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Byerly v. Governor

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 24, 2019




         The Clerk of Court conditionally filed Plaintiff Nathan Byerly’s Complaint as a result of Plaintiff’s status as an inmate and in forma pauperis request. Plaintiff has since filed an Amended Complaint. The Court now reviews the Amended Complaint to determine whether it should be summarily dismissed in whole or in part under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. Having reviewed the record, and otherwise being fully informed, the Court enters the following Order directing Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint if Plaintiff intends to proceed.

         1. Screening Requirement

         The Court must review complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity, as well as complaints filed in forma pauperis, 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(e)(2)(B) & 1915A(b).

         2. Pleading Standard

         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). A complaint fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 8 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, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant’s liability, ” or if there is an “obvious alternative explanation” that would not result in liability, the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 678, 682 (internal quotation marks omitted). And a court is not required to comb through a plaintiff’s exhibits or other filings to determine if the complaint states a plausible claim.

         3. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (“IDOC”), currently incarcerated at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution (“IMSI”). Plaintiff states that, in January 2018, he was transferred from one Idaho prison to another without his property being delivered in a timely manner. (Am. Compl., Dkt. 5, at 2.) Plaintiff “made verbal and written requests for delivery” of this property before “demanding to speak with the shift commander.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that a “staff force” then entered Plaintiff’s cell and “utilize[d] force and joint manipulation to assault and batter Plaintiff, ” stripped him naked, and placed him in a “hard cell” without clothing or bedding and without access to water or a toilet. (Id.) Plaintiff suffered injuries in this incident, include sprained wrists and a sprained knee that required a one-year medical treatment plan. Plaintiff claims, without any factual support, that the Governor of the State of Idaho “order[ed] and command[ed]” this action by correctional officers.[1] (Id.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that, on November 2, 2018, he was “moved by use of force” to IMSI. Plaintiff states that this transfer “resulted in re-injury from injuries sustained in an unnecessary assault a few months earlier.” (Id. at 3.)

         Later that month, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with Defendants Worthington and Mezo. According to Plaintiff, he approached the property cart to retrieve some of his personal property, when Worthington “responded with menace toward the Plaintiff and attempt toward seizure-arrest-restraint response.” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff struck his head out toward Worthington, allegedly in self-defense, after which Worthington and Mezo used force to subdue Plaintiff. Worthington struck Plaintiff in the head several times, while Mezo approached Plaintiff from behind, called Plaintiff an “SOB, ” and struck Plaintiff “in the face as he turned toward Mezo.” (Id. at 4, 6.) Plaintiff struck Mezo in the eye, and several additional correctional officers then approached and restrained Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff suffered injuries during the November 2018 altercation, including nerve damage, torn or twisted joints, and a concussion. (Id. at 7.) He was also criminally charged for his conduct during that altercation, issued a disciplinary offense report, and placed in segregation-with its attendant property restrictions-for an undisclosed period of time. (Id.)

         4. Discussion

         Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to proceed with the Amended Complaint. The Court will, however, grant Plaintiff 28 days to file a second amended complaint. Any second amended complaint should take into consideration the following.

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         Plaintiff 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 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.

         “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 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.

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff cites various constitutional and statutory provisions with respect to his § 1983 claims. However, his allegations appear to implicate only the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.[2]

         i. Eighth Amendment Claims

         The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment. Although prison conditions may be restrictive- even harsh-without violating the Eighth Amendment, prison officials are required to provide prisoners with adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981); Hoptowit v. ...

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