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Garcia v. Arpaio

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 30, 2013

Jesus Garcia, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jesus Garcia, who is confined in the Maricopa County Towers Jail, 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 grant the Application to Proceed and 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 assess an initial partial filing fee of $32.40. 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). 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)). 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). Here, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in his Complaint, but it appears that the Complaint could be cured by allegations of other facts. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice and Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to amend.

III. Complaint

Plaintiff alleges three counts in his Complaint. Defendants are: Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, Maricopa County Durango Jail, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that he is currently being detained in condemned buildings that are contaminated with cancer-causing, lead-based paint, asbestos, and black mold. Plaintiff alleges that he has developed a skin rash all over his body.

In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges that all meals are prepared by sentenced inmates that have not been state-certified in the proper rules and regulations in the preparation and storage of meals. Plaintiff alleges that he has chewed rocks and has contracted food poisoning and stomach discomfort.

In Count Three, Plaintiff alleges that, on numerous occasions, he has not been permitted the minimum of one hour at least four days per week of outdoor recreation or fresh air recreation with sufficient space to move freely. Plaintiff alleges that, "on many occasions, " "the officer" terminates recreation before the one-hour session is complete. Plaintiff alleges the he was not allowed proper exercise or fresh air, which made him subject to colds, flus, coughing, and sinus infections.

As relief, Plaintiff seeks $8, 000, 000.

IV. Failure to State a Claim

To prevail in a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that (1) acts by the defendants (2) under color of state law (3) deprived him of federal rights, privileges or immunities and (4) caused him damage. Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1163-64 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Shoshone-Bannock Tribes v. Idaho Fish & Game Comm'n, 42 F.3d 1278, 1284 (9th Cir. 1994)). In addition, a plaintiff must 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. Maricopa County Durango Jail

Plaintiff sues Maricopa County Durango Jail; however, the jail is not a proper defendant. Claims under § 1983 are directed at "bodies politic and corporate." Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 688-89 (1978). Under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Congress intended municipalities and other local government units to be included among those persons to whom § 1983 applies. Id. at 689-690. In Arizona, the responsibility for operating jails and caring for prisoners is placed by law upon the sheriff and the County. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 11-251(8), 11-291(A), 11-441(A)(5), 31-101. Maricopa County Durango Jail is simply an administrative creation of the sheriff to allow him to carry out his statutory duties; it is not a "person" amenable to suit pursuant to § 1983. See, e.g., Petaway v. City of New Haven Police Dep't, 541 F.Supp.2d 504 (D. Conn. 2008); Pahle v. Colebrookdale Twp., 227 F.Supp.2d 361 (E.D. Pa. 2002). Accordingly, Maricopa County Durango Jail will be dismissed from this action.

B. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors

Plaintiff names the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as a Defendant in the caption of his Complaint, but does not include any allegations against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. When individuals, such as members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, are sued in an official capacity, the real party in interest is the entity of which the members are agents. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 n. 55). In this case, that entity is Maricopa County. The actions of individuals only support municipal liability if a claimed injury resulted pursuant to an official policy, practice, or custom of the municipality. Botello v. Gammick, 413 F.3d 971, 978-79 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted); Cortez v. County of Los Angeles, 294 F.3d 1186, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). For that reason, a municipality may not be sued solely because an injury was inflicted by one of its employees or agents. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). Rather, the municipality is liable only when the execution of its policy or custom inflicts the constitutional injury. Id. (citation omitted); Miranda v. City of Cornelius, 429 F.3d 858, 868 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted).

Plaintiff has not alleged any policy, practice, or custom of Maricopa County or the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Moreover, all of Plaintiff's allegations concern the Maricopa County Durango Jail. Official county policy may only be set by an official with "final policymaking authority." Id. (citing Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 481-83 (1986) (plurality opinion)). To identify those officials with "final policymaking authority, " the Court looks to state law. Pembaur, 475 U.S. at 483.

In Arizona, the responsibility of operating jails is placed by law on the Sheriff, not on the county's board of supervisors. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 11-441(A)(5); Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 31-101. Therefore, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is not liable to Plaintiff under § 1983 because it lacks authority to establish an official policy with respect to the operation of the jail. Further, the Board cannot be held liable for the actions of the Sheriff or his deputies on a theory of respondeat superior liability. See Los Angeles Police Prot. League v. Gates, 907 F.2d 879, 889 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). Accordingly, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will be dismissed.

C. Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio

Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendant Arpaio in his Complaint. "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, 294 F.3d at 1188 (citation omitted). 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, 436 U.S. at 691; Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). 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 regarding Defendant Arpaio in his Complaint. Aside from naming Arpaio as a Defendant, Plaintiff does not mention Arpaio in his Complaint. Plaintiff does not allege that Arpaio directly violated his constitutional rights. Moreover, Plaintiff does not allege facts to support that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated as a result of a policy or custom promulgated or endorsed by Arpaio. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Arpaio and he will be dismissed.

V. Leave to Amend

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a first amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a first 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.

Plaintiff must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the "First Amended Complaint." The first 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 by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

Further, 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.

Moreover, in amending his Complaint, Plaintiff should be aware that a pretrial detainee's claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement arises from the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause rather than from the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 n.16 (1979). Nevertheless, the same standards are applied, requiring proof that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference. See Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted).

Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence or lack of ordinary due care for the prisoner's safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). To state a claim of deliberate indifference, plaintiffs must meet a two-part test. First, the alleged constitutional deprivation must be, objectively, "sufficiently serious"; the official's act or omission must result in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. at 834 (citations omitted). Second, the prison official must have a "sufficiently culpable state of mind, " i.e., he must act with deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety. Id. (citations omitted). In defining "deliberate indifference" in this context, the Supreme Court has imposed a subjective test: "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." Id. at 837 (emphasis added).

To state a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant's acts or omissions have deprived the inmate of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" and that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)); see Estate of Ford v. Ramirez-Palmer, 301 F.3d 1043, 1049-50 (9th Cir. 2002). Whether conditions of confinement rise to the level of a constitutional violation may depend, in part, on the duration of an inmate's exposure to those conditions. Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1089, 1091 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686-87 (1978)). "The circumstances, nature, and duration of a deprivation of [ ] necessities must be considered in determining whether a constitutional violation has occurred." Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2000)).

To adequately allege deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must allege facts to support that a defendant knew of, but disregarded, an excessive risk to inmate safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-33. That is, "the official must both [have been] aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exist[ed], and he must also [have] draw[n] the inference." Id.

With respect to meals, "[t]he Eighth [and Fourteenth] Amendment[s] require[] only that prisoners receive food that is adequate to maintain health; it need not be tasty or aesthetically pleasing." LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1456 (9th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted); see Frost, 152 F.3d at 1128 (applying Eighth Amendment standard to a pretrial detainee's Fourteenth Amendment claims regarding his conditions of confinement). "The fact that the food occasionally contains foreign objects or sometimes is served cold, while unpleasant, does not amount to a constitutional deprivation." LeMaire, 12 F.3d at 1456 (citations omitted). An inmate may, however, state a claim where he alleges that he is served meals with insufficient calories for long periods of time. Id.

A first amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. 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 complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original complaint and that was voluntarily dismissed or was dismissed without prejudice is waived if it is not alleged in a first amended complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc).

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 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 $32.40.

(3) The Complaint (Doc. 1) is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has 30 days from the date this Order is filed to file a first amended complaint in compliance with this Order.

(4) 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. &sec

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


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