Brady v. Jones, 2:21-cv-00489 AC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
PartiesPATRICK BRADY, Plaintiff, v. SCOTT JONES, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 2:21-cv-00489 AC,2:21-cv-00489 AC
Decision Date11 May 2021

SCOTT JONES, et al., Defendants.

No. 2:21-cv-00489 AC


May 11, 2021


Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). ECF No. 2. Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time

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the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

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 "frivolous, malicious, or 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).

A claim "is [legally] frivolous where 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). "[A] judge may dismiss . . . claims which are 'based on indisputably meritless legal theories' or whose 'factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227-28 (citations omitted).

"Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Failure to state a claim under § 1915A incorporates the familiar standard applied in the context of failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)." Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). "'[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.'" Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur

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R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004)).

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility 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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of the Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976) (citation omitted), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969) (citations omitted).

III. Complaint

Plaintiff is a federal pretrial detainee being held in the Sacramento County Jail, who challenges the conditions of his confinement at the jail. The undersigned takes judicial notice of the fact that plaintiff is charged in Case No. 2:19-cr-00107 KJM with participation in a racketeering conspiracy that involved murder and drug distribution.1 It is a potentially capital prosecution. The government has alleged that plaintiff is an Aryan Brotherhood member who, while a state prison inmate, murdered another prisoner as part of the conspiracy. Plaintiff was transferred from the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to the custody of the U.S. Marshal for purposes of the present federal prosecution. The USMS contracts with Sacramento County for the housing of federal pretrial detainees at the county jail.

The complaint presents ten claims, which are detailed below. Plaintiff challenges several conditions of his confinement—placement in an "extreme isolation" unit without a hearing, denial of outdoor recreation, frequent cell moves, and unsanitary conditions—and alleges that he has been denied adequate access to his lawyers. Plaintiff names eight defendants: Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones; Undersheriff Erik Maness; Jail Commander Brandon Luke; Intelligence Lt. Shaun Hamptun; Intelligence Sgt. Saika; Intelligence Sgt. Villanueva; Donald

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Washington, Director of the U.S. Marshal Service; and Acting U.S. Marshal Laysha Boyden. The complaint also lists Does 1-15 as defendants, ECF No. 1 at 1, 6, but contains no factual allegations referencing any Does.

IV. Failure to State a Claim

A. Overarching Defects

1. Federal Officers Cannot be Liable Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for constitutional violations committed by persons acting under color of state law; section 1983 claims do not lie against persons who are not acting on behalf of the state. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 58 (1988). For this reason, § 1983 does not provide a cause of action for constitutional violations committed by federal officials. Daly-Murphy v. Winston, 837 F.2d 348, 355 (9th Cir. 1988). Accordingly, all claims fail against defendants Washington and Boyden. Amendment of any § 1983 claim against officials of the USMS would be futile.2

2. Improper Doe Defendants

Inclusion of "Doe" defendants is generally disfavored in the Ninth Circuit. Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). However, where a claim for relief has been adequately pleaded against a Doe defendant, it may proceed subject to future amendment to substitute the true name for a fictitiously named defendant. See Merritt v. County of Los Angeles, 875 F.2d 765 (9th Cir. 1989). Here, the claims against the Doe defendants are inadequate to proceed because the complaint does not identify specific acts by any Doe that allegedly violated the plaintiff's rights. Accordingly, the complaint fails to meet the notice requirements of Rule 8(a), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as to the Doe defendants. See

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Hutchinson v. United States, 677 F.2d 1322, 1328 n.5 (9th Cir.1982).

3. Lack of Factual Allegations as to Individual Defendants

To establish the liability of any defendant, plaintiff must plead facts demonstrating how the specific acts or omissions of that person caused the alleged constitutional violation(s). See Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). None of the claims in the complaint specify who was responsible for the challenged conditions or deprivations of rights. Plaintiff will be given the opportunity to amend the complaint in order to clarify which defendant caused which alleged violation(s), and how.

4. Lack of Factual Allegations as to Unconstitutional Policies

To the extent that plaintiff's theory of liability as to any claim rests on the existence of a county policy or custom, see Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978), he must allege what the policy is and how it caused the violation of his rights. See City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989) (requiring "a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation."). Because plaintiff may be able to specify the policy or policies that allegedly caused the violations of his rights, he will be granted leave to amend.

5. Rights of Pretrial Detainees Generally, and Applicable Pleading Standards

The rights of pretrial detainees are grounded in the Due Process Clause. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979); Pierce v. County of Orange, 526 F.3d 1190, 1205 (9th Cir. 2008). Detainees have a substantive due process right against restrictions that amount to punishment. Valdez v. Rosenbaum, 302 F.3d 1039, 1045 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 746 (1987)). "For a particular governmental action to constitute punishment, (1) that action must cause the detainee to suffer some harm or 'disability,' and (2) the purpose of the governmental action must be to punish the detainee." Demery v. Arpaio, 378 F.3d 1020, 1029 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 538). "Unless there is evidence of intent to punish, then those conditions or restrictions that are...

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