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Cochran v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 20, 2019

Howard Cochran, Plaintiff,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.


          Michael T. Liburdi United Stales District Judge

         Plaintiff Howard Cochran, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence, 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. 7). The Court granted the Application to Proceed but dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend because it failed to state a claim (Doc. 9). Plaintiff has filed a First Amended Complaint (Doc. 11). 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 Complaint

         In his one-count Complaint, Plaintiff alleges a claim for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff sues only the former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), Charles L. Ryan.[1] Plaintiff seeks compensatory relief.

         Plaintiff alleges that from October 16, 2018 until May 9, 2019, he was housed in the “M.D.U.”[2] Plaintiff alleges that his cell was infested with roaches, he was housed in a two-person cell with two other prisoners, and he had to sleep on the floor next to the toilet and smell his cellmates as they used the toilet. Plaintiff further alleges that disinfectant or cleaning supplies were not passed around during that period. In addition, he alleges that he was not able to send his clothing out to be washed. Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant was made aware of this but Defendant still acted with deliberate indifference about Plaintiff['s] in human[e] living condition[.]” As his injury, Plaintiff alleges he suffered stress, shame, and degradation.

         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).

         To state a claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement, a plaintiff must allege an objectively “sufficiently serious” deprivation that results in the denial of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 1994); see Estate of Ford v. Ramirez-Palmer, 301 F.3d 1043, 1049-50 (9th Cir. 2002). That is, a plaintiff must allege facts supporting that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of harm. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. “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)). Further, whether a condition of confinement rises to the level of a constitutional violation may depend, in part, on the duration of an inmate's exposure to that condition. Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1089 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686-87 (1978)). Allegations of overcrowding, alone, are insufficient to state a claim. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348 (1981). When, however, overcrowding causes an increase in violence or reduces the provision of other constitutionally required services or reaches a level where the institution is no longer fit for human habitation, the inmate's right against cruel and unusual punishment may be violated. See Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corr., 869 F.2d 461, 471 (9th Cir. 1989); Toussaint v. Yockey, 722 F.2d 1490, 1492 (9th Cir. 1984).

         A plaintiff must also allege facts to support that a defendant acted with deliberate indifference. 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. 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).

         As noted above, overcrowding is not sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim, absent more. Even if Plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to support that he was subject to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, Plaintiff fails to allege facts to support that Ryan, the only named Defendant knew, or should have known, of the conditions, but failed to act despite a substantial risk to Plaintiff. Plaintiff fails to allege when or how Ryan became aware of the conditions or how Ryan responded after he became aware of the conditions. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim in his First Amended Complaint and it will be dismissed.

         IV. Leave to Amend

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a second amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a second amended complaint. If Plaintiff fails to use the court-approved form, the Court may strike the second 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 “Second Amended Complaint.” The second 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 or First Amended Complaint by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

         A second amended complaint supersedes the original Complaint and First Amended 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 the original Complaint and First Amended Complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original Complaint or First Amended Complaint and that was voluntarily dismissed or was dismissed without prejudice is waived if it is not alleged in a second amended complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc).

         V. 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. ...

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