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Herbert v. King County

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

October 27, 2017

KING COUNTY, et al., Defendants.




         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Anthony Herbert's complaint against various defendants (Compl. (Dkt. # 1-1)), and Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler's order granting Mr. Herbert in forma pauperis ("IFP") status and recommending that the court review his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (IFP Order (Dkt. # 8) at 1). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), district courts have authority to review IFP complaints and must dismiss them if "at any time" it is determined that a complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on 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); see also Id. § 1915A(b)(1); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (clarifying that § 1915(e) applies to all IFP proceedings, not just those filed by prisoners). As discussed below, Mr. Herbert's complaint falls within the category of pleadings that the court must dismiss.


         Mr. Herbert brings suit against King County, the Honorable Judge Timothy A. Bradshaw, public defender Kristin Shotwell, and prosecutor Rebecca Vasquez.[1](Compl. at 2.) Mr. Herbert's claims arise from his competency hearings before Judge Bradshaw and the subsequent forcible administration of medication. (See Id. at 2-3).

         Mr. Herbert alleges that he was "an inmate at the King County Jail from November 18, 2011 through 2015." (Id. at 2.) While he was a pretrial detainee, he had a series of competency hearings before Judge Bradshaw. (Id.) In May of 2014, Judge Bradshaw found Mr. Herbert incompetent "for the fourth time in over two years." (Id.) At that hearing, Mr. Herbert's public defender, Kristin Shotwell, informed the court that Mr. Herbert requested to be sent to Western State Hospital ("WSH") for 180 days. (Id.) Mr. Herbert claims that Ms. Shotwell's representation was false-he "had not spoken to Ms. Shotwell nor did [he] tell her [he] want[ed] to go to a psych ward for an additional 6 months as opposed to being released pursuant to King County Policy and State law." (Id.) Mr. Herbert claims to have made "ample pleas . . . stating 'I didn't say that, '" but Judge Bradshaw allegedly "ignore[d]" those statements and sent him to WSH. (Id.)

         After being sent to WSH allegedly over his objections, Mr. Herbert claims to have returned to court for a hearing on the administration of medication.[2] (Id.) As a result of this hearing, Mr. Herbert asserts that he was "forced to take antistrophic medications against [his] will." (Id. at 3.) In November 2014, Mr. Herbert complains that he was taken off of the medication "without any medical taper, " causing "severe withdraw[al]s including but not limited to weight loss and insomnia for that period." (Id.)

         Mr. Herbert asserts that Judge Bradshaw, Ms. Shotwell, and Ms. Vasquez violated "the 1st, 5th, [and] 14th U.S. Amendments" and committed "Civil Conspiracy, Corruption and Washington Torts of Outrage, Negligence and Intentional or Reckless conduct and Unlawful Imprisonment." (Id. at 3-4.) Although Mr. Herbert includes King County as a municipal defendant, he does not list any legal claims against the county. (See Id. at 2-4.) He seeks $500, 000.00 in compensatory damages, $500, 000.00 in punitive damages, and $25, 000.00 in nominal damages, as well as the "cost and fees of this suit including but not limited to investigatory cost." (Id. at 4.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Section 1915 Review

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) authorizes a district court to dismiss a claim filed IFP "at any time" if it determines: (1) the action is frivolous or malicious; (2) the action fails to state a claim; or (3) the action seeks relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The court concludes that Mr. Herbert fails to state a claim and additionally seeks relief from defendants who are immune from suit.

         An IFP complaint must contain factual allegations "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The court need not accept as true a legal conclusion presented as a factual allegation. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the pleading standard announced by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require "detailed factual allegations, " it demands more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

         First, it is unclear whether Mr. Herbert brings any claims against King County, as he omits the county when listing legal claims against defendants. (See Compl. at 3-4.) Furthermore, Mr. Herbert pleads no facts applicable to the liability of King County. (See generally Compl.) A local government may not be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 simply because its employees or agents inflicted an injury. Monell v. Dep 't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Instead, a government entity may be liable under § 1983 "when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury." Id. The entity may also be liable if it had "a policy or custom of failing to train its employees and that failure to train caused the constitutional violation." Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 123 (1992). Here, Mr. Herbert does not allege any factual allegations related to King County, let alone any factual allegations regarding King County policies or customs. Thus, Mr. Herbert's claims against King County, if any, must be dismissed under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         Mr. Herbert's claims against Judge Bradshaw must also be dismissed because his claims are precluded by judicial immunity. See Ashelman v. Pope,793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986) (en banc) (holding that judges are absolutely immune from liability for acts performed in their official capacities and are liable only for acts taken in the clear absence of all jurisdiction or that are not judicial in nature). Mr. Herbert complains only of Judge Bradshaw's ruling of incompetency and thus, his claim rests entirely on Judge Bradshaw's exercise of his judicial authority. (See Compl. at 2-3.) Additionally, Mr. Herbert ...

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