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Tobin v. King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 18, 2014



JAMES P. DONOHUE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Carl Tobin is a state prisoner who is currently incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, Washington. On October 3, 2013, plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the King County Superior Court. (Dkt. 1 at 1.) He alleged therein that he had been unlawfully deprived of his legal property when he was transferred from the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention ("KCDAJD") to the Washington Department of Corrections ("DOC") in September 2012. ( See id., Ex. A.) Plaintiff identified the following defendants in his complaint: the KCDAJD; Kent Division - Regional Justice Center ("RJC"); Seattle Division - King County Correctional Facility ("KCCF"); John Does 1 and 2, the directors of the RJC and KCCF respectively; and, Dean Owens a Sergeant/Investigator at RJC and KCCF. ( See Dkt. 1, Ex. A.)

Plaintiff thereafter filed a series of amendments to his complaint in which he (1) added more defendants to the action including the DOC, DOC Secretary Bernard Warner, DOC employee John Sanchez, and a number of individuals identified only as John Doe; (2) added new requests for relief; and (3) provided numerous citations to federal and state constitutional provisions and to federal and state statutory law. ( See id. )

On January 8, 2014, defendants removed the action to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) on the grounds that plaintiff's claims arise under federal law. ( See Dkt. 1.) Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, the DOC and DOC Secretary Warner filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims under Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. 6.) The motion to dismiss was originally noted for consideration on February 14, 2014, and was then re-noted for consideration on April 4, 2014 after plaintiff requested, and was granted, an extension of time to file a response to the motion. (Dkts. 13 and 15.) On April 14, 2014, plaintiff filed a second motion for extension of time to file a response to the pending motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 16.)

After reviewing plaintiff's second request for extension of time, defendants' motion to dismiss, and the balance of the record, the undersigned concluded that rather than grant plaintiff another extension of time, and delay again a ruling on defendants' motion to dismiss, it would be more efficient for the Court to undertake the screening required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, apprise plaintiff of the deficiencies in his pleadings, and then give him an opportunity to file an amended pleading curing the identified deficiencies.

The Court will begin with a discussion of the basic principles applicable to its review of plaintiff's pleadings. Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that in order for a pleading to state a claim for relief it must contain a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and a demand for the relief sought. The statement of the claim must be sufficient to "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). The factual allegations of a complaint must be "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In addition, a complaint must allege facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

In order to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show (1) that he suffered a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) that the violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state or federal law. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To satisfy the second prong, a plaintiff must allege facts showing how individually named defendants caused, or personally participated in causing, the harm alleged in the complaint. See Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981). A defendant cannot be held liable solely on the basis of supervisory responsibility or position. Monell v. Department of Social Servs., of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691-694 (1978). Rather, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant's own conduct violated the plaintiff's civil rights. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385-90 (1989).

Plaintiff's pleadings do not comply with the standards set forth above. Accordingly, the Court hereby finds and ORDERS as follows:

(1) Plaintiff's pleadings are generally deficient because they do not comply with the requirements of Rule 8(a). Plaintiff's pleadings are lengthy, confusing, and insufficient to put any of the purported defendants on notice of plaintiff's claims or the grounds upon which they rest. Particularly problematic at this point is the sheer number of pleadings currently before the Court. The state court record contains an original complaint and a series of what plaintiff identifies as amendments, but which appear to this Court to be supplements to plaintiff's original pleading. Plaintiff may not proceed on multiple pleadings. The operative pleading must be a single document which sets forth the specific basis of this Court's jurisdiction and which clearly identifies each defendant, the claims he intends to assert against each defendant, the specific facts which he believes support his claims again each defendant, and the relief to which he believes he is entitled.

(2) As to the specific defendants identified by plaintiff in his pleadings, the pleadings are deficient in the following respects:

(a) Plaintiff identifies the KCDAJD, the RJC, and the KCCF as defendants in his various pleadings. However, "in a legal action involving a county, the county itself is the only legal entity capable of suing and being sued." See Nolan v. Snohomish County, 59 Wn.App. 876, 883 (1990). The KCDAJD, the RJC, and the KCCF are all entities of King County and, as such, are not proper defendants in this action. If plaintiff elects to pursue a claim against King County, he must specifically identify the County as a defendant in this action and he must identify a municipal "policy" or "custom" that he believes caused his injury.

(b) Plaintiff identifies the Washington DOC as a defendant in his pleadings. However, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that neither a state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are "persons" within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). States and state agencies are immune from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment unless a state expressly waives its constitutional immunity. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999). The State of Washington has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Whiteside v. State of Washington, 534 F.Supp. 774 (D.C. Wash. 1982). Thus, the Washington Department of Corrections is not a proper defendant in this action.

(c) Plaintiff identifies DOC Secretary Warner as a defendant in this action. However, plaintiff has not clearly alleged any facts demonstrating that Secretary Warner personally participated in any violation of plaintiff's federal constitutional rights. Plaintiff is reminded that Secretary Warner may not be held liable based merely on his supervisory responsibility of position. Plaintiff is also reminded, for the reasons stated in the preceding paragraph, that he may not pursue any claims against Secretary Warner for actions undertaken in his official capacity.

(d) Plaintiff identifies Dean Owens and John Sanchez as defendants in his various pleadings. Plaintiff's primary claim against these individuals appears to be that they are somehow responsible for the loss of plaintiff's personal property. However, where a county or state employee's random, unauthorized act deprives an individual of property, either negligently or intentionally, the individual is relegated to his state post-deprivation process, so long as the state provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. ...

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