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Beamon v. Arizona Department of Corrections

United States District Court, District of Arizona

October 28, 2014

William Beamon, Plaintiff,
Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants

William Beamon, Plaintiff, Pro se, FLORENCE, AZ.


Stephen M. McNamee, Senior United States District Judge.

On December 17, 2013, Plaintiff William Beamon, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence (" ASPC-Florence"), filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis . In an April 22, 2014 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed but dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend. On May 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint, which was also dismissed with leave to amend on July 30, 2014. On August 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 12) and a Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. 11). The Court will order Defendant Matthews to answer Count One of the Second Amended Complaint and will dismiss the remaining claims and Defendants without prejudice. The Motion to Appoint Counsel will be denied.

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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) ( per curiam )).

II. Second Amended Complaint

In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts two causes of action against Charles L. Ryan, Warden Smith-Whitson, " COII Fernandez, " and " Trinity Staff Member Matthews." Both counts arise out of an incident alleged to have occurred in the kitchen at ASPC-Florence. On December 1, 2013, according to Plaintiff, Defendant Matthews directed Plaintiff to take a food tray into the walk in freezer in the prison kitchen. After Plaintiff entered the freezer, Defendant Matthews " intentionally and deliberately" closed and padlocked the door behind Plaintiff, locking him in the freezer. When he discovered what had happened, Plaintiff " frantically depressed the release latch several times and began pounding on the door" to alert Defendant Matthews or Defendant Fernandez, who was on security watch. Plaintiff ultimately was released from the freezer after he pressed a panic button, although it is unclear from the Second Amended Complaint who let him out. Plaintiff alleges that, upon exiting the freezer, he heard Defendant Fernandez tell Defendant Matthews that Matthews had " clearly violated" Arizona Department of Corrections (" ADOC") policy by " holding [Plaintiff] hostage in the padlocked freezer." However, according to Plaintiff, Defendant Fernandez " later change[d] his story to cover up the incident to protect Matthews."

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Matthews's conduct took place " under the direct security watch" of Defendant Fernandez, who was, in turn, being " overseen" by Defendants Smith-Whitson and Ryan. Plaintiff also asserts that he suffered psychological damage as a result of Defendant Matthews's conduct, and that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (" PTSD") several days after the incident. According to the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff is currently being medicated for PTSD, a condition he claims is the direct result of the incident in the freezer.

In Count One of the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment, claiming that Defendants' conduct resulted in a denial of basic necessities. In Count Two, he asserts a claim for threat to safety and cites the Fourteenth Amendment. As relief, Plaintiff seeks $8.5 million in damages and requests that criminal charges be filed against Defendant Matthews.

III. Failure to State a Claim

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under the color of state law; and (2) that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federal constitutional or statutory right. Wood v. Ostrander, 879 F.2d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 1989). In addition, to state a valid constitutional claim, 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 ...

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