Hernandez v. One

Decision Date27 June 2017
Docket NumberCase No. 1:17-cv-00429-JLT (PC)
PartiesRUFUS HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff, v. DOE OFFICER ONE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California



In this action, Plaintiff alleges that he was brutalized by police officers when he was arrested, that he did not receive proper medical treatment for his injuries, and that the brutality he was subjected to during his arrest and various conditions of his confinement were in retaliation for his family wining a prior lawsuit against the Bakersfield Police Department regarding the death of his cousin. Plaintiff has stated one cognizable claim and may be able to correct the deficiencies in his pleading on other claims. Thus, the Court will allow Plaintiff to file a first amended complaint correcting the deficiencies or to advise the Court that he is willing to proceed only on the claims found cognizable herein.

A. Screening Requirement

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, malicious, 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

B. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff sets forth three claims against eight Doe defendants: (1) for excessive force, unlawful detention, and illegal search and seizure (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6): (2) for medical malpractice (id., pp. 7-8); and (3) for cruel and unusual punishment and retaliation (id., pp. 9-10). Though Plaintiff is currently housed at the Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility (CVMCCF) in McFarland, California, the events underlying his claims in this action occurred in Bakersfield, California.

Plaintiff has stated some cognizable claims and may be able to amend to correct the deficiencies in his pleading as to others. Thus, the Court provides the applicable standards related to his purported claims and leave to file a second amended complaint. Alternatively, Plaintiff may notify the Court that he wishes to proceed only on the claims now cognizable.

C. Pleading Requirements
1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512.

Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factualallegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal. at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557.

While "plaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . . ," Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners are still construed liberally and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations," Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), "a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled," Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" is not sufficient, and "facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" fall short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

If he chooses to file a first amended complaint, Plaintiff should make it as concise as possible. He should simply state which of his constitutional rights he feels were violated by each Defendant and factual basis. Where the allegations against two or more Defendants are factually intertwined, Plaintiff need not repeat the factual allegations separately against each Defendant. Rather, Plaintiff should present his factual allegations and identify the Defendants he feels are thereby implicated.

2. Linkage Requirement

The Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983) requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743(9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant he feels is responsible for each violation of his constitutional rights and the factual basis for the claim so that each Defendant is placed on notice of the claims against him or her. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).

D. Plaintiff's Claim
1. Claim I (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6)

Plaintiff alleges that, on July 2, 2016, four Bakersfield police officers entered his house through the front door, with their guns drawn, without a warrant and without knocking. Plaintiff was sitting on the floor by the front door when they came in. Doe Officer #1 (D/O #1) ordered Plaintiff's mother, father, and fiancé (who was holding their 3 year old son) to get out of the house. D/O #1 held his family outside with his gun drawn.

D/Os #2, #3, and #4 held Plaintiff inside, still sitting on the floor. D/O #2 stood directly behind Plaintiff while D/Os #3 and #4 stood in front of Plaintiff to his right and left, respectively. While standing behind Plaintiff, D/O #1 asked Plaintiff's name, which Plaintiff stated. D/O #1 then closed the front door and told Plaintiff to lay face down. As Plaintiff complied, D/O #2 jumped on Plaintiff's back, pulled his head all the way back, and sprayed Plaintiff in the face with O.C. spray. At the same time, D/O #3 pulled out his baton and started to hit Plaintiff's legs numerous times -- ultimately breaking his left leg. While this was going on, D/O #4 started to kick Plaintiff and grabbed Plaintiff's left arm, breaking it with a hard twist. During this, Plaintiff was choking and trying to yell for help. At one point, D/O #2 stopped hitting Plaintiff's legs with his baton and said to D/Os #3 and #4 "let's give him the Lopez treatment." D/O #2, #3, and #4 drew their guns at Plaintiff and D/O #4 yelled "Gun!" At that very moment, Plaintiff's fiancé moved past D/O #1 and came through the front door. D/Os #2, #3, and #4 turned their guns toward her and their son and D/O #4 told her "get the fuck out of here or the same will happen to you." D/O #2 put his gun away, grabbed Plaintiff's arms and put him in handcuffs. D/Os #2 and#4 grabbed Plaintiff's arms and drug him to the squad car because he could not walk. D/O #3 came to the Plaintiff in the care and told Plaintiff to tell him where the DVR to Plaintiff's security camera was. Plaintiff did not tell him. Thereafter, D/O #1 drove Plaintiff to kern Medical Center Hospital to be treated.

a. Excessive Force

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The use of excessive force to effect an arrest is analyzed under the standards of the Fourth Amendment. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) (citing Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7-22 (1985)). "[R]easonableness is always the touchstone of Fourth Amendment analysis," Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ---, ---, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 2186 (2016), and ". . . is generally assessed by carefully weighing the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the importance of the governmental interests alleged to justify the intrusion.'" Cty. of Los Angeles, Calif v. Mendez, --- U.S. ---, 137 S. Ct. 1539, 1546-47 (2017) (quoting Garner, 471 U.S. at 8).

The Supreme Court's rulings have set forth a settled and exclusive framework for analyzing whether the force used in making a seizure complies with the Fourth Amendment. Mendez, 137 S.Ct. at 1546-47 (citing Graham, 490 U.S., at 395). "Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is 'reasonable' " requires balancing of the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the relevant government interests. Graham., at 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865....

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