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Harris v. Balderama

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

June 15, 2017



          David W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge

         The District Court has referred this action, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to United States Magistrate Judge David W. Christel. Presently pending before the Court are Defendant Balderama's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) and Defendant Rose Rains, LPN's[1]Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6). Dkt. 10, 14.

         The Court finds Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in the Complaint. Therefore, the Court grants the Motions (Dkt. 10, 14), but gives Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff must file an amended complaint on or before July 17, 2017.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Ray Charles Harris, a pre-trial detainee at the Pierce County Jail (“the Jail”) at all relevant times, alleges Defendants Balderama and Rains violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Dkt. 4. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Balderama and Rains denied Plaintiff medical care for his AIDS treatment and Defendant Balderama retaliated against Plaintiff because Plaintiff filed a grievance and lawsuit. Id.

         Defendant Balderama filed his Motion to Dismiss on April 27, 2017. Dkt. 10. Plaintiff filed a Response and Defendant Balderama filed a Reply. Dkt. 17, 19. Defendant Rains filed her Motion to Dismiss on May 1, 2017. Dkt. 14. Plaintiff filed a Response and Defendant Rains filed a Reply. Dkt. 18, 20. Plaintiff filed a second Response to both Motions to Dismiss on May 31, 2017, after both Motions were ready for the Court's consideration. Dkt. 21. As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and Defendants did not object to the second Response, the Court also considered Plaintiff's second Response in ruling on the Motions to Dismiss.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss can be granted only if Plaintiff's Complaint, with all factual allegations accepted as true, fails to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level”. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007).

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.” 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. 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.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 570).

         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). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, et al., 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (internal citations omitted). However, the pleading must be more than an “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         While the Court must accept all the allegations contained in a complaint as true, the Court does not have to accept a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.; Jones v. Community Development Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984) (vague and mere conclusory allegations unsupported by facts are not sufficient to state section 1983 claims); Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992). While the Court is to construe a complaint liberally, such construction “may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Pena, 976 F.2d at 471.

         III. First Amendment Retaliation

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant Balderama retaliated against him because he filed a grievance and a lawsuit. Dkt. 4.[2] To prevail on a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must allege and prove the defendants retaliated against him for exercising a constitutional right and the retaliatory action did not advance legitimate penological goals or was not narrowly tailored to achieve such goals. Hines v. Gomez, 108 F.3d 265, 267 (9th Cir. 1997). A prisoner suing a prison official under § 1983 for retaliation for engaging in protected speech must allege “the type of activity he engaged in was protected under the ...

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