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Brown v. Morgan

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

March 28, 2017

RICHARD MORGAN, et al., Defendants.



         On December 13, 2016, the Court declined to serve pro se plaintiff Gregory Tyree Brown's civil rights complaint (Dkt. 4) because of several noted deficiencies. Dkt. 5. However, the Court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, and an extension of time within which to do so, to cure the deficiencies or to show cause why his complaint should not be dismissed. Dkt. 7. Plaintiff's 84 page amended complaint, naming 58 defendants and “John/Jane Does I through CI”, was filed on February 13, 2017. The amended complaint is also deficient and many of the claims asserted appear to be untimely. Plaintiff will be afforded one last opportunity to cure the deficiencies noted herein. He may file a second amended complaint by April 28, 2017.


         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). The fact that a prisoner pays the filing fee is no barrier to a court, when dismissing the case as frivolous, directing that the dismissal count as a strike under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Belanus v. Clark, 796 F.3d 1021, 1028 (9th Cir. 2015).

         In his original complaint, plaintiff named 18 defendants but included no factual allegations against any of them. His complaint contained only vague and conclusory allegations that all of the defendants conspired to institute policies of harassment and retaliation in the handling of inmate funds and legal supplies, disciplinary sanctions and proceedings, legal mail, grievances, and limiting access to photocopying and the law library. Dkt. 4. The Court advised plaintiff that, if he intended to pursue this lawsuit, he must allege facts showing who violated his rights, when they violated his rights, and how this violation caused him harm. Dkt. 5. He was also advised that Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires a complaint to include 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). In addition, to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, plaintiff must include more than “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-557. A claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility; in other words, 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.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

         Plaintiff's amended complaint is not a plain and short statement of his claims. Instead it is 85 pages long and names 58 defendants in addition to “John/Jane Does I thru CI.” Dkt. 8. Generally summarized, plaintiff appears to assert claims relating to, inter alia: (1) improper handling of grievances; (2) lack of due process for infractions and/or disciplinary hearings; (3) conspiracy; (4) retaliation; (5) mishandling of legal mail; (6) violation of religious freedoms; and (7) interference with access to courts.

         In many instances, plaintiff's allegations are confusing and he fails to allege facts from which it may be inferred that any of the named defendants violated his constitutional rights. Instead, he lumps together all “defendants” and claims they have violated his rights. The Court cannot reasonably discharge its screening responsibility under § 1915A until plaintiff complies with the pleading requirements set forth in Rule 8. In this regard, plaintiff should list his factual allegations according to the claims that he is asserting rather than lumping all of his factual allegations together in simple chronological order regardless of their relation to a particular claim.

         Plaintiff is advised that in order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint must establish “the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Section 1983 does not provide a cause of action for violations of state law. See Ove v. Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 824 (9th Cir. 2001). Thus, plaintiff must clarify whether he has any basis for pursuing a claim under § 1983. In the second amended complaint, plaintiff must write out short, plain statements telling the Court: (1) the constitutional right plaintiff believes was violated; (2) the name of the person who violated the right; (3) exactly what that person did or failed to do; (4) how the action or inaction of that person is connected to the violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (5) what specific injury plaintiff suffered because of that person's conduct. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976).

         If the person named as a defendant was a supervisory official, plaintiff must either state that the defendant personally participated in the constitutional deprivation (and tell the Court the five things listed above), or plaintiff must state, if he can do so in good faith, that the defendant was aware of the similar widespread abuses, but with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's constitutional rights, failed to take action to prevent further harm to plaintiff and also state facts to support this claim. See Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978).

         Plaintiff must repeat this process for each person he names as a defendant, including any “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” defendants. If plaintiff fails to affirmatively link the conduct of each named defendant with the specific injury suffered by plaintiff, the claim against that defendant will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Conclusory allegations that a defendant or a group of defendants have violated a constitutional right are not acceptable and will be dismissed.

         The amended complaint should be no longer than 20 pages. Plaintiff should state all of his allegations relating to each claim under separate headings and within those headings should describe exactly what happened, who was involved, and how their involvement caused him harm. If he fails to do so, the Court will recommend dismissal of his complaint.

         In the following paragraphs, some of the legal standards that may apply to plaintiff's numerous claims are set forth. Plaintiff should carefully review the standards and amend only those claims that he believes, in good faith, are cognizable.

         A. Statute of Limitations

         At the outset, the Court notes that many of plaintiff's claims appear to be untimely and barred by the statute of limitations. For example, in paragraph 54, plaintiff refers to over a “thousand” grievances, many of which occurred prior to November 21, 2013, which would not be considered timely filed. In paragraphs 101 through 127, plaintiff complains of conduct at the Washington State Penitentiary that occurred between the years 1983 and 1985. In paragraphs 128 through 161, plaintiff complains of conduct that occurred between the years 1992 and 1998 at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center. In paragraphs 162 through 170, plaintiff complains that between the years 1986 and 2000, “prison and DOC officials have abused his property repeatedly and continuously that the total number of constitutional violations are too numerous to litigate.” In paragraphs 171 through 187, plaintiff complains of conduct that occurred between the years 2000 and 2011 at the Washington State Reformatory. In paragraphs ...

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