United States District Court, D. Idaho
J. Lodge United States District Judge
Kent Williams, a prisoner currently in the custody of the
Idaho Department of Correction (“IDOC”), is
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this consolidated
civil rights action. The events giving rise to
Plaintiff's claims arose while he was incarcerated at the
Ada County Jail.
pending is Plaintiff's motion requesting
“permission to resubmit Plaintiffs' first amended
complaint, ” which the Court construes as a motion for
leave to file a second amended complaint in Case No.
1:16-cv-00143-EJL (the lead case). (Dkt. 42.) He has also
filed a proposed amendment, which the Court will identify as
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (Dkt. 43.) Also
pending are the following: (1) Defendant Fox's Motion to
Stay (Dkt. 33); (2) Plaintiff's Request for Sanctions,
Motion to Strike and Seal Discovery (Dkt. 46); (3)
Plaintiff's Motion for Additional Interrogatories and
Motion to Strike from the Record Discovery Submitted by
Defendant (Dkt. 51); and (4) Plaintiff's objections to
the Order of Reassignment and Consolidation, construed as
motions to sever the lead and consolidated cases (Dkt. 54;
and Dkt. 8 in the consolidated case.)
in Case No. 1:16-cv-00478-EJL, the Court must engage in the
initial screening process as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act. See 28 U.S.C. §§
1915 and 1915A.
Standard of Law for Review of Prisoner Complaints
Court is required to review complaints filed in forma
pauperis, or complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief
against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a
governmental entity, to determine whether summary dismissal
is appropriate. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any
portion thereof, that states a frivolous or malicious claim,
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(d)(2) & 1915A(b).
complaint fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 8 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if the factual
assertions in the complaint, taken as true, are insufficient
for the reviewing court plausibly “to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. In other
words, although Rule 8 “does not require detailed
factual allegations, . . . it demands more than an unadorned,
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts
pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant's
liability, ” the complaint has not stated a claim for
relief that is plausible on its face. Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights
statute. To state a valid claim under § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the
Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused
by the conduct of a person acting under color of state law.
Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir.
1991). Prison officials generally are not liable for monetary
damages in their individual capacities under § 1983
unless they personally participated in the alleged
constitutional violations. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d
1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 677 (“[E]ach Government official, his or her title
notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own
misconduct.”). However, “[a] defendant may be
held liable as a supervisor under § 1983 ‘if there
exists . . . a sufficient causal connection between the
supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional
violation.'” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202,
1207 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hansen v. Black, 885
F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)).
plaintiff can establish this causal connection by alleging
that a defendant (1) “set in motion a series of acts
by others”; (2) “knowingly refus[ed] to terminate
a series of acts by others, which [the supervisor] knew or
reasonably should have known would cause others to inflict a
constitutional injury”; (3) fail[ed] to act or
improperly acting in “the training, supervision, or
control of his subordinates”; (4) “acquiesc[ed]
in the constitutional deprivation”; or (5) engag[ed] in
“conduct that showed a reckless or callous indifference
to the rights of others.” Id. at 1205-09. A
plaintiff cannot simply restate these standards of law in a
complaint; instead, a plaintiff must provide specific facts
supporting the elements of such a claim, and he must allege
facts showing a causal link between each defendant and
Plaintiff's injury or damage. Alleging “the mere
possibility of misconduct” is not enough.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
that leave to amend a complaint should be freely given
“when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). A liberal amendment policy is especially important
with respect to pro se litigants. Courts must liberally
construe civil rights actions filed by pro se litigants so as
not to close the courthouse doors to those truly in need of
relief. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1135, 1137
(9th Cir. 1995).
No. 1:16-cv-00143 (the lead case), United States Magistrate
Judge Candy W. Dale reviewed Plaintiff's initial
Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A,
and allowed Plaintiff to proceed on his First Amendment claim
alleging that Defendant Deputy Fox retaliated against
Plaintiff for filing jail grievances containing disrespectful
language; Fox allegedly threatened to injure Plaintiff if he
continued to file such grievances. The Court did not allow
Plaintiff to proceed on a freestanding free speech claim.
filed a motion to reconsider the Court's analysis of his
free speech claim, as well as a motion for a preliminary
injunction, and the case was reassigned to the undersigned
judge. The Court denied both motions. (Dkt. 23.) Plaintiff
then filed a request for an “Amended Temporary
Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction and Updated
Information” and a “Request to Amend Complaint
and Add an Additional Defendant” (Dkt. 24, 31), both of
which the Court construed as seeking leave to amend the
initial Complaint. Because it was evident from
Plaintiff's filings that he did not intend for his
proposed first amended complaint to supersede the initial
Complaint-the amendment contained only new allegations and
omitted any claims against Defendant Fox-the Court denied the
motions to amend without prejudice. (Dkt. 37.) The Court gave
Plaintiff 30 days to submit a new motion to amend and a
proposed second amended complaint.
October 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a new civil rights action,
asserting similar claims against Defendant Deputies Brooks,
Nettleton, Hansen, Culbertson, and Jensen. See Case
No. 1:16-cv-00478. That case was recently reassigned to the
undersigned judge and consolidated with Case No.
1:16-cv-00143, as the cases appear related and would benefit
from coordinated processing. (Dkt. 53.)
the expiration of the 30-day amendment period in Case No.
1:16-cv-00143, Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of
time “to submit any matter with the Court which is
currently under a time line or which may in the near future
arrise [sic].” However, Plaintiff did not attach a
certificate of service, nor did he specifically request an
extension of time to file a second amended complaint. (Dkt.
38.) Plaintiff filed his latest motion to amend and a
proposed second amended complaint on December 20, 2016. (Dkt.
42, 43.) Though the motion and amendment appear to be
untimely, the Court will exercise its discretion to accept
the filing of the motion to amend and the proposed second
Court has reviewed the law regarding prisoner grievances and
the First Amendment and will proceed to screen the pleadings
in both the lead and consolidated cases. See 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.
proposed second amended complaint in the lead case, No.
1:16-cv-00143-EJL, Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendant
Fox refused to process Plaintiff's grievances regarding
(1) Fox's action in throwing away Plaintiff's
outgoing mail, and (2) Plaintiff's classification in
administrative segregation. (Dkt. 43-1 at 3-4.) Plaintiff
also claims that Defendant Fox threatened Plaintiff with
disciplinary action in retaliation for Plaintiff's use of
disrespectful language in grievances. (Dkt. 43 at 2, 5-6.)
Although Plaintiff previously asserted, in his initial
Complaint, that Fox threatened to injure Plaintiff by
stating, “[F]irst chance I get at your neck”
(Dkt. 3 at 4), he has withdrawn that allegations, as it is
not contained in the proposed second amended complaint. (Dkt.
43; see also Dkt. 37 at 3 (informing Plaintiff that
an amended pleading supersedes the original pleading and that
any claims contained in an initial complaint, but not in an
amended complaint, are deemed waived).)
Complaint in the consolidated case, No. 1:16-cv-00478-EJL,
Plaintiff asserts that he was accused of and punished for
using disrespectful language in two other grievances, again
while he was housed at the Ada County Jail:
● “The decision I am grieving is: not to allow me
to review my medical file. Really? You people won't even
let inmates to review their medical files? You guys got some
mental issues. Time for a new sheriff: This one runs a
● “You might want to train that mentally
handicapped Deputy Brooks and the moron who wrote the inmate
handbook. That doesn't trump the constitution.”
(Dkt. 3, in No. 1:16-cv-00478-EJL, at 4-5.) Plaintiffs
grievances were rejected. Plaintiff was also charged with a
disciplinary violation, found guilty of the violation, and
punished with a loss of privileges for five days. Plaintiffs
asserts claims of violations of the rights to free speech, to
file grievances, and to be free from retaliation for
exercising free speech rights.
Discussion of Plaintiffs Claims in Both the Lead and
standards governing First Amendment claims of incarcerated
persons were outlined by the United States Supreme Court in
Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987). The legal
standards applicable to First Amendment claims involving
prison grievances have been further sharpened and refined in
Bradley v. Hall, 64 F.3d 1276 (9th Cir. 1995);
Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U.S. 223 (2001); Hargis v.
Foster, 312 F.3d 404 (9th Cir. 2002); and Brodheim
v. Cry, 584 F.3d 1262 (2009).
upon these cases of precedent, various district courts have
forged new ground in addressing claims based on disrespectful
language in prison grievances. These decisions are not
binding on this Court, but they are cases of interest for the
Court to consider in its survey of the evolving law in this
area. See, e.g., Richey v. Dahne, No. C12-5060, 2016
WL 7325218 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 15, 2016) (“In this case,
[plaintiff] has met his burden to show a violation of his
constitutional right. [Defendant] took the adverse action of
ordering [plaintiff] to rewrite his grievance because of
inappropriate language in the grievance.”), appeal
filed Jan. 13, 2017; Calloway v. California
Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., No. 116-cv-1305, 2017 WL
220310 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 18, 2017) (“Because there is no
right to any particular grievance process, it is impossible
for due process to have been violated by ignoring or failing
to properly process grievances. Prisoners do, ...