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Mowry v. Knight

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 6, 2013

Arron Eugene Mowry, Plaintiff,
Sergeant Knight, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT C. BROOMFIELD, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Arron Eugene Mowry, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence, Arizona, 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). The Court will order Defendants Knight and Evans to answer Counts One and Two of the Complaint and will dismiss Counts Three, Four, Five, and Six without prejudice.

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 in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). 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. Id.

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). 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) (citation omitted). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citation omitted).

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (citation omitted). 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. (citation omitted). "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 (citation omitted). 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)).

III. Complaint

In his Complaint, Plaintiff names three defendants: (1) Sergeant Knight, badge number 8783, (2) Lieutenant Evans, badge number 2345, and (3) "Health Services Medical Staff (Head Nurse), " a male nurse on duty on October 4, 2012 at ASPC-Florence, Central Unit. Plaintiff alleges seven counts of violations of his Eighth Amendment rights: (1) that Sergeant Knight used excessive force against Plaintiff; (2) that Defendant Lieutenant Evans failed to act to prevent Sergeant Knight's use of excessive force against Plaintiff; (3) that Sergeant Knight lied and falsified documentation; (4) that Lieutenant Evans lied and falsified documentation; (5) that Sergeant Knight manipulated disciplinary proceedings; (6) that Lieutenant Evans manipulated disciplinary proceedings; and (7) that the unnamed head nurse at the time refused to provide Plaintiff with constitutionally adequate medical care.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, costs, and injunctive relief.

IV. Claims for Which an Answer Will be Required

A. Count One

In Count One, Plaintiff alleges as follows: On October 4, 2012, Sergeant Knight was escorting Plaintiff to the shower when, unprovoked, Sergeant Knight kicked Plaintiff's feet out from under him. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. As Plaintiff lay on the ground on his stomach, Sergeant Knight got on top of him, grabbed his right wrist and started bending and twisting it. When Plaintiff complained that he was being hurt and that he had an old wrist injury, Sergeant Knight threatened to break the wrist.

After the incident, Sergeant Knight wrote Plaintiff a "falsified ticket" for "Assault on Staff" to cover up and justify the use of physical force on Plaintiff. The "Assault on Staff ticket" was later dismissed. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of the attack, he sustained injuries to his mid-back, lower back, right elbow, right shoulder, nerve damage to his legs and feet, has a scar on the right side of his back, exacerbated injuries to his right wrist, and psychological, mental, and emotional trauma.

The Eighth Amendment applies to excessive force claims of convicted inmates. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). Officials acting under color of state law may not maliciously and sadistically use force for the purpose of causing harm. Id.; Watts v. McKinney, 394 F.3d 710, 711 (9th Cir. 2005). To state a claim for excessive force, an inmate must allege facts to support that an official used or caused to be used objectively unreasonable force against the inmate. See Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 197 (2004). However, not every use of physical force violates the Eighth Amendment. See Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7 (not... every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.").

Construing Count One liberally, Plaintiff has sufficiently stated an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force and Sergeant Knight will ...

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