United States District Court, E.D. California
FIRST SCREENING ORDER (DOC. 1)
K. OBERTO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Harold Walker, is a prisoner in the custody of Fresno County
Jail. On October 31, 2019, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se,
filed a civil complaint against eight officers of the Fresno
Police Department and three employees of Grocery Outlet.
(Doc. 1 (“Compl.”).) Plaintiff purports to allege
causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section
1983”) for “making false statement[s] to police,
” false arrest, “false prosecution, ”
excessive force, and municipal liability in violation of his
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and rights under the
California Constitution. (Id. at 5-7.) Plaintiff
seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $98,
000, 000. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff also filed an
application to proceed in forma pauperis, which was
granted on November 5, 2019. (Docs. 2 & 3.)
complaint is now before the Court for screening. The Court
finds Plaintiff may be able to state some cognizable claims.
However, as discussed more fully below, the Court cannot
determine whether his claims are barred by Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Thus, Plaintiff is
provided the pleading and legal standards for his claims and
is granted leave to file a first amended complaint.
Screening Requirement and Standard
Court is required to screen complaints in cases where the
plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). Plaintiffs complaint, or any portion
thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or
malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). If the Court determines that the
complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be
granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint
can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d
1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).
Court's screening of the complaint is governed by the
following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter
of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack
of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under
a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica
Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
Plaintiff must allege a minimum factual and legal basis for
each claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair
notice of what Plaintiffs claims are and the grounds upon
which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. U.S. Dep't of
the Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKeever
v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief ....”
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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). In determining whether a complaint states a claim on
which relief may be granted, allegations of material fact are
taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d
1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Moreover, since Plaintiff is
appearing pro se, the Court must construe the
allegations of his complaint liberally and must afford
Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v.
Los Angeles Police Dep't , 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th
Cir. 1988). However, “the liberal pleading standard . .
. applies only to a plaintiffs factual allegations.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989).
“[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) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of
Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).
“a plaintiffs obligation to provide the
‘grounds' of his ‘ entitle[ment] to relief
requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do .
. . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” See
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted);
see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (To avoid dismissal
for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.”) (internal citations omitted).
1983 requires that there be an actual connection or link
between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation
alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v.
Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978);
Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth
Circuit has held that “[a] person ‘subjects'
another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within
the meaning of [S]ection 1983, if she does an affirmative
act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits
to perform an act which she 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).
To state a claim for relief under Section 1983, Plaintiff
must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or
omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiffs federal
rights. Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant(s) he
believes are responsible for each violation of his
constitutional rights and the supporting factual basis
because his complaint must put each Defendant on notice of
Plaintiffs claims against him or her. See Austin v.
Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).
alleges that on the evening of September 22, 2019, after
purchasing items at Grocery Outlet, he was approached in the
parking lot by Defendant Andrew Mena, the manager of Grocery
Outlet, and was accused of shoplifting items from the store.
(Doc. 1 (“Compl.”) at 5.) Plaintiff then returned
inside the store and spoke with Defendant Jasmine Arreola, a
Grocery Outlet cashier. Plaintiff asked Defendant Arreola
“the name of the man who came outside and accused me of
stealing from the store because he was defaming my
name.” (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant
Mena then called the police and reported Plaintiff was
“harassing the staff.” (Id.)
alleges that later in the evening Defendants Fresno Police
Officers Jason Laird and Yanet Santiago made contact with him
while he was in his vehicle. (Compl. at 3, 6.) According to
Plaintiff, when Plaintiff exited the car, Defendant Laird
ordered Plaintiff to “get on your [expletive]
knees.” (Id.) When Plaintiff leaned against
his car, Defendant Laird fired his taser gun at him, causing
him to fall to the ground. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges
that Defendants Laird and Santiago, as well as other unknown
Fresno Police Officers, “began kicking and
kneeing” him. (Id.) According to Plaintiff,
Defendant Laird kept yelling at him to “stop resisting,
” picked him up “about 3 feet off the ground,
” and “drop[ped] [him] face first on the ground
causing head, neck, and back injuries.” (Id.)
Plaintiff alleges that at the time of the above-described
incident, “Defendant” had customs, practices, and
policies of “allowing police officers to cover up
excessive use of force, ” “allowing an ongoing
pattern of deliberate indifference” to the rights to be
free from excessive force and unreasonable seizures, and
“failing to provide criteria for the use of excessive
and unnecessary force.” (Id. at 7.)
claims that Defendants Arreola's and Mena's
“false statements” caused his civil and
constitutional rights to be violated “by the Fresno
Police and the City of Fresno, ” including his right to
be free from illegal arrest, excessive force, and unlawful
prosecution. (Id. at 5-7.)
Section 1983 Claim Against the Grocery Outlet
complaint fails plausibly to allege that Defendants Arreola
and Mena acted under color of state law-an essential element
to the maintenance of a Section 1983 claim.
state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege a
deprivation of a constitutional right under color of state
law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)
(citations omitted). An individual defendant is not liable
for a civil rights violation unless the facts establish that
the defendant's personal involvement in some
constitutional deprivation or a causal connection between the
defendant's wrongful conduct and the alleged
constitutional deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885
F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir.1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588
F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978); see also Leer v.
Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (person
deprives another of constitutional right 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 deprivation of which plaintiff complains)
(citation omitted). Supervisory personnel generally are not
liable for civil rights violations on any theory of
respondeat superior or vicarious liability in the absence of
law imposing such liability. Redman v. Cty. of San
Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991);
Hansen, 885 F.2d at 645-46. A supervisor is liable
for constitutional violations of a subordinate only “if
the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or
knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent
them.” Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045
(9th Cir. 1989).
individuals and entities not affiliated with a state or
municipal government generally do not act “under color
of state law.” See Florer v. Congregation Pidyon
Shevuyim, N.A., 639 F.3d 916, 922 (9th Cir. 2011)
(“We start with the presumption that conduct by private
actors is not state action.”); Price v. State of
Hawaii, 939 F.2d 702, 707-08 (9th Cir. 1991)
(“[P]rivate parties are not generally acting under
color of state law.”). While such private parties may a
cause a deprivation of a constitutional right, they are not
subject to Section 1983 liability unless (1) they acted under
color of law, and (2) their conduct was properly attributable
to the government. Flagg Brothers, Inc. v. Brooks,
436 U.S. 149, 156 (1978); Associates & Aldrich Co. v.
Times Mirror Co., 440 F.2d 133, 134-36 (9th Cir. 1971)
(violations of certain constitutional rights actionable under
federal law only when accomplished by one who is clothed with
authority of state and purporting to act thereunder)
(citations and internal quotations omitted); see also
Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., Inc., 457 U.S. 922, 936-37
(1982) (private corporation does not act under color of law
unless its actions are fairly attributable to the
actions of a private individual or entity may properly be
attributed to the government for purposes of Section 1983 if
at the time of an alleged constitutional violation (1) the
private actor was performing a public function; (2) the
private actor was engaged in joint activity with the
government; (3) the private party acted under governmental
compulsion or coercion; or (4) there was a sufficient nexus
between the government and the private actor. Kirtley v.
Rainey, 326 F.3d 1088, 1092 (9th Cir. 2003) (recognizing
“at least four . . . tests” for determining
whether private conduct amounts to state action) (citations
and quotation marks omitted). Plaintiff has the burden to
establish state action under one of the foregoing tests.
Florer, 639 F.3d at 922; see also Kirtley,
326 F.3d at 1092 (“Satisfaction of any one test is
sufficient to find state action, so long as no countervailing