Lyons v. California

Decision Date09 August 2013
Docket NumberCase No. CV 13-1881-MWF (DTB)
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California



Gregory A. Lyons, a California state prisoner currently incarcerated at Terminal Annex, in Los Angeles, California, purported to file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody herein on March 15, 2013. However, the petition alleged a "violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Retaliation), [sic] of US Constitution, violation of 28 U.S.C. 1654." In an attachment, Lyons appeared to allege that he has suffered retaliation for reporting that several jail deputies burned copies of the Quran. He also claimed that, because he is being held in maximum security, he is being denied education, a low-sodium diet, "medical and dental," and other benefits, and also alleges that he has "suffered beatings from Deputies." By way of a separate minute order dated April 29, 2013, the Court explained that because the claims challenged the conditions, rather than the duration, of Lyon's confinement, they could not properly be asserted in a habeaspetition. The Court therefore exercised its discretion to construe the petition as a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Complaint").

The Complaint named the People of the State of California as the sole defendant.

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court screened the Complaint prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action was frivolous or malicious; or failed to state a claim on which relief might be granted; or sought monetary relief against a defendant who was immune from such relief. After careful review and consideration of the allegations of the Complaint under the relevant standards, the Court found that its allegations were insufficient to state a claim on which relief might be granted for violation of plaintiff's federal civil rights. Accordingly, on May 1, 2013, the Court issued an Order Dismissing Complaint With Leave to Amend. Plaintiff was advised that if he still desired to pursue this action, he was ordered to file a First Amended Complaint within 30 days remedying the deficiencies discussed in the dismissal order.

On May 31, 2013, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") herein. Named as defendants in the FAC in both their individual and official capacities are: 21 employees of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department ("LASD"), including: Deputy Galvin, Deputy Santana, Sgt. Southerland, Deputy Bleau, Deputy Lopez, Sheriff Leroy Baca, Deputy Hill, Deputy Jones, Deputy Lewis, C/A Hinton, Deputy Goodwin, Deputy Jones, C/A Morias, Sgt. Rojas, Deputy Garcia, Deputy J. Villanueva, Lt. T. Westall, Deputy Herra, Deputy Inguez, Deputy Johnson, Sgt. Lewis. Also named is Los Angeles Police Department Detective Cristina Banks. Named as defendants in the FAC in their individual capacities only are: Michele B. Anderson, who, insofar as the Court can glean, is alleged to be a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney (see, e.g., FAC at 14, 16); Keith A. Fink; Dr. David Glasier; and Olaf Muller.

As best the Court can glean from the allegations of the FAC, plaintiff essentially raises three categories of misconduct against various defendants: First, petitioner alleges that defendants Banks, Anderson, Fink, Mueller and Glasier caused him to be unlawfully incarcerated by participating in a criminal prosecution of plaintiff, which was factually related to his prior action in CV11-4823-MWF (DTB). (FAC 9-18.) As a result of this prosecution, plaintiff was convicted and sentenced to six years in custody. (FAC at 18.) Second, petitioner alleges that, following his conviction, he commenced serving his sentence in the custody of Los Angeles County. (Id.) While in custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff, plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to racial discrimination (FAC at 19), and also observed defendant Galvan make comments which were both racially and religiously discriminatory and vile. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he reported the misconduct to defendant Southerland and was thereafter subjected to retaliation by the LASD defendants (see, e.g., FAC at 20), including waterboarding (FAC at 25). Finally, plaintiff raises various allegations concerning the conditions of his confinement, including lack of sanitation (FAC at 26), denial of medical and dental care, "special diet," and various privileges (FAC at 24), and also contends that he is being denied his constitutional right of court access (FAC at 28).

In accordance with the terms of the "Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995" (the "PLRA"), the Court now has screened the FAC prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).

The Court's screening of the FAC under the foregoing statutes is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) Lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica PoliceDep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Moreover, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the Complaint liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, "the liberal pleading standard ... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9, 109 S. Ct. 1827, 104 L. Ed. 2d 338 (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)).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and complete statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As the Supreme Court has held, Rule 8(a) "requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief," and that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Where the allegations in a complaint "do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not 'show[n]' - 'that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937; 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009), quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Thus, plaintiff must allege a minimum factual and legal basis for each claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff's claims are and the grounds upon which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. United States Dep't of the Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKeever v.Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). Moreover, failure to comply with Rule 8(a) constitutes an independent basis for dismissal of a complaint that applies even if the claims in a complaint are not found to be wholly without merit. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996); Nevijel v. Northcoast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 673 (9th Cir. 1981).

After careful review and consideration of the FAC under the foregoing standards, the Court finds that it suffers from the pleading deficiencies discussed below. Accordingly, the FAC is dismissed with leave to amend. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987) (holding that a pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his complaint unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment). If plaintiff still desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a Second Amended Complaint within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order remedying the deficiencies discussed below.

I. Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to state a § 1983 claim for monetary damages against any of the named defendants in their official capacities.

The Supreme Court has held that an "official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 105 S. Ct. 3099, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114 (1985); see also Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72, 105 S. Ct. 873, 83 L. Ed. 2d 878 (1985); Larez v. City of Los Angeles, 946 F.2d 630, 646 (9th Cir. 1991) (as amended). Such a suit "is not a suit against the official personally, for the real party in interest is the entity." Graham, 473 U.S. at 166 (emphasis in original). For purposes of plaintiff's federal civil rights claims, that entity is the County of Los Angeles ("Los Angeles").

A local government entity such as Los Angeles, including a city department, such as the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, "may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is only when executionof a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government...

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