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Walker v. Pinal County Jail Sheriff

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 21, 2013

Ryan E. Walker, Plaintiff,
Pinal County Jail Sheriff, et al., Defendants.


G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ryan E. Walker, who is confined in the Pinal County Jail in Florence, Arizona, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). Plaintiff has also filed a Motion requesting an amended civil rights complaint form, writing materials, legal envelopes, and an order allowing access to a law library (Doc. 5). The Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The statutory fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff 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 pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam )).

If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) ( en banc ). The Court should not, however, advise the litigant how to cure the defects. This type of advice "would undermine district judges' role as impartial decisionmakers." Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131 n.13 (declining to decide whether the court was required to inform a litigant of deficiencies). The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim, but because the Complaint may possibly be saved by amendment, will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

III. Complaint

In his three-count Complaint, Plaintiff alleges claims for denial of medical care, denial of access to the courts, and denial of basic necessities. Plaintiff appears to sue the following Defendants[1]: Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu; Pinal County Adult Detention Facility ("PCADF") and all PCADF Staff (although Plaintiff asserts this "do[es] not p[er]tain to all but is not limited to one"); Detention Officer K. Roderguz (sic); "Medical Staff/Provider" at PCADF; Detention Officer/Paralegal at PCADF; All Pinal County Correctional Health Services Healthcare Staff (although Plaintiff asserts this "do[es] not p[er]tain to all but is not limited to one"); and "Provider Health Care" "before the present provider of Health Care services but is not limited one (sic)." Plaintiff seeks the following relief: medical treatment and rehabilitation, and compensation for all present and future medical treatment, pain and suffering, stress, and treatment while grieving for his wife.

Although Plaintiff's facts are disjointed, he appears to allege the following in Count I: Plaintiff was working in the kitchen of the PCADF when his feet slipped out from under him. He fell back against a table and then to the floor. He was not taken to medical for two hours and it was closed when he arrived. Plaintiff saw a nurse who gave him 400 milligrams of ibuprofen. Plaintiff returned to work the following day. Three days later Plaintiff saw a medical office provider, who gave him ibuprofen for ten days. Plaintiff states that he had a three-inch by ten-inch bruise and after two months his skin was still discolored and he had a knot inside his skin. Plaintiff requested an x-ray "and picture" but his request was denied. He states that he likely had a cracked rib and "maybe a cracked coll[a]r bone too." Plaintiff did not say when these events occurred but states that he has had problems from the fall "going on 6 month[s]" and is now having pinched nerve and shoulder problems.

Plaintiff also asserts that on August 25, 2013 he lost his wife and was taken to a hospital where he was given a half-hour to be with her and then "pull the plug." When Plaintiff returned to the jail he asked to be put in lockdown so he could grieve. He apparently put this request in writing and thanked the medical staff and staff at the jail. Plaintiff alleges that "they took it wrong, " and stripped him naked and put him in a rubber room for four days. Plaintiff asserts, "At no time did I say I want or was think[ing] of hurting myself." Plaintiff alleges that after four days a mental health doctor released him and said "sorry for being held."

In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that a paralegal denied: "any and all assistance in preparing forms, including but not limited to this form"; "questions as to legal codes, procedures, proper information places, category"; "assistance in mailing forms and motions"; "a[c]quiring copies and notary serv[ic]es"; and "a[c]quiring names[, ] tit[]les, address[e]s to courts."

In Count III, Plaintiff asserts that the water boiler supplying the jail failed on May 8, 2013 and was fixed on May 20, 2013. He alleges that he did not have hot water for bathing, clothing or bedding and that the lack of hot water was unsanitary for eating and living conditions.

IV. Failure to State a Claim

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts supporting that (1) the conduct about which he complains was committed by a person acting under the color of state law and (2) the conduct deprived him of a federal constitutional or statutory right. Wood v. Ostrander, 879 F.2d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 1989). A plaintiff must also allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant and he must allege an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

A. Sheriff Babeu

Plaintiff sues Pinal County Sheriff Babeu. While Babeu may be sued for constitutional violations, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against him. "Aplaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). For an individual to be liable in his official capacity, a plaintiff must allege that the official acted as a result of a policy, practice, or custom. See Cortez v. County of Los Angeles, 294 F.3d 1186, 1188 (9th Cir. 2001). Further, there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, so a defendant's position as the supervisor of someone who allegedly violated a plaintiff's constitutional rights does not make him liable. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). A supervisor in his individual capacity "is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045.

Plaintiff fails to allege any facts against Babeu. Plaintiff has not alleged facts to support that Babeu enacted or enforced a policy, custom, or practice that resulted in the denial of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Plaintiff also has not alleged facts to support that Babeu directly violated his constitutional rights or that Babeu was aware that Plaintiff's rights were being violated but ...

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