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Whitlow v. Martin

June 15, 2010

STEVEN WHITLOW, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TIMOTHY MARTIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

On April 29, 2010, Plaintiff Amante Evans, who is confined in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a May 11, 2010 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to state a claim. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On June 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. #7). The Court will dismiss the First Amended Complaint with leave to amend.

I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that 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).

A pleading 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) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "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. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 1951.

If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). The Court should not, however, advise the litigant how to cure the defects. This type of advice "would undermine district judges' role as impartial decisionmakers." Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131 n.13 (declining to decide whether the court was required to inform a litigant of deficiencies). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend because the First Amended Complaint may possibly be saved by amendment.

II. First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff sues the following Defendants: State of Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and the Tempe Police Department.

Plaintiff raises three grounds for relief in the Amended Complaint:

(1) Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights are violated by the poor conditions of confinement in the Maricopa County Jail;

(2) Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was subjected to numerous strip searches and had property taken; and

(3) Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the Tempe Police Department used excessive force while arresting him.

Plaintiff seeks money damages.

III. Failure to State a Claim

A. State of Arizona

Under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, a state or state agency may not be sued in federal court without its consent. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, "a state is not a 'person' for purposes of section 1983." Gilbreath v. Cutter Biological, Inc., 931 F.2d 1320, 1327 (9th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). Therefore, the Court will dismiss Defendant State of Arizona.

B. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is not a proper defendant. In Arizona, the responsibility of operating jails and caring for prisoners is placed by law upon the sheriff. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-441(A)(5); Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 31-101. A sheriff's office is simply an administrative creation of the county sheriff to allow him to carry out his statutory duties and not a "person" amenable to suit pursuant to § 1983. Accordingly, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department will be dismissed from this action.

C. Tempe Police Department

A municipality may not be held liable unless its policy or custom caused the constitutional injury. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 166 (1993); Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). There are three ways to meet the policy, practice, or custom requirement for municipal liability under § 1983: (1) the plaintiff may prove that a public entity employee committed the alleged constitutional violation pursuant to a formal policy or a longstanding practice or custom, which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the local government entity; (2) the plaintiff may establish that the individual who committed the constitutional tort was an official with "final policy-making authority" and that the challenged action itself thus constituted an act of official government policy; or (3) the plaintiff may prove that an official with final policy-making authority ratified a subordinate's unconstitutional decision or action . . . . An unconstitutional policy need not be formal or written to create municipal liability under § 1983; however, it must be so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law.

Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-68 (1970). Furthermore, "[p]roof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell, unless proof of the incident includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy, which policy can be attributed to a municipal policy maker." Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823-24 (1985).

Avalos v. Baca, 596 F.3d 583, 587-88 (9th Cir. 2010).

In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that Tempe Police officers used excessive force against him during arrest. Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the officers' action were part of a policy, practice, or custom of the City of Tempe or the City of Tempe Police Department. Plaintiff has therefore failed to state a claim against Defendant Tempe Police Department.

IV. Leave to Amend

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a second amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a second amended complaint. If Plaintiff fails to use the court-approved form, the Court may strike the second amended complaint and dismiss this action without further notice to Plaintiff.

If Plaintiff files a second amended complaint, Plaintiff must write short, plain statements telling the Court: (1) the constitutional right Plaintiff believes was violated; (2) the name of the Defendant who violated the right; (3) exactly what that Defendant did or failed to do; (4) how the action or inaction of that Defendant is connected to the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional right; and (5) what specific injury Plaintiff suffered because of that Defendant's conduct. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

Plaintiff must repeat this process for each person he names as a Defendant. If Plaintiff fails to affirmatively link the conduct of each named Defendant with the specific injury suffered by Plaintiff, the allegations against that Defendant will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Conclusory allegations that a Defendant or group of Defendants have violated a constitutional right are not acceptable and will be dismissed. Plaintiff should note that the use of excessive force by police officers in the course of an arrest can violate the arrestee's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. See White by White v. Pierce County, 797 F.2d 812, 816 (9th Cir. 1986). The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the use of reasonable force. Tatum v. City & County of San Francisco, 441 F.3d 1090, 1095 (9th Cir. 2006). Whether the force was excessive depends on "whether the officers' actions [were] 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989); Tatum, 441 F.3d at 1095; Lolli v. County of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 415 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court must balance the nature and quality of the intrusion against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396; Lolli, 351 F.3d at 415. Moreover, [t]he "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. . . . . "Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers," violates the Fourth Amendment.

Graham, 490 U.S. at 396 (citations omitted). "Whether a particular use of force was 'objectively reasonable' depends on several factors, including the severity of the crime that prompted the use of force, the threat posed by a suspect to the police or to others, and whether the suspect was resisting arrest." Tatum, 441 F.3d at 1095. Accordingly, to state an excessive force claim, Plaintiff must provide details about the nature of his arrest and the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

Plaintiff should also note that a pretrial detainee's claim for unconstitutional conditions of confinement arises from the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause rather than from the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 and n.16 (1979). Nevertheless, the same standards are applied, requiring proof that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference. See Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence or lack of ordinary due care for the prisoner's safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). To state a claim of deliberate indifference, plaintiffs must meet a two-part test. First, the alleged constitutional deprivation must be, objectively, "sufficiently serious"; the official's act or omission must result in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. at 834. Second, the prison official must have a "sufficiently culpable state of mind," i.e., he must act with deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety. Id. In defining "deliberate indifference" in this context, the Supreme Court has imposed a subjective test: "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837 (emphasis added).

Plaintiff must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the "Second Amended Complaint." The second amended complaint must be retyped or rewritten in its entirety on the court-approved form and may not incorporate any part of the original Complaint or First Amended Complaint by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

A second amended complaint supersedes the original Complaint and First Amended Complaint. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1990). After amendment, the Court will treat the original Complaint and First Amended Complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original Complaint or First Amended complaint is waived if it is not raised in a second amended complaint. King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987).

V. Warnings

A. Release

Plaintiff must pay the unpaid balance of the filing fee within 120 days of his release. Also, within 30 days of his release, he must either (1) notify the Court that he intends to pay the balance or (2) show good cause, in writing, why he cannot. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

B. Address Changes

Plaintiff must file and serve a notice of a change of address in accordance with Rule 83.3(d) of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff must not include a motion for other relief with a notice of change of address. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

C. Copies

Plaintiff must submit an additional copy of every filing for use by the Court. See LRCiv 5.4. Failure to comply may result in the filing being stricken without further notice to Plaintiff.

D. Possible "Strike"

Because the First Amended Complaint has been dismissed for failure to state a claim, if Plaintiff fails to file a second amended complaint correcting the deficiencies identified in this Order, the dismissal may count as a "strike" under the "3-strikes" provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Under the 3-strikes provision, a prisoner may not bring a civil action or appeal a civil judgment in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 "if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

E. Possible Dismissal

If Plaintiff fails to timely comply with every provision of this Order, including these warnings, the Court may dismiss this action without further notice. See Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61 (a district court may dismiss an action for failure to comply with any order of the Court).

IT IS ORDERED:

(1) The First Amended Complaint (Doc. #7) is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has 30 days from the date this Order is filed to file a second amended complaint in compliance with this Order.

(2) If Plaintiff fails to file a second amended complaint within 30 days, the Clerk of Court must, without further notice, enter a judgment of dismissal of this action with prejudice that states that the dismissal may count as a "strike" under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

(3) The Clerk of Court must mail Plaintiff a court-approved form for filing a civil rights ...


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