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Davis v. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 8, 2014

Michael Dean Davis, Plaintiff,
v.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Defendant.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Dean Davis, who is confined in the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, filed a pro se Complaint in the Maricopa County Superior Court, matter number CV13-003309. (Doc. 1-1, Ex. 1.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserted violations of the U.S. Constitution and sued the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). MCSO timely removed the case to federal court based on federal question subject matter jurisdiction on September 4, 2013. Plaintiff later filed two requests for entry and application of default, to which MCSO filed a response.[1]

The Complaint facially supports that subject matter jurisdiction is proper in federal court and that the case was timely removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). The Court will dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim with leave to amend.

I. Removal to Federal Court was Proper

A defendant may remove any civil action brought in state court over which the federal court would have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §1441(a). That is, a civil action that could have originally been brought in federal court may be removed from state to federal court. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). A federal court has original jurisdiction "of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

The Complaint in this case facially supports that subject matter jurisdiction exists in federal court because Plaintiff alleges violation of his federal constitutional rights. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441. Further, the case was timely removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). Accordingly, the case was properly removed.

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 alleges one count for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights in connection with disciplinary proceedings at the jail, which resulted in a higher custody level. As noted above, Plaintiff sues only MCSO. Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, compensatory, and punitive relief.

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. MCSO

Plaintiff sues only MCSO. 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 § 1983, 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. St. §§ 11-251(8), 11-291(A), 11-441(A)(5), 31-101. MCSO 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 Tp., 227 F.Supp.2d 361 (E.D. Pa. 2002). Accordingly, MCSO will be dismissed from this action as an improper Defendant.

B. Due Process

Plaintiff asserts a violation of his due process rights in connection with disciplinary proceedings that resulted in a higher classification level at the jail. A pretrial detainee has a substantive due process right against restrictions that amount to punishment for a criminal offense. Valdez v. Rosenbaum, 302 F.3d 1039, 1045 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 746 (1987); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979); Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1440-41 (9th Cir.1991) ( en banc )). This right is violated if restrictions are "imposed for the purpose of punishment."[1] Bell, 441 U.S. at 535. But jail officials are entitled to impose restrictions to effect confinement, and detention will necessarily affect a detainee's ability to live as comfortably as he might like; a de minimis level of imposition is permissible. Id. at 539 n.21. Thus, no unconstitutional punishment occurs when the government imposes restrictions as part of legitimate operational concerns to ensure security and order. Id. at 540. However, imposition of punishment for violation of rules does require the procedural protections described by the Supreme Court in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 565-66 (1974). Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 524 (9th Cir. 1996). These safeguards are: (1) written notice of the charges at least twenty-four hours prior to the hearing; (2) a written statement by the fact-finder as to the evidence relied on and reasons for the disciplinary action; and (3) a limited right to call witnesses and present documentary evidence when it would not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals to allow the inmate to do so. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 565-66.

Plaintiff appears to be a pretrial detainee. In addition to failing to name a proper Defendant, Plaintiff fails to allege when and how he was denied the procedural protections required under Wolff. Accordingly, he fails to state a due process claim in his Complaint.

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.

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 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) 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.

(2) 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).

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

(4) Plaintiff's requests to enter default are denied. (Doc. 3, 6.)


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