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Martin v. Arpaio

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 18, 2014

Lewis A. Martin, Plaintiff,
Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Lewis A. Martin, who is confined in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail, 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). 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 assess an initial partial filing fee of $20.75. 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). Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because it may possibly be amended to state a claim, the Court will dismiss it with leave to amend.

III. Complaint

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on the court-approved form, but he omitted page two, wherein he is required to list the Defendants he is suing. Nevertheless, the Court will screen his Complaint because he has listed the following individuals as Defendants in the caption of his Complaint: Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio; Facility Commander A. Harmon; and Attorney William Peterson.[1] Plaintiff asserts five claims and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs.

Plaintiff designates Count I as a claim of excessive force by an officer. Plaintiff alleges that upon being booked at Maricopa County Jail on August 20, 2013, he was placed in a padded security room without any clothing. According to Plaintiff, inmates are placed in a security room to protect themselves or others from injury. Plaintiff states that he was "in an unstable mental state of mind" and all he can remember is that while lying on his stomach with his hands under his head, he woke up and heard detention officers yelling at him to remove his hands from under his head. Plaintiff was not resisting or exhibiting any type of aggressive behavior when he was shot with a Taser gun, even though he was "unstable physically or mentally" and in a security room "deemed necessary to accommodate physical as well as mental well being." Plaintiff asserts that he was injured physically and emotionally.

Plaintiff designates Count II as a denial of constitutionally adequate medical care. He alleges that he has been incarcerated in the Fourth Avenue Jail for four months and has requested medical and mental health support and assistance. Plaintiff states that he has submitted numerous health needs requests ("HNR"s) to be seen by a health care provider or a mental health advisor or psychiatrist, but his HNRs have "not been adhered to or taken seriously."

Plaintiff designates Count III as a denial of his Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel. After Plaintiff was arrested and charged, he was "given an attorney to represent [him] throughout the criminal proceedings as well as court process." Plaintiff alleges that his attorney, Defendant Peterson, "has continuously shown himself to be incompetent and unprofessional[.]" Plaintiff asserts that he has continuously requested information and evidence relating to his case "as well as other case factors which have not been given to myself or granted."

Plaintiff appears to allege an equal protection claim in Count IV. He states that he has not been found guilty of any crimes, sentenced or convicted "to where my due process and equal protection of all laws should be forfeited or deprived." Plaintiff alleges that every time he goes to court he is strip searched, clothed, shackled and pat-down searched even though he has not yet been found guilty of any crime or wrong doing.

Plaintiff alleges in Count V that he has been illegally strip searched, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He asserts that Defendant Arpaio has instructed Defendant Harmon and facility commanders to have housing officers "force inmates to be completely stripped of all clothing before being issued new clothes, then shackled and pat down' searched again before and upon return from each and every court appearance." Plaintiff alleges that Arpaio has "repeatedly violated [his] 4th Amendment right by illegally strip searching an un-sentenced' inmate without war[a]nt, necessary immediate safety concern or cause of action."

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 ...

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