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Jordan v. Caffey

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 15, 2015

Cedric Ross Jordan, Plaintiff,
v.
J. Caffey, Defendant.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On April 2, 2015, Plaintiff Cedric Ross Jordan, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). On April 22, 2015, he filed a Motion for Appointed Counsel (Doc. 7). The Court will grant the Application to Proceed, dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend, and deny without prejudice the Motion for Appointed Counsel.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.80. The remainder of the fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income credited to Plaintiff's trust account each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. 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 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.

III. Complaint

In his one-count Complaint, Plaintiff sues Defendant Nurse J. Caffey. Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Eighth Amendment regarding his medical care and seeks six million dollars in damages. Plaintiff alleges that since January 2015, Defendant Caffey has been aware of Plaintiff's severe chest and head cold, but has chosen not to provide him with any medication to treat the cold. Plaintiff states that he met with Defendant Caffey on January 28, February 17, and March 9, 2015, regarding his severe chest and head cold, and Defendant Caffey refused to provide Plaintiff with any medication for his cold, despite determining that he was ill. Plaintiff also states that he is African-American, Defendant Caffey is a racist, and Defendant Caffey told him on January 28 that "Black People always want something that they cannot have." In addition, Plaintiff claims Defendant Caffey has denied his request for a blood test and, therefore, he will not be tested for hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS.

IV. Failure to State a Claim

Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), conclusory and vague allegations will not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Further, a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled. Id.

Not every claim by a prisoner relating to inadequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment. To state a § 1983 medical claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). A plaintiff must show (1) a "serious medical need" by demonstrating that failure to treat the condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and (2) the defendant's response was deliberately indifferent. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (quotations omitted).

"Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard." Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004). To act with deliberate indifference, a prison official must both know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health; "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Deliberate indifference in the medical context may be shown by a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and harm caused by the indifference. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096. Deliberate indifference may also be shown when a prison official intentionally denies, delays, or interferes with medical treatment or by the way prison doctors respond to the prisoner's medical needs. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05; Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096.

Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence or lack of ordinary due care for the prisoner's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. "Neither negligence nor gross negligence will constitute deliberate indifference." Clement v. California Dep't of Corr., 220 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1105 (N.D. Cal. 2002); see also Broughton v. Cutter Labs., 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (mere claims of "indifference, " "negligence, " or "medical malpractice" do not support a claim under § 1983). "A difference of opinion does not amount to deliberate indifference to [a plaintiff's] serious medical needs." Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). A mere delay in medical care, without more, is insufficient to state a claim against prison officials for deliberate indifference. See Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985). The indifference must be substantial. The action must rise to a level of "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Caffey failed to give him medication for a cold. In Health Needs Request forms attached to his Complaint, Plaintiff identified his symptoms as "sneezing, watery eyes, itchy throat & runny nose, " a "really [bad] cough, " and pain when he coughs and breathes. Plaintiff's allegations regarding Defendant Caffey's failure to treat his cold do not support a claim that Defendant Caffey was deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need or an excessive risk to inmate health. See Cooper v. Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 916-17 (7th Cir. 1996) ("A prison's medical staff that refuses to dispense bromides for the sniffles or minor aches and pains or a tiny scratch or a mild headache or minor fatigue-the sorts of ailments for which many people who are not in prison do not seek medical attention-does not by its refusal violate the Constitution."); Gibson v. McEvers, 631 F.2d 95, 98 (7th Cir. 1980) ("Plaintiff's allegation that he was refused medical treatment for a cold does not show deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, and therefore there was no violation of his constitutional rights.").

In addition, although Plaintiff alleges that he requested and was denied a blood test for hepatitis or HIV/AIDS, he does not identify why he believes he needs such a test. He does not allege that he was a heightened risk of exposure to either disease, does not identify the basis for such a heightened risk, and does not allege that he communicated this information to Defendant Caffey prior to her rejection of his request. See Doe v. Wigginton, 21 F.3d 733, 738-39 (6th Cir. 1994) (no deliberate indifference when defendants adhered to policy requiring the testing of only inmates who request an HIV test and "provide[] a presumptive history of exposure"). Plaintiff's vague and conclusory allegation that Defendant Caffey denied his request for a blood test is insufficient to state a claim.

Finally, as to Defendant Caffey's racial comment, "[v]erbal harassment or abuse... is not sufficient to state a constitutional deprivation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.'" Oltarzewski v. Ruggiero, 830 F.2d 136, 139 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Collins v. Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir. 1979)); see also Kennan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1092 (9th Cir. 1996); Hopson v. Frederickson, 961 F.2d 1378-79 (9th Cir. 1992) (racial slur and threat did not constitute at § 1983 claim). If true, Defendant Caffey's comment was plainly inappropriate and unprofessional, but does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

Thus, the Court will dismiss without prejudice Count One and Defendant Caffey.

V. Leave to Amend

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a first amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a first amended complaint. If Plaintiff fails to use the court-approved form, the Court may strike the amended complaint and dismiss this action without further notice to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the "First Amended Complaint." The first amended complaint must be retyped or rewritten in its entirety on the court-approved form and may not incorporate any part of the original Complaint by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

A first amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1990). After amendment, the Court will treat an original complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original complaint and that was voluntarily dismissed or was dismissed without prejudice is waived if it is not alleged in a first amended complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc).

VI. Motion for Appointed Counsel

In his Motion for Appointed Counsel, Plaintiff states that he is seriously mentally ill and needs counsel. There is no constitutional right to the appointment of counsel in a civil case. See Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 269 (9th Cir. 1982). In proceedings in forma pauperis, the court may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford one. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Appointment of counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) is required only when "exceptional circumstances" are present. Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991). A determination with respect to exceptional circumstances requires an evaluation of the likelihood of success on the merits as well as the ability of Plaintiff to articulate his claims pro se in light of the complexity of the legal issue involved. Id. "Neither of these factors is dispositive and both must be viewed together before reaching a decision." Id. (quoting Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1986)).

Having considered both elements, it does not appear at this time that exceptional circumstances are present that would require the appointment of counsel in this case. Thus, the Court will deny without prejudice Plaintiff's Motion for Appointed Counsel.

VII. Warnings

A. Release

If Plaintiff is released while this case remains pending, and the filing fee has not been paid in full, Plaintiff must, within 30 days of his release, either (1) notify the Court that he intends to pay the unpaid balance of his filing fee within 120 days of his release or (2) file a non-prisoner application to proceed in forma pauperis. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

B. Address Changes

Plaintiff must file and serve a notice of a change of address in accordance with Rule 83.3(d) of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff must not include a motion for other relief with a notice of change of address. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

C. Copies

Because Plaintiff is currently confined in an Arizona Department of Corrections unit subject to General Order 14-17, Plaintiff is not required to submit an additional copy of every filing for use by the Court, as would ordinarily be required by Local Rule of Civil Procedure 5.4. If Plaintiff is transferred to a unit other than one subject to General Order 14-17, he will be notified of the requirements regarding copies for the Court that are required for inmates whose cases are not subject to General Order 14-17.

D. Possible "Strike"

Because the Complaint has been dismissed for failure to state a claim, if Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint correcting the deficiencies identified in this Order, the dismissal may count as a "strike" under the "3-strikes" provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Under the 3-strikes provision, a prisoner may not bring a civil action or appeal a civil judgment in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 "if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

E. Possible Dismissal

If Plaintiff fails to timely comply with every provision of this Order, including these warnings, the Court may dismiss this action without further notice. See Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61 (a district court may dismiss an action for failure to comply with any order of the Court).

IT IS ORDERED:

(1) Plaintiff's Motion for Appointed Counsel (Doc. 7) is denied without prejudice.

(2) Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2) is granted.

(3) As required by the accompanying Order to the appropriate government agency, Plaintiff must pay the $350.00 filing fee and is assessed an initial partial filing fee of $1.80.

(4) The Complaint (Doc. 1) is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has 30 days from the date this Order is filed to file a first amended complaint in compliance with this Order.

(5) If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint within 30 days, the Clerk of Court must, without further notice, enter a judgment of dismissal of this action with prejudice that states that the dismissal may count as a "strike" under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

(6) The Clerk of Court must mail Plaintiff a court-approved form for filing a civil rights complaint by a prisoner.

Instructions for a Prisoner Filing a Civil Rights Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona

1. Who May Use This Form. The civil rights complaint form is designed to help incarcerated persons prepare a complaint seeking relief for a violation of their federal civil rights. These complaints typically concern, but are not limited to, conditions of confinement. This form should not be used to challenge your conviction or sentence. If you want to challenge a state conviction or sentence, you should file a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in state custody. If you want to challenge a federal conviction or sentence, you should file a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate sentence in the federal court that entered the judgment.

2. The Form. Local Rule of Civil Procedure (LRCiv) 3.4(a) provides that complaints by incarcerated persons must be filed on the court-approved form. The form must be typed or neatly handwritten. The form must be completely filled in to the extent applicable. All questions must be answered clearly and concisely in the appropriate space on the form. If needed, you may attach additional pages, but no more than fifteen additional pages, of standard letter-sized paper. You must identify which part of the complaint is being continued and number all pages. If you do not fill out the form properly, you will be asked to submit additional or corrected information, which may delay the processing of your action. You do not need to cite law.

3. Your Signature. You must tell the truth and sign the form. If you make a false statement of a material fact, you may be prosecuted for perjury.

4. The Filing and Administrative Fees. The total fees for this action are $400.00 ($350.00 filing fee plus $50.00 administrative fee). If you are unable to immediately pay the fees, you may request leave to proceed in forma pauperis . Please review the "Information for Prisoners Seeking Leave to Proceed with a (Non-Habeas) Civil Action in Federal Court In Forma Pauperis Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915" for additional instructions.

5. Original and Judge's Copy. You must send an original plus one copy of your complaint and of any other documents submitted to the Court. You must send one additional copy to the Court if you wish to have a file-stamped copy of the document returned to you. All copies must be identical to the original. Copies may be legibly handwritten.

6. Where to File. You should file your complaint in the division where you were confined when your rights were allegedly violated. See LRCiv 5.1(a) and 77.1(a). If you were confined in Maricopa, Pinal, Yuma, La Paz, or Gila County, file in the Phoenix Division. If you were confined in Apache, Navajo, Coconino, Mohave, or Yavapai County, file in the Prescott Division. If you were confined in Pima, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Graham, or Greenlee County, file in the Tucson Division. Mail the original and one copy of the complaint with the $400 filing and administrative fees or the application to proceed in forma pauperis to:

7. Change of Address. You must immediately notify the Court and the defendants in writing of any change in your mailing address. Failure to notify the Court of any change in your mailing address may result in the dismissal of your case.

8. Certificate of Service. You must furnish the defendants with a copy of any document you submit to the Court (except the initial complaint and application to proceed in forma pauperis ). Each original document (except the initial complaint and application to proceed in forma pauperis ) must include a certificate of service on the last page of the document stating the date a copy of the document was mailed to the defendants and the address to which it was mailed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(a), (d). Any document received by the Court that does not include a certificate of service may be stricken. A certificate of service should be in the following form:

9. Amended Complaint. If you need to change any of the information in the initial complaint, you must file an amended complaint. The amended complaint must be written on the court-approved civil rights complaint form. You may file one amended complaint without leave (permission) of Court before any defendant has answered your original complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). After any defendant has filed an answer, you must file a motion for leave to amend and lodge (submit) a proposed amended complaint. LRCiv 15.1. In addition, an amended complaint may not incorporate by reference any part of your prior complaint. LRCiv 15.1(a)(2). Any allegations or defendants not included in the amended complaint are considered dismissed. All amended complaints are subject to screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act; screening your amendment will take additional processing time.

10. Exhibits. You should not submit exhibits with the complaint or amended complaint. Instead, the relevant information should be paraphrased. You should keep the exhibits to use to support or oppose a motion to dismiss, a motion for summary judgment, or at trial.

11. Letters and Motions. It is generally inappropriate to write a letter to any judge or the staff of any judge. The only appropriate way to communicate with the Court is by filing a written pleading or motion.

12. Completing the Civil Rights Complaint Form.

HEADING:

1. Your Name. Print your name, prison or inmate number, and institutional mailing address on the lines provided.
2. Defendants. If there are four or fewer defendants, print the name of each. If you name more than four defendants, print the name of the first defendant on the first line, write the words "and others" on the second line, and attach an additional page listing the names of all of the defendants. Insert the additional page after page 1 and number it "1-A" at the bottom.
3. Jury Demand. If you want a jury trial, you must write "JURY TRIAL DEMANDED" in the space below "CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT BY A PRISONER." Failure to do so may result in the loss of the right to a jury trial. A jury trial is not available if you are seeking only injunctive relief.

Part A. JURISDICTION:

1. Nature of Suit. Mark whether you are filing the complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for state, county, or city defendants; "Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents" for federal defendants; or "other." If you mark "other, " identify the source of that authority.
2. Location. Identify the institution and city where the alleged violation of your rights occurred.
3. Defendants. Print all of the requested information about each of the defendants in the spaces provided. If you are naming more than four defendants, you must provide the necessary information about each additional defendant on separate pages labeled "2-A, " "2-B, " etc., at the bottom. Insert the additional page(s) immediately behind page 2.

Part B. PREVIOUS LAWSUITS:

You must identify any other lawsuit you have filed in either state or federal court while you were a prisoner. Print all of the requested information about each lawsuit in the spaces provided. If you have filed more than three lawsuits, you must provide the necessary information about each additional lawsuit on a separate page. Label the page(s) as "2-A, " "2-B, " etc., at the bottom of the page and insert the additional page(s) immediately behind page 2.

Part C. CAUSE OF ACTION:

You must identify what rights each defendant violated. The form provides space to allege three separate counts (one violation per count). If you are alleging more than three counts, you must provide the necessary information about each additional count on a separate page. Number the additional pages "5-A, " "5-B, " etc., and insert them immediately behind page 5. Remember that you are limited to a total of fifteen additional pages.

1. Counts. You must identify which civil right was violated. You may allege the violation of only one civil right per count.
2. Issue Involved. Check the box that most closely identifies the issue involved in your claim. You may check only one box per count. If you check the box marked "Other, " you must identify the specific issue involved.
3. Supporting Facts. After you have identified which civil right was violated, you must state the supporting facts. Be as specific as possible. You must state what each individual defendant did to violate your rights. If there is more than one defendant, you must identify which defendant did what act. You also should state the date(s) on which the act(s) occurred, if possible.
4. Injury. State precisely how you were injured by the alleged violation of your rights.
5. Administrative Remedies. You must exhaust any available administrative remedies before you file a civil rights complaint. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Consequently, you should disclose whether you have exhausted the inmate grievance procedures or administrative appeals for each count in your complaint. If the grievance procedures were not available for any of your counts, fully explain why on the lines provided.

Part D. REQUEST FOR RELIEF:

Print the relief you are seeking in the space provided.

SIGNATURE:

You must sign your name and print the date you signed the complaint. Failure to sign the complaint will delay the processing of your action. Unless you are an attorney, you may not bring an action on behalf of anyone but yourself.

FINAL NOTE

You should follow these instructions carefully. Failure to do so may result in your complaint being stricken or dismissed. All questions must be answered concisely in the proper space on the form. If you need more space, you may attach no more than fifteen additional pages. But the form must be completely filled in to the extent applicable. If you attach additional pages, be sure to identify which section of the complaint is being continued and number the pages.


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