Walker v. Wechsler, Case No. 1:16-cv-01417-JLT (PC)

CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
Writing for the CourtJennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PartiesJEFF WALKER, Plaintiff, v. Dr. WECHSLER, et. al., Defendants.
Decision Date11 October 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 1:16-cv-01417-JLT (PC)

JEFF WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. WECHSLER, et.
al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:16-cv-01417-JLT (PC)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

October 11, 2016


ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

(Doc. 1)

30-DAY DEADLINE

Plaintiff complains of being forced to be dorm-celled and/or subjected to 1:1 supervision by male staff at Coalinga State Hospital. However, as discussed below, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against any of the named Defendants. Thus, the Complaint is dismissed and Plaintiff is granted leave to file a first amended complaint.

I. Screening Requirement and Standard

"Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)

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(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Assn, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981).

II. Pleading Requirements

A. 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.

Violations of Rule 8, at both ends of the spectrum, warrant dismissal. A violation occurs when a pleading says too little -- the baseline threshold of factual and legal allegations required was the central issue in the Iqbal line of cases. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). Rule 8 is also violated, though, when a pleading says too much. Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1058 (9th Cir.2011) ("[W]e have never held and we know of no authority supporting the proposition that a pleading may be of unlimited length and opacity. Our cases instruct otherwise.") (citing cases); see also McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179-80 (9th Cir.1996) (affirming a dismissal under Rule 8, and recognizing that "[p]rolix, confusing complaints such as the ones plaintiffs filed in this case impose unfair burdens on litigants and judges").

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). Factual allegations 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,

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580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se inmates and detainees 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.

Further, "repeated and knowing violations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)'s 'short and plain statement' requirement are strikes as 'fail[ures] to state a claim,' 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), when the opportunity to correct the pleadings has been afforded and there has been no modification within a reasonable time." Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1108-09 (9th Cir. 2013). If he chooses to file a first amended complaint, Plaintiff should endeavor to make it as concise as possible. He should merely state which of his constitutional rights he feels were violated by each named defendant and its factual basis. Plaintiff need not and should not cite legal authority for his claims in a first amended complaint. His factual allegations are accepted as true and need not be bolstered by legal authority at the pleading stage. If Plaintiff files a first amended complaint, his factual allegations will be screened under the legal standards and authorities stated in this order.

B. Linkage and Causation

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). "Section 1983 is not itself a source of

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substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Crowley v. Nevada ex rel. Nevada Sec'y of State, 678 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94, 109 S.Ct. 1865 (1989)) (internal quotation marks omitted). To state a claim, Plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating the existence of a link, or causal connection, between each defendant's actions or omissions and a violation of his federal rights. Lemire v. California Dep't of Corr. and Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2013); Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-08 (9th Cir. 2011).

Plaintiff's allegations must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief and to put each defendant on notice of their allegedly offending acts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

III. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff alleges that he is civilly detained at Coalinga State Hospital ("CSH") pursuant to California's Sexually Violent Predator Act contained within Welfare & Institution Code sections 6600 et seq. ("SVPA"). One so detained is a Sexually Violent Predator ("SVP") which is statutorily defined as an individual with "a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior." Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600(a).1 The SVPA authorizes the involuntary civil commitment of a person who has completed a prison term, but has been given a "full evaluation" and found to be a sexually violent predator. Reilly v. Superior Court, 57 Cal.4th 641, 646 (2013); People v. McKee, 47 Cal.4th 1172, 1185 (2010).

Plaintiff complains that the circumstances under which he is detained at CSH are causing

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him to have anxiety attacks, for which he seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as monetary damages. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that was brought on when he was sexually abused by cellmates in 1993, 1994, and 2010 - before he arrived at CSH in May of 2016. (Doc. 1, p. 7.) As a result of his PTSD, Plaintiff cannot be celled with other males, or supervised while he sleeps by male staff. When he is subjected to these conditions, he experiences anxiety attacks and requires a private room with observation only by female staff. While in a dorm room with three other patients, one of them alleged that he was sexually assaulted and Plaintiff was present during conversations that patient had with staff which triggered him to have emotional stress and flash backs of his own sexual abuse when in double housing. (Id., p. 8.) Plaintiff produced documents to CSH staff under which he received single-cell status before his transfer to CSH but was ridiculed when he requested it and that he not be supervised by male staff. (Id., p. 10.) Despite the fact that he could have been placed in a single room, Plaintiff's treatment team initially "placed 1:1 males on him which triggered his PTSD and causing [sic] chest pain, anxiety attacks and mental and emotional trauma, when plaintiff complained, staff retaliated by falsifying disciplinary reports." (Id.) When he asked not to be supervised by males, he was ridiculed, and when he was supervised by females he was falsely accused of "masturbating under the covers." (Id., pp. 10-11.)

Plaintiff alleges that "nurse John Doe African American," who is openly homosexual, subjected him to excessive force by responding with "So what?" when Plaintiff expressed his...

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