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Morales v. Arpaio

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 4, 2013

Sergio M. Morales, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On September 10, 2013, Plaintiff Sergio M. Morales, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence in Florence, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). On October 3, 2013, prior to the Court's screening of Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Allow First Amended Complaint One Day Late" (Doc. 5), to which he attached a copy of the proposed First Amended Complaint (Doc. 5, Attach. 1). Plaintiff's Motion will be granted insofar as the First Amended Complaint supersedes the original Complaint in its entirety. The Court will dismiss the First Amended 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 assess an initial partial filing fee of $10.49. The remainder of the 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 First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, but because the First Amended Complaint may possibly be saved by amendment, will dismiss the First Amended Complaint with leave to amend.

III. First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff asserts two counts of excessive force and denial of constitutionally adequate medical care. He names as Defendants Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio and Fourth Avenue Jail Detention Officer Graffious.

In Count I, Plaintiff asserts that he has been diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia and was being held in the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix, Arizona on July 26, 2013. Around 5:49 p.m. that day, Plaintiff was "absent his prescribed medication, " Risperdal and Valproic Acid, and heard voices. Plaintiff "lost contact with the environment around him causing him fear under dementia." Plaintiff exited the jail cell to get away from the voices, and he alleges that he was "thrown spread eagle to the floor by 4 to 5 [Detention Officers] and was then repeatedly punched in the face by Defendant Graffious until [his] nose fractured." Plaintiff states that he suffers permanent, noticeable damage to his nose, that he cannot breathe through his nose without difficulty, that his senses of smell and taste have been negatively altered, and he suffers headaches because of the incident.

In Count II, Plaintiff states that "immediately after this beating, [he] was taken for x-rays and his nose fracture was confirmed." Plaintiff alleges that his nose "was never fixed by the 4th Avenue Jail[]s medical staff, " resulting in permanent noticeable damage.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and court costs.

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) 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 Arpaio

Plaintiff sues Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio. While Arpaio may be sued for constitutional violations, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against him. "A plaintiff 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 Arpaio except to state in Count I that Defendant Graffious "under the direction of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio along with 4 to 5 other Detention Officers whom Plaintiff is unable to identify at this time were responsible for breaking Plaintiff's nose." In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that "several detention officers, under the command of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, the Defendant, held Plaintiff down and repeatedly punch Plaintiff's nose until it fractured." Such conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a claim. First, it is not clear whether Arpaio was actually present at the Fourth Avenue Jail and directing Defendant Graffious and others to take Plaintiff down and punch him or whether Plaintiff is predicating liability on a theory of respondeat superior. Further, Plaintiff has not alleged facts to support that Arpaio directly violated his constitutional rights or that Arpaio was aware that Plaintiff's rights were being violated but failed to act. Finally, Plaintiff has not alleged facts to support that Arpaio enacted or enforced a policy, custom, or practice that resulted in the denial of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Arpaio and he will be dismissed.

B. Excessive Force

The Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause, not the Eighth Amendment, protects pretrial detainees from excessive force that amounts to punishment. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1197 (9th Cir. 2002). "[T]he Fourth Amendment sets the applicable constitutional limitations' for considering claims of excessive force during pretrial detention." Id. (quoting Pierce v. Multnomah County, 76 F.3d 1032, 1043 (9th Cir. 1996).

The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the use of reasonable force. Tatum v. City & County of San Francisco, 441 F.3d 1090, 1095 (9th Cir. 2006). Whether the force was excessive depends on "whether the officers' actions [were] objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989); Tatum, 441 F.3d at 1095; Lolli v. County of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 415 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court must balance the nature and quality of the intrusion against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396; Lolli, 351 F.3d at 415. Moreover,

[t]he "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight "Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, " violates the Fourth Amendment.

Graham, 490 U.S. at 396 (citations omitted).

Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to support that the amount of force allegedly used by Defendant Graffious was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. For instance, Plaintiff does not state whether he was complying with any orders given by the officers, threatening any of them, or generally resisting them. For these reasons, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for excessive force under the circumstances, and Count I and Defendant Graffious will be dismissed.

C. Medical Care

Plaintiff designates Count II as a claim for denial of medical care. However, Plaintiff fails to identify any named Defendant as responsible for the alleged deprivation. Accordingly, Count II will be dismissed.

Plaintiff is advised that not every claim by a prisoner relating to inadequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment. To state a § 1983 medical claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). A plaintiff must show (1) a "serious medical need" by demonstrating that failure to treat the condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and (2) the defendant's response was deliberately indifferent. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (quotations omitted).

"Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard." Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004). To act with deliberate indifference, a prison official must both know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health; "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Deliberate indifference in the medical context may be shown by a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and harm caused by the indifference. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096. Deliberate indifference may also be shown when a prison official intentionally denies, delays, or interferes with medical treatment or by the way prison doctors respond to the prisoner's medical needs. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05; Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096.

Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence or lack of ordinary due care for the prisoner's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. "Neither negligence nor gross negligence will constitute deliberate indifference." Clement v. California Dep't of Corrections, 220 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1105 (N.D. Cal. 2002); see also Broughton v. Cutter Labs., 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (mere claims of "indifference, " "negligence, " or "medical malpractice" do not support a claim under § 1983). "A difference of opinion does not amount to deliberate indifference to [a plaintiff's] serious medical needs." Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). A mere delay in medical care, without more, is insufficient to state a claim against prison officials for deliberate indifference. See Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985). The indifference must be substantial. The action must rise to a level of "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105.

V. Leave to Amend

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a second amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a second amended complaint. If Plaintiff fails to use the court-approved form, the Court may strike the amended complaint and dismiss this action without further notice to Plaintiff.

If Plaintiff files an amended complaint, Plaintiff must write short, plain statements telling the Court: (1) the constitutional right Plaintiff believes was violated; (2) the name of the Defendant who violated the right; (3) exactly what that Defendant did or failed to do; (4) how the action or inaction of that Defendant is connected to the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional right; and (5) what specific injury Plaintiff suffered because of that Defendant's conduct. See Rizzo, 423 U.S. at 371-72, 377.

Plaintiff must repeat this process for each person he names as a Defendant. If Plaintiff fails to affirmatively link the conduct of each named Defendant with the specific injury suffered by Plaintiff, the allegations against that Defendant will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Conclusory allegations that a Defendant or group of Defendants has violated a constitutional right are not acceptable and will be dismissed.

Plaintiff must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the "Second Amended Complaint." The second amended complaint must be retyped or rewritten in its entirety on the court-approved form and may not incorporate any part of the original Complaint or First Amended Complaint by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

A second amended complaint supersedes the original and first amended complaints. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1990). After amendment, the Court will treat an original and first amended complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original or first amended complaint is waived if it is not raised in a second amended complaint. King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987).

VI. Warnings

A. Release

Plaintiff must pay the unpaid balance of the filing fee within 120 days of his release. Also, within 30 days of his release, he must either (1) notify the Court that he intends to pay the balance or (2) show good cause, in writing, why he cannot. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

B. Address Changes

Plaintiff must file and serve a notice of a change of address in accordance with Rule 83.3(d) of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff must not include a motion for other relief with a notice of change of address. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

C. Copies

Plaintiff must submit an additional copy of every filing for use by the Court. See LRCiv 5.4. Failure to comply may result in the filing being stricken without further notice to Plaintiff.

D. Possible Strike

Because the First Amended Complaint has been dismissed for failure to state a claim, if Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint correcting the deficiencies identified in this Order, the dismissal may count as a "strike" under the "3-strikes" provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Under the 3-strikes provision, a prisoner may not bring a civil action or appeal a civil judgment in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 "if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

E. Possible Dismissal

If Plaintiff fails to timely comply with every provision of this Order, including these warnings, the Court may dismiss this action without further notice. See Ferdik , 963 F.2d at 1260-61 (a district court may dismiss an action for failure to comply with any order of the Court).

IT IS ORDERED:

(1) Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2) is granted.

(2) As required by the accompanying Order to the appropriate government agency, Plaintiff must pay the $350.00 filing fee and is assessed an initial partial filing fee of $10.49.

(3) Plaintiff's "Motion to Allow First Amended Complaint One Day Late" (Doc. 5) is granted insofar as the First Amended Complaint supersedes the original Complaint in its entirety.

(4) The Clerk of Court must separately file the First Amended Complaint (Doc. 5, Attach. 1).

(5) The First Amended Complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has 30 days from the date this Order is filed to file a second amended complaint in compliance with this Order.

(6) If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint within 30 days, the Clerk of Court must, without further notice, enter a judgment of dismissal of this action with prejudice that states that the dismissal may count as a "strike" under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

(7) The Clerk of Court must mail Plaintiff a court-approved form for filing a civil rights complaint by a prisoner.


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