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Harris v. Arpaio

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 23, 2015

Matthew Linden Harris, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On September 29, 2014, Plaintiff Matthew Linden Harris, who is confined in the Maricopa County Towers Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. On October 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. On October 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint.[1] In a December 29, 2014 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Second Amended Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to comply with Rule 3.4 of the Local Rules and Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file a third amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 13). The Court will order Defendants Jackson, Henry, Sergeant A8992, and Arpaio to answer Count Four; will order Defendants Garcia, Padilla, B2534, VanDerAhe, Wise, Gonzalez, B1636, Irby, and Hafez to answer Count Six; and will dismiss the remaining claims and Defendants without prejudice.

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 )).

II. Third Amended Complaint

In his seven-count Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims for a denial of basic necessities, medical care, mail, due process, access to the courts, retaliation, and religion. Plaintiff names 42 Defendants.

In Count One, Plaintiff asserts a claim for the denial of basic necessities and alleges the following facts: Plaintiff was detained on July 25, 2014. Plaintiff requested socks from Defendant Unknown Detention Officer at the Fourth Avenue Jail, and Plaintiff was not provided any socks for four days. Plaintiff was then transferred to the Lower Buckeye Jail where he still did not receive socks. Defendants Unknown Detention Officers #4 and #5 at the Lower Buckeye Jail "regularly" denied Plaintiff's requests for toilet paper and soap. Between September 10 and October 9, 2014, and again between October 14 and December 3, 2014, Defendants Unknown Detention Officers #2 and #3 at Towers Jail confiscated Plaintiff's towels and underwear. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio and Towers Jail Captain Leslie have a policy of "denying basic necessities and removing them from [inmates'] possession." Plaintiff claims he was "unable to perform basic hygiene, cleanliness tasks."

In Count Two, Plaintiff asserts a claim for the denial of constitutionally adequate medical care and alleges the following facts: Between November 7, 2014, and January 5, 2015, Plaintiff submitted several requests to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of these requests were not responded to and the others provided a response indicating that Plaintiff had been scheduled to see someone "soon." As of the time of the filing of his Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff still had not been seen for his PTSD. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Tom Tegler, Director of Medical at Towers Jail, is "responsible for this failure."

In Count Three, Plaintiff asserts a claim regarding the mail. He claims that he subscribes to the Arizona Republic newspaper. Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive the newspaper on November 13, November 16, November 23, and December 23, 2014. "Detention staff" told Plaintiff that his newspaper had arrived on November 13, 2014. Plaintiff claims that his newspaper was mutilated in retaliation for a grievance he filed on November 12, 2014. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Unknown Mailroom Supervisor at Lower Buckeye Jail is responsible for ensuring that Plaintiff's newspaper arrives to him.

In Count Four, Plaintiff asserts a due process claim and alleges the following facts: On September 29, 2014, Plaintiff saw Defendant Jackson, a sergeant at Towers Jail, begin writing him up for "allegedly graffiting [sic] the American flag in [his] cell." Plaintiff told Jackson that his cellmate was responsible to the marking on the American flag. Jackson "refused to review video evidence" and did not allow Plaintiff the opportunity to call witnesses. Plaintiff further claims that he was not able to appeal the decision because "detention staff" refused to provide him the necessary form until the 24-hour window had already passed. On October 17, 2014, Plaintiff was written up for another incident, and Defendant Henry, another sergeant at Towers Jail, did not allow Plaintiff to call witnesses. On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff saw Defendant Sergeant A8992 regarding three separate write-ups, and Plaintiff was not allowed to call witnesses or appeal the decision. Defendant Sergeant A8992 told Plaintiff that Defendant Arpaio was his boss and "responsible for the policy behind these actions." Plaintiff further claims that he was not able to confront the witnesses against him, Defendants Unknown Sergeant and Unknown Lieutenant at Towers Jail, on January 14, 2015, because the report did not provide their names. Plaintiff claims that he lost his freedom and privileges and was placed on 23-hour lockdown.

In Count Five, Plaintiff asserts a claim for a denial of access to the court and alleges the following facts: Between August 8 and September 2, 2014, Plaintiff attempted to file a "notice of change of plea" to the Phoenix Municipal Court through Inmate Legal Services. Defendant "B0846, Inmate Legal Services" told Plaintiff the paperwork was "miscellaneous paperwork" and refused to process the documents. In August 2014, [2] Inmate Legal Services staff refused to process Plaintiff's Rule 32 paperwork. On October 15, 2014, Inmate Legal Services staff refused to process Plaintiff's sentence modification paperwork. Between September 15 and December 3, 2014, Defendants Sergeant Pistor, Officer VanDerAhe, and Lieutenant Engleking would not allow Plaintiff to call his attorney. Plaintiff contends that "this is a routine policy/procedure created by both [Defendants] Captain Leslie of Towers Jail and Sheriff Arpaio." Plaintiff alleges that due to these incidents, he lost his "plea" and his incarceration will be "extended."

In Count Six, Plaintiff asserts a claim for retaliation and alleges the following facts: In September 2014, Defendant Lewis, an officer at Towers Jail, "sexually harassed [Plaintiff] by telling [him] to perform acts of oral sex on him." After Plaintiff filed a complaint against Lewis, Defendant Garcia, a lieutenant at Towers Jail, instructed Defendant Padilla, a sergeant at Towers Jail, to write Plaintiff up. On January 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint against an unknown officer and was "immediately retaliated against by receiving write ups by" Defendants B2534; Officers VanDerAhe, Wise, Gonzalez, and B1636; and Sergeants Irby and Hafez. Plaintiff also alleges "the use of excessive force" by Defendants VanDerAhe, Wise, and Gonzalez during the alleged write-ups.

In Count Seven, Plaintiff asserts a claim regarding the free exercise of religion and alleges the following facts: On September 10, 2014, Defendant B2666 confiscated Plaintiff's bible. Defendants Chaplains Iesha and Mallard refused to provide Plaintiff with a replacement bible. Defendants Chaplains Iesha and Bristow "refused to provide baptismal services, marriage, and weekly religious services." Defendant Officer B2687 told that he was not able to "grieve these matters." In a separate incident in August 2012, Defendant "FTO Sawyer" placed Plaintiff in handcuffs because Plaintiff filed a grievance asking for a replacement bible.

III. 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. Defendants

1. Unknown Sergeant #2 at Towers Jail; B0846, Inmate Legal Services; Sergeant A3763 at Towers Jail; FTO Williams at Towers Jail; Unknown Sergeants #3 and #4 at Estrella Jail; Unknown Sergeant, Laundry; Unknown Captain, Laundry; Officer Reed at Towers Jail; B2482 at Towers Jail; and Unknown Mailroom Supervisor at Lower Buckeye Jail.

Plaintiff does not allege any facts against Defendants Unknown Sergeant #2 at Towers Jail; B0846, Inmate Legal Services; Sergeant A3763 at Towers Jail; FTO Williams at Towers Jail; Unknown Sergeants #3 and #4 at Estrella Jail; Unknown Sergeant, Laundry; Unknown Captain, Laundry; Officer Reed at Towers Jail; B2482 at Towers Jail; and Unknown Mailroom Supervisor at Lower Buckeye Jail. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the above-named Defendants.

2. Leslie

To state a valid claim under § 1983, plaintiffs must allege that they suffered a specific injury as a result of specific conduct of a defendant and show an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. See Rizzo, 423 U.S. at 371-72, 377. There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, and therefore, a defendant's position as the supervisor of persons who allegedly violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights does not impose liability. Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978); Hamilton v. Endell, 981 F.2d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 1992); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). "Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676.

Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant Leslie personally participated in a deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights or was aware of a deprivation and failed to act. Plaintiff's claims that Leslie has a policy of denying inmates basic necessities and refusing to process inmate legal mail are too vague and conclusory to state a claim. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim ...


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