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Fletcher v. Idaho Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 6, 2019

WILLIAM S. FLETCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRETIONS, IDAHO COMMISSION OF PARDON & PAROLE, SANDY JONES, KAREN CLIFFORD Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Dkt. 18). Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented and oral argument is unnecessary. See Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

         INTRODUCTION

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff William Fletcher seeks injunctive relief and damages from Defendants the Idaho Department of Correction, the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole, Sandy Jones in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole, and Karen Clifford in her official capacity as District 4 Deputy Manager for the Idaho Department of Correction. Mr. Fletcher appears to base his damages claim and request for injunctive relief on a lack of due process in being “labeled as a sex offender and classifications of sex offender on a non-related sex offense which is injury to a child I.C. § 18-1501(1).” Dkt. 2 at 2. Although not mentioned with specificity in the complaint, the Court assumes Mr. Fletcher seeks relief for alleged constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Mr. Fletcher alleges that Defendants began the course of unconstitutional conduct on February 1, 2018, when they imposed conditions on his parole. Dkt. 2 at 5-6. Mr. Fletcher attaches a copy of the parole conditions to his complaint. Id. He alleges that he has been wrongly “labeled as a sex offender” because his conviction under I.C. § 18-1501(1), (“Injury to a Child”), is “not classified as a sexual base offense.” Id. at 2; see also I.C. § 18-8304(1)(a). The parole conditions indicate that Mr. Fletcher is required to register as a sex offender “if dictated by law.” Id. at 5-6. The parole conditions also require Mr. Fletcher to obtain a sex offender evaluation and comply with related counseling. Id. He is further prohibited from using the internet or having an internet-capable device. Id. The parole conditions also require Mr. Fletcher to undergo penile plethysmograph testing at the request of treatment providers or supervising personnel, to avoid pornography, and to avoid associating with minor children under the age of eighteen. Id.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A claim has facial plausibility 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. at 556. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'” Id. at 557.

         The Supreme Court identified two “working principles” that underlie Twombly in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). First, the court need not accept as true legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Id. Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79. Second, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         A dismissal without leave to amend is improper unless it is beyond doubt that the complaint “could not be saved by any amendment.” Harris v. Amgen, Inc., 573 F.3d 728, 737 (9th Cir. 2009) (issued 2 months after Iqbal). The Ninth Circuit has held that “in dismissals for failure to state a claim, a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. Northern California Collection Service, Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). The issue is not whether plaintiff will prevail but whether he “is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Diaz v. Int'l Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13, 474 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007)(citations omitted).

         Plaintiff presumably brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To state a plausible civil rights claim, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To be liable under § 1983, “the defendant must possess a purposeful, a knowing, or possibly a reckless state of mind.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015). Negligence is not actionable under § 1983, because a negligent act by a public official is not an abuse of governmental power but merely a “failure to measure up to the conduct of a reasonable person.” Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332 (1986).

         Prison officials generally are not liable for 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.”). Section 1983 does not allow for recovery against an employer or principal simply because an employee or agent committed misconduct. Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045. 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)).

         A 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) failed to act or improperly acted 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 each claim, and he must allege facts showing a causal link between each defendant and Plaintiff's injury or damage. Alleging “the ...


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