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Fuller v. Powell

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 13, 2015

Samuel Louis Fuller, Plaintiff,
Ryan Donald Powell, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff Samuel Louis Fuller, who is confined in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona. On February 5, 2014, Defendants Ryan D. Powell, Jordyn Raimondo, and Sergeant Gary Miller filed a Notice of Removal of this case from the Superior Court. By Order dated August 15, 2014, this Court accepted jurisdiction, and dismissed the Complaint because it was not on the Court's approved form and the Court was unable to determine the precise number and nature of Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff was granted 30 days in which to file an Amended Complaint on the court-approved form that cured the deficiencies described in the Order.

On September 17, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 12). The Court 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 ). 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

In his three-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants: Sergeants Alger, Miller, and De La Rosa; and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Plaintiff seeks injunctive, monetary, and declaratory relief.

In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that on August 2, 2012, discovery related to Plaintiff's then-pending criminal case in Maricopa County Superior Court case No. CR2012-006837 was delivered to him at the Lower Buckeye Jail. Plaintiff avers that he signed for receipt of the materials and itemized every item contained therein. Upon further review, Plaintiff alleges that material related to another prior criminal matter, Case No. CR2011-153429, was not included in the materials. Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances and bar complaints regarding the allegedly missing materials, and was told by Alger and Miller that the missing materials had arrived "several months" later and were being kept in Plaintiff's "pro per" file, but did not offer any explanation for the delay. Plaintiff alleges that the delay and lack of explanation has rendered him unable "to knowledgeably consent to the item MCSO Srgts. Alger and Miller advised was available, " in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges that on June 12, 2014, he received a letter from his personal bank, to which he responded. Thereafter, on August 19th and 25th, Plaintiff alleges that his bank attempted to send him additional letters, but that De La Rosa advised Plaintiff that the jail has a "postcard only" policy, and that the letters had been rejected. Plaintiff avers that he filed a grievance, and was told on August 20, 2014, that the original letter had been delivered in error and that future letters would be denied under the "postcard only" policy. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he has been unable to communicate with his bank, which has impacted his ability "to access my finance to present and litigate my civil actions, " in violation of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

In Count Three, Plaintiff alleges that all of the Defendants have "enforced and created undue and unwarranted obstacles" - apparently referring to the claims raised in Counts One and Two - that have caused Plaintiff "unnecessary burden, undue task [ sic ...

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