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Bishop v. Reyes

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 19, 2016

Shirley Bishop, Plaintiff,
v.
Frank Reyes, Defendant.

          ORDER

          EILEEN S, WLLLETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff has consented to the exercise of Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 7). Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. 2). For good cause shown, the Application is granted, and Plaintiff is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court, however, must screen the Complaint (Doc. 1) before it is allowed to be served. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained, “section 1915(e) not only permits but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000).

         I. Statutory Screening of In Forma Pauperis Complaint

         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 litigant] ‘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).

         II. Complaint

         A. Conditions of Confinement Claim

         To prevail in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that (1) acts by the defendant (2) under color of state law (3) deprived her of federal rights, privileges or immunities and (4) caused her 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 she suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant, and she 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).

         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.

         Plaintiff appears to be seeking relief for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. A pretrial detainee’s claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement arises from the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause rather than from the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 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 health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). To state a claim of deliberate indifference, plaintiff must meet a two-part test. First, the alleged constitutional deprivation must objectively be “sufficiently serious”; that is, the official’s act or omission must result in the denial of “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Id. at 834 (citations omitted). Second, the prison official must have a “sufficiently culpable state of mind”; that is, “the official must be both aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw that inference.” Id. at 837 (emphasis added). “The circumstances, nature, and duration of a deprivation of [] necessities must be considered in determining whether a constitutional violation has occurred.” Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         Allegations of overcrowding, without more, do not state a claim under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1248-49 (9th Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). A plaintiff may, however, state a cognizable claim where she alleges that overcrowding results in some unconstitutional condition. See, e.g., Akao v. Shimoda, 832 F.2d 119, 120 (9th Cir. 1987) (reversing district court’s dismissal of claim that overcrowding caused increased stress, tension and communicable disease among inmate population); see also Toussaint v. Yockey, 722 F.2d 1490, 1492 (9th ...


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