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Hoops v. Arpaio

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 2, 2014

Tracy Douglas Hoops, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

STEPHEN M. McNAMEE, Senior District Judge.

On January 9, 2014, Plaintiff Tracy Douglas Hoops, who is confined in the Maricopa County Lower Buckeye Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a March 7, 2014 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to state a claim. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7). The Court will dismiss Defendant Arpaio and grant Plaintiff 60 days in which to file a notice of substitution substituting the actual names of John Doe and the Jail Commander.

I. 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)).

II. First Amended Complaint

In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges two counts against Joseph M. Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County; John Doe, second shift floor officer at the Lower Buckeye Jail; and the "Jail Commander" at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated as follows: On June 7, 2013 and August 6, 2013, John Doe delivered Plaintiff's mail to another inmate. The letters were privileged letters sent through Inmate Legal Services ("ILS") to Plaintiff's attorney, which ILS photocopied and returned to Plaintiff through the inmate jail system. John Doe had been briefed in the past about checking identification when handing out mail to avoid "this situation." The contents of the letters contained information about Plaintiff's interviews with law enforcement, details of cases in which Plaintiff is testifying, and information about inmates that were attempting to hinder prosecution. John Doe was briefed by Sergeant Berntson about the risks to inmate safety from delivering legal mail to the wrong inmate, but was deliberately indifferent to that risk by failing to ensure the mail was delivered to the correct inmate. Plaintiff's mail was sent to the "Westside City Crip members" and "Hindu Mafia Family members" and, as a result, Plaintiff was threatened on two occasions in the jail and Plaintiff has people who want to kill him upon his release.

In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated as follows: On March 5, 2014, the Jail Commander issued an order allowing maximum security inmates to shave during their hour out, which allows six inmates with razors that could be used as weapons into the population twelve times per day in a maximum security setting. The past policy was to lock all maximum security inmates in their cells and give razors to each inmate to protect staff and inmates from violent assaults. The new policy creates a substantial risk of violence and an immediate threat to the safety of inmates and detention staff. Detention staff have voiced concerns about this policy. Defendant Arpaio is the Sheriff and chief policymaker within all MCSO Jails and publicly boasts when inmates are killed. Recent inmate and staff assaults, including a recent murder in the pod next to Plaintiff, show there is a dangerous environment.

Plaintiff solely seeks ...


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