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Santiago v. Caldwell

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 10, 2019

STEVEN SANTIAGO, Plaintiff,
v.
J. CALDWELL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO FILE A FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTIFY THE COURT OF HIS DESIRE TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIM FOUND COGNIZABLE (DOC. 1)

          SHEILA K. OBERTO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Steven Santiago alleges that the defendants violated the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 1 at 5, 7.) In Claim I, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Caldwell, Hurlbut, Medina, Perez, and Taylor subjected him to excessive force. (Id. at 5.) In Claim II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Hurlbut and Martinez failed to stop the excessive force, and that Defendant Tamayo failed to document all of Plaintiff's injuries.[1] (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to Claim II. (See id.) Thus, the Court ORDERS Plaintiff to either file a first amended complaint curing the deficiencies in his pleading OR, in the alternative, notify the Court that he wishes to proceed only on Claim I regarding excessive force and to dismiss Claim II and Defendants Martinez and Tamayo.

         I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         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. 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, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). The Court should dismiss a complaint if it lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         II. PLEADING REQUIREMENTS

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

         “Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions.” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2). “Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Factual allegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         The Court construes pleadings of pro se prisoners liberally and affords them the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). However, “the liberal pleading standard … applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations, ” not his legal theories. Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). Furthermore, “a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled, ” Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), and 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). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient to state a cognizable claim, and “facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability” fall short. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         B. Linkage and Causation

         Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must show a causal connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by the plaintiff. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 373-75 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that “[a] person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 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) (citation omitted).

         III. EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under … any other Federal law … by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion of administrative remedies is mandatory and “unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211. Inmates are required to “complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88, 93 (2006). The exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits relating to prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002), regardless of the relief sought by the prisoner or offered by the administrative process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Generally, failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that the defendant must plead and prove. Jones, 549 U.S. at 204, 216. However, courts may dismiss a claim if failure to exhaust is clear on the face of the complaint. See Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014).

         IV. ...


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