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Haynesworth v. Pierce County Jail

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

April 9, 2019




         Plaintiff MonJae Nykyle Haynesworth, proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed and screened Plaintiff's Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to state a claim, but provides Plaintiff leave to file an amended pleading by May 9, 2019, to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         I. Background

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Pierce County Jail (“the Jail”) violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by restricting his visitation and telephone access. Dkt. 4.

         II. Discussion

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, the Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must “dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint: (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. at (b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998).

         A. Failure to State a Claim

         In order to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show: (1) he suffered a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) the violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state law. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). The first step in a § 1983 claim is therefore to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         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 Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988); Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981). A person subjects another to a deprivation of a constitutional right when committing an affirmative act, participating in another's affirmative act, or omitting to perform an act which is legally required. Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Sweeping conclusory allegations against an official are insufficient to state a claim for relief. Leer, 844 F.2d at 633. Further, a § 1983 suit cannot be based on vicarious liability alone, but must allege the defendant's own conduct violated the plaintiff's civil rights. City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385-90 (1989).

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff states he has been on phone restrictions since October 3, 2017 and has been unable to contact his family to arrange for visitations. Dkt. 4, p. 3. Plaintiff names the Jail as the sole defendant in this action. See Dkt. 4. Plaintiff does not identify any individuals in the Complaint and fails to allege any wrong-doing by the Jail or allege how, specifically, the Jail's actions violated his constitutional rights. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to adequately explain what actions or inactions by the Jail resulted in an alleged constitutional violation. Plaintiff's vague and conclusory allegations are insufficient to show the Jail violated his constitutional rights. See 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).

         If Plaintiff wishes to pursue this § 1983 action, he must provide a short, plain statement naming individual defendants and explaining exactly what each defendant did or failed to do and how the actions violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights and caused him harm.

         B. Improper Defendant

         Defendant, the Jail, is also not a legal entity capable of being sued under § 1983. Rather, Pierce County, a municipality, would be the proper defendant. See Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978); Wright v. Clark County Sheriff's Office, 2016 WL 1643988, *2 (W.D. Wash. April 26, 2016). To set forth a claim against a municipality, a plaintiff must show the defendant's employees or agents acted through an official custom, pattern, or policy permitting deliberate indifference to, or violating, the plaintiff's civil rights, or that the entity ratified the unlawful conduct. Id. at 690-91. A plaintiff must show (1) deprivation of a constitutional right; (2) the municipality has a policy; (3) the policy amounts to deliberate indifference to a plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (4) the policy is the moving force behind the constitutional violation. See Oviatt v. Pearce, 954 F.3d 1470, 1474 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Plaintiff has not named Pierce County as a defendant and has also not alleged facts to show Pierce County is liable. See Dkt. 4. If Plaintiff seeks to sue Pierce County, he must name Pierce County as a defendant and allege facts sufficient to meet the required elements of a claim ...

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