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Williams v. Cisneros

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 24, 2015

Berry Williams, Plaintiff,
Unknown Cisneros, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On October 8, 2014, Plaintiff Berry Williams, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Yuma in San Luis, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a January 14, 2015 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 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 9). 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 single-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections ("ADOC"); Lance Hetmer and Greg Fizer, Wardens at the ADOC; and Unknown Cisneros, Unknown Badsted, and Unknown Reigie, Correctional Officers ("COs") at the ADOC. Plaintiff asserts an Eighth Amendment "cruel and unusual punishment" claim based on the allegations that he was "attacked and beaten" while in ADOC custody.

Plaintiff alleges that on November 22, 2013, Defendant Cisneros was the "floor officer, " supported by Defendant Reigie, who was in the "front key[-]cage, " controlling access to cells 1 through 16, and Defendant Badsted, who was in the "rear key[-] cage, " controlling access to cells 17 through 25. Badsted opened Plaintiff's cell, and Cisneros walked him to the shower but failed to handcuff him "as was usual." Upon return, Plaintiff was left outside his cell while Cisneros escorted another inmate from the shower. Badsted did not make any move to unlock Plaintiff's cell to let him re-enter before any other inmate was let out. Plaintiff was approached by Inmate Nobles from cell 16, with Cisneros following behind. Nobles was also not handcuffed, and he attacked Plaintiff. Plaintiff was "pummeled about the head and face, [and] thrown into the bars and to the floor." He injured his back and twisted his left leg that had previously been injured in a car accident. Plaintiff alleges that, but for Cisneros' failure to place inmates in handcuffs, Badsted's failure to open Plaintiff's cell, and Reigie's "blind eye, " he would not have been attacked.

Plaintiff's remaining allegations pertain to events that took place after he received medical attention for his injuries. Plaintiff alleges that he was approached by Sgt. Stevenson, who offered him a television "with the understanding that [Plaintiff] would pursue no action in the incident." Plaintiff accepted the offer because he is an indigent inmate with a life sentence and no financial means of support. Two months later, however, the television "was taken back" because enough time had then passed to render Plaintiff's complaint moot. Plaintiff appealed to the Deputy Warden Defendant Fizer; then to the Warden Defendant Hetmer; and finally to the ADOC Director Ryan. Each time, his complaint "was treated as trivial and of little consequence."

Plaintiff alleges that he suffered a strain to his lower back and aggravation to his leg injury, but the emotional and mental injuries he suffers are more severe. He alleges that due to the "inconsequential way in which [his] situation was treated, " he suffers constant fear for his safety. He further alleges that the "slight relief" he was given in the form of a television was ...

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