filed, any prior complaint no longer serves a function in the case. (Id.) Thus, the third amended complaint (ECF No. 18), supersedes the other two complaints. However, because it appears that plaintiff misinterpreted the court's prior advisement, it will dismiss the amended complaints and provide plaintiff another opportunity to file one amended complaint that complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules.


         I. Legal Standards

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 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 where 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 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)).

         However, 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. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in ...

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