Valenzuela v. Torres, Case No. CV 19-7559-CJC (KK)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
Decision Date18 October 2019
Docket NumberCase No. CV 19-7559-CJC (KK)
PartiesRAUL CERVANTES VALENZUELA, Plaintiff, v. V. TORRES, ET AL., Defendants.

V. TORRES, ET AL., Defendants.

Case No. CV 19-7559-CJC (KK)


October 18, 2019



Plaintiff Raul Cervantes Valenzuela ("Plaintiff" or "Cervantes"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). As discussed below, the Court dismisses the Complaint with leave to amend.


On August 29, 2019, Cervantes, currently an inmate at California State Prison - Los Angeles County in Lancaster, California ("CSP-LAC"), constructively filed1 a

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complaint ("Complaint") pursuant to Section 1983 and the ADA against defendants V. Torres, D. Moisa, and Sgt. Villalobos ("Defendants"). ECF Docket No. ("Dkt.") 1, Compl.2 Cervantes does not state whether he sues Defendants in their individual or official capacity. The Complaint appears to allege "false charges, retaliation, assault and battery, [and] failure to prevent assault and battery (ADA)" claims. Id. at 7.

According to the Complaint, on April 13, 2019, Cervantes asked defendant Torres, a correctional officer at CSP-LAC, to let him out of his cell so he could obtain his seizure medications. Id. at 16. Defendant Torres responded that she was "getting tire[d] of [Cervantes] having seizures everyday," and then falsely accused Cervantes of threating to kill her. Id. Defendant Torres then authored a Rules Violation Report charging Cervantes with threatening to kill a public official alleging Cervantes stated, "Torres you fucking bitch, I'm gonna kill you." Id. at 8-9, 16. Cervantes also alleges defendant Torres "instigated [defendant] Moisa to assault [and] batter" Cervantes. Id. at 5.

On April 15, 2019, while walking to the dining hall, Cervantes alleges he was approached by defendant Moisa, who asked Cervantes "now who is the bitch" and proceeded to twist Cervantes's right hand, handcuff him, and throw Cervantes against the cafeteria wall, "knocking [Cervantes's] seizure helmet off [his] head." Id. at 16. Defendant Moisa then threw Cervantes against a door in the gym and into the back of a holding cage in the gym, causing cuts and bleeding on Cervantes' chin and forehead. Id. Cervantes claims defendant Moisa has been "assaultive" to prisoners with mental and physical disabilities in the past and has been reported to the warden "twice by class action attorneys." Id. at 6, 18. Cervantes further alleges defendant Villalobos

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witnessed the assault but "did nothing at to prevent" it despite knowing "[Cervantes] could have a seizure." Id. at 16. Cervantes claims defendant Villalobos was making "funny comments" during the incident. Id. at 18. Cervantes was taken to a hospital to be treated for cuts and seizures that resulted from being hit in the head. Id. at 17, 19. Cervantes alleges the assault "was committed [in] retaliation for filing a civil case against an officer Burciaga", id. at 19, referring to a prior case Cervantes filed in the Eastern District of California on October 13, 2015. Id. at 15; see Cervantes v. Williamson, et al., Case No. 2:15-cv-02138-KJM-DB, affirmed sub nom. Cervantes v. Burciaga, 773 F. App'x 978, 979 (9th Cir. 2019). On April 16, 2019, Cervantes was placed in administrative segregation ("ad-seg") as a result of the Rules Violation Report issued by defendant Torres and reviewed by defendant Villalobos. Id. at 17.

Cervantes does not state a request for specific relief. See id. at 4.


Where a plaintiff is incarcerated and/or proceeding in forma pauperis, a court must screen the complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A and is required to dismiss the case at any time if it concludes the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A; see Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 ("Rule 8"), a complaint 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). In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim for screening purposes, a court applies the same pleading standard as it would when evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012).

A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim "where there is no cognizable legal theory or an absence of sufficient facts alleged to support a

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cognizable legal theory." Zamani v. Carnes, 491 F.3d 990, 996 (9th Cir. 2007). In considering whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all of the material factual allegations in it. Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 892-93 (9th Cir. 2011). However, the court need not accept as true "allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). Although a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, it "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Cook v. Brewer, 637 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)). A claim is facially plausible when it "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The complaint "must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).

"A document filed pro se is 'to be liberally construed,' and a 'pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Woods v. Carey, 525 F.3d 886, 889-90 (9th Cir. 2008). However, liberal construction should only be afforded to "a plaintiff's factual allegations," Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9, 109 S. Ct. 1827, 104 L. Ed. 2d 339 (1989), and a court need not accept as true "unreasonable inferences or assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations," Ileto v. Glock Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2003).

If a court finds the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, the court has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible the defects in the complaint could be corrected, especially if the plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). However, if, after careful consideration, it is clear a complaint cannot

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be cured by amendment, the court may dismiss without leave to amend. Cato, 70 F.3d at 1107-11; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 972 (9th Cir. 2009).



1. Applicable Law

Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 9(a) a pleading must allege a party's capacity to be sued "when required to show that the court has jurisdiction." Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(a). Additionally, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 ("Rule 8"), a complaint must contain "a demand for relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(3). Accordingly, a court may dismiss the complaint if it violates Rule 8. Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1109 (9th Cir. 2013).

2. Analysis

Here, the Court cannot determine from the Complaint whether Cervantes is attempting to sue defendants Torres, Moisa, and Villalobos in their individual capacity, official capacity, or both. While, the Court has a duty to liberally construe a pro se complaint, Woods, 525 F.3d at 889-90, the Complaint does not specify whether Cervantes seeks injunctive or monetary relief. Thus, the Court cannot, for example, construe a request for monetary damages as an indication Cervantes is suing defendants in their individual capacity. See Cmty. House, Inc. v. City of Boise, Idaho, 623 F.3d 945, 966 (9th Cir. 2010) (monetary damages are not available from individual defendants when they are sued in their official capacity, holding "qualified immunity covers only defendants in their individual capacities").

Moreover, the Complaint does not include "a demand for relief sought" as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(3) as Cervantes does not specify

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whether he seeks monetary, injunctive, or other relief. See Compl. at 4. Accordingly, the Complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to comply with Rule 8. See Knapp, 738 F.3d at 1109.

If Cervantes chooses to file a first amended complaint, he must clarify whether he is suing each defendant in his or her individual capacity, official capacity, or both, and provide a description of the relief he seeks.


1. Applicable Law

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals against deprivations of "life, liberty, or property." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. "A liberty interest...

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