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Martin v. Arpaio

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 8, 2014

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


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On December 27, 2013, Plaintiff Lewis A. Martin, who is confined in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue 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 February 18, 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 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 7). On March 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Preliminary Injunction Prohibiting Continuance of Acts of Unconstitutional Jail Policy" (Doc. 8). The Court will deny the Motion and will dismiss the First Amended Complaint with leave to amend.

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) (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 First Amended 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.

II. First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff sues the following Defendants in his five-count First Amended Complaint: Maricopa County; "Maricopa County Sheriffs', " employed as the "Maricopa County Sheriff's Department"; and Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio. Plaintiff seeks damages and an injunction requiring the "discontinuation of all unwarranted, unlawful and illegal blanket' strip searching of inmates being held" in Maricopa County jails.

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that his Fourth Amendment rights have been violated by "illegal strip searches" and he alleges the following facts: upon being detained and incarcerated at the Fourth Avenue Jail, Plaintiff and all arrestees are strip searched "regardless of misdemeanor or felony arrest and without any reasonable suspicion that we, as a category of offenders, or individually might possess weapons or contraband." The strip searches continue "throughout the detainment process, specifically and on all court dates (prior as well as after) solely by procedure and rules implemented by Maricopa County's Sheriff's Department under the jurisdiction of Joseph M. Arpaio." The searches subject each detainee "to a complete body and cavity search which consists of facing a wall, lifting each foot in turn, then while facing away from detention officers, bending completely forward at the waist, spreading both butt cheeks for anal cavity search, then having to squat and cough, then facing forward and moving genitalia to allow visual inspection." "Upon housing placement, groups of approx. 10-15 people must be completely naked while placing all street clothes' into a plastic bag and waiting for name to be called in order to trade for facility issued clothing." Similar searches are conducted before and after an inmate's court proceeding "regardless of housing status or bond availability and without any reasonable suspicion of contraband or weapons, but apparently solely on the reasons of being detained and housed in a Maricopa County facility for custodial housing and care, and for transportation of any and all court hearings as required, as well as allowed by the unconstitutional policy of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff's Department." According to Plaintiff, the searches are degrading and humiliating and cause emotional as well as psychological distress.

In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that the searches violate his Eighth Amendment rights and that he "as well as all pre-arraignment/pre-trial detainees are initially strip searched as well as continually strip searched without reasonable individualized suspicions but for the sole reason of being detained and housed in the general jail population."

In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that the searches violate his Fourteenth Amendment rights and that the "blanket' strip searching of all persons, male and female, regardless of any misdemeanor or felony infraction without individual suspicion or indication of possessing weapons or contraband is excessive, harassing and vindictive since it apparently applies to being detained as a possible violator of an alleged crime." Plaintiff asserts that the searches "are unrelated to any legitimate penological interests as they are not done randomly or for specific institutional security concerns' but solely for the reason of being detained and upon being housed custodially at Maricopa County's [4th Avenue] jail and (as required) in order to attend any and all types of court proceedings and appearances."

In Count IV, Plaintiff asserts a claim of excessive force by an officer and alleges the following facts: on August 20, 2013, Plaintiff was detained and booked at the "Maricopa County Jail" and "subsequently placed in a padded security' room without any clothing." Plaintiff was "in an unstable mental state of mind due to psychological issues" and only remembers waking up on the floor with his hands under his head while lying on his stomach. Detention officers were yelling at Plaintiff to remove his hands from under his head. Plaintiff was not aggressive or refusing to obey orders but did not have "any reasonable understanding of situation or cause." As Plaintiff tried to remove his hands, and while still lying on his stomach, he was shot with a Taser by unknown detention officers. According to Plaintiff, "this excessive force was unwarranted as well as unnecessary due to attempting to cooperate with detention officers[] demands." Plaintiff suffered "physical as well as emotional and psychological damage, pains and discomfort from tazers, insecurities to self as well as to mental and physical well being due to post-traumatic stress."

In Count V, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied medical care and alleges the following facts: Plaintiff has been incarcerated at the Fourth Avenue Jail for approximately six months and has requested "medical as well as mental health support and assistance." Plaintiff has on numerous occasions submitted health needs requests ("HNR") forms "to be seen by a healthcare provider and/or by any mental health advisor and/or psychiatrist." To date, these requests have not been "adhered to or taken seriously." Plaintiff has complained of hearing voices and being unable to sleep. He also has extreme and severe nightmares which cause anxiety and fear of his surroundings. Because of "Maricopa County's continued denial of care and negligence, symptoms of mental distress, psychological trauma and mental health continue to worsen."

III. 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 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

Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the county. A municipality, such as a city or county, is a "person" for purposes of § 1983 and may be sued. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 166 (1993); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 686, 694 (1978). To state a claim against a municipality under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts to support that his constitutional rights were violated pursuant to a policy or custom of the municipality. Cortez v. County of Los Angeles, 294 F.3d 1186, 1188 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91); Thompson v. City of Los Angeles, 885 F.2d 1439, 1443 (9th Cir. 1989)). 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). Therefore, a § 1983 claim against a municipal defendant "cannot succeed as a matter of law" unless a plaintiff: (1) contends that the municipal ...

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