Holland
v.
Tilton

United States District Court, E.D. CaliforniaDec 4, 2007
No. CIV S-07-0614 RRB KJM P. (E.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2007)

No. CIV S-07-0614 RRB KJM P.

December 4, 2007


ORDER


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On June 6, 2007, the court dismissed plaintiff's complaint; plaintiff has now filed an amended complaint.

As previously noted, the court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner 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 claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless.Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only `a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to `give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). A complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only `"give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 2197 (2007). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint, id., and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a medical condition which often causes involuntary movement and jerking while he sleeps and, as a result, he was given a chrono for a lower bunk. Despite this, several correctional officers at Deuel Vocational Institute, identified only as "John Doe," ignored his chronos and put him on an upper bunk. Within a week of reaching DVI, plaintiff fell from the bunk and injured himself.

The complaint states a claim against the correctional personnel identified by defendants as John Doe I, II and III. However, the use of such fictitiously-named defendants is disfavored in federal court. See Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980); Provience v. Valley Clerks Trust Fund, 509 F.Supp. 388, 392 (E.D. Cal. 1981). The proper procedure is to amend the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 once the identity of defendants is known through discovery or other means. See Swartz v. Gold Dust Casino, Inc., 91 F.R.D. 543, 547 (D. Nev. 1981).

Plaintiff also names James Tilton, the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; C.E. Finn, Warden of DVI; S.R. Moore, Chief Deputy Warden of DVI, R. Lucas, correctional captain, D. Stapp, sergeant. As to the latter group of defendants, plaintiff alleges that they are either responsible for the care and welfare of inmates, failed to oversee plaintiff's safe housing, or failed to train employees on the safe housing of inmates with medical disabilities. A plaintiff must connect the named defendants clearly with the claimed denial of his rights. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837, 843 (1994) (official's liability for deliberate indifference to assault requires that official know of and disregard an "excessive risk"); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) ("liability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant . . . [t]here is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983."); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.3d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978) (discussing "requisite causal connection" in section 1983 cases between named defendant and claimed injury); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194-95 (9th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1154 (1999) ("A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights."). Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Plaintiff's allegations of supervisory liability are insufficient to state a claim.

Moreover, when a plaintiff claims that a defendant is liable for failing to train his subordinates, he must establish that "in light of the duties assigned to specific officers or employees, the need for more or different training is obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in violations of constitutional rights, that the policy-makers . . . can reasonably have been said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need." Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 905 (9th Cir. 2002.) Again, in this light, plaintiff's complaint is insufficient.

Plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint. He is again informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. Local Rule 15-220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in an amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.

In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's amended complaint is dismissed.

2. Plaintiff is granted thirty days from the date of service of this order to file a second amended complaint that complies with the requirements of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Practice; the amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned this case and must be labeled "Amended Complaint"; plaintiff must file an original and two copies of the amended complaint; failure to file second amended complaint in accordance with this order will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed.