United States District Court, D. Arizona
DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.
Plaintiff Rodney Cabrera De La Rosa, who is confined in the Maricopa County Durango Jail, has 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). The Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.
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 $4.00. 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.
In his three-count Complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio; Maricopa County Sheriff's Office; Durango Jail Staff; "MCSO Board of Directors"; and "Board of Directors and Detention Officers Durango Jail." In Count One, Plaintiff claims his safety is threatened because there are no labels on packaged food served to inmates. Plaintiff claims this violates the law and his civil rights. In Count Two, Plaintiff claims that after a search, a detention officer found two broken razors, one belonging to Plaintiff and one belonging to another inmate. Plaintiff claims that he was the only one sent to disciplinary segregation and that this was discrimination and a violation of his civil rights. In Count Three, Plaintiff alleges he is exposed to a toilet with no cover, lead paint, rusty tables, inadequate seating for meals, and overcrowded rooms. Plaintiff claims these conditions are a threat to his safety. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.
IV. Failure to State a Claim
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 v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976). 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 Arpaio personally participated in a deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights, was aware of a deprivation and failed to act, or formed policies that resulted in Plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff has therefore failed to state a claim against Defendant Arpaio.
2. MCSO, Durango Jail Staff, and "Board of Directors"
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is not a proper defendant because it is a "non-jural entity under Arizona state law." Melendres v. Arpaio, No. 13-16285, 2015 WL 1654550 (9th Cir. Apr. 15, 2015) (citing to Braillard v. Maricopa Cnty., 232 P.3d 1263, 1269 (Ariz.Ct.App. 2010). In Arizona, the responsibility of operating jails and caring for prisoners is placed by law upon the sheriff. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-441(A)(5); Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 31-101. A sheriff's office is simply an administrative creation of the county sheriff to allow him to carry out his statutory duties and not a "person" amenable to suit pursuant to § 1983. Accordingly, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department will be dismissed from this action.
Further, 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. Accordingly, "Durango Jail Staff" and "Board of Directors" are not proper defendants. Plaintiff must identify individual defendants and describe what each individual did or failed to do that violated his constitutional rights.
B. Conditions of Confinement-Counts One and Three
A pretrial detainee's claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement arises from the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause rather than from the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 and n.16 (1979). Nevertheless, the same standards are applied, requiring proof that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference. See Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998).
Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence or lack of ordinary due care for the prisoner's safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). To state a claim of deliberate indifference, plaintiffs must meet a two-part test. "First, the alleged constitutional deprivation must be, objectively, sufficiently serious"; and the "official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. at 834 (internal quotations omitted). Second, the prison official must have a "sufficiently culpable state of mind, " i.e., he must act with "deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety." Id. (internal quotations omitted). In defining "deliberate indifference" in this context, the Supreme Court has imposed a subjective test: "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." Id. at 837 (emphasis added).
Plaintiff's allegations in Counts One and Three are not sufficient to state a Fourteenth Amendment claim because he has failed to allege facts showing that a specific, individually-named Defendant was aware of a serious risk of harm to Plaintiff and failed to act. ...