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Rhodes v. Hanks

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

June 10, 2019

DEPUTY HANKS, et al., Defendants.


          J. Richard Creatura, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Joseph Rhodes, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (Dkts. 4, 5), brings this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The District Court has referred the matter to the undersigned. See Dkt. 2.

         Plaintiff seeks to hold a corrections officer and various state and municipal entities liable for an incident in which the corrections officer allegedly disciplined plaintiff without cause. Having reviewed and screened plaintiff's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court declines to serve plaintiff's complaint because plaintiff has yet to plead sufficient facts to demonstrate that defendants violated his constitutional rights. In particular, although plaintiff asserts that his claim is for “racial discrimination, ” plaintiff fails to allege that his race motivated the corrections officer's behavior and with respect to his claim about being transferred out of medical overflow, to identify a group of others who were similarly situated in all respects except race but treated differently. He also fails to allege a municipal custom or policy that led to his injury or to otherwise specify the constitutional or statutory rights that he claims were violated. The Court provides plaintiff leave to file an amended pleading by July 5, 2019, to cure the deficiencies identified herein.


         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center, brings this action against the Clark County Jail, a corrections officer at the Clark County Jail (“defendant Hanks”), Clark County, the City of Vancouver, and the State of Washington for “racial discrimination, pain & suffering, mental anguish[, ] and physical distress” based on events that occurred during his custody in Clark County Jail. See Dkt. 5, at 4.

         Plaintiff, who is African-American, alleges that on December 17, 2018, he had a “heated conversation” with another prisoner in the medical overflow unit and that the other prisoner used racial epithets against plaintiff. Dkt. 5, at 6. Plaintiff, who suffers from back and wrist injuries, alleges that after this encounter, defendant Hanks wrongly determined that plaintiff was the instigator and disciplined plaintiff-but not the other prisoner-by sending plaintiff to the medical pod, where he was forced to sleep on the floor. See Dkt. 5, at 7-8, 10. According to plaintiff, although he could have returned to the medical overflow unit the next day, defendant Hanks intervened and “got [plaintiff] cleared to leave” the medical overflow unit, without plaintiff first seeing a doctor. See Dkt. 5, at 8-9.

         Plaintiff alleges that these actions constituted violations of his “constitutional, ” “civil, ” “Equal Opportunity, ” and “health and disability” rights. Dkt. 5, at 9. Plaintiff alleges that he filed a grievance but has been unable to obtain a copy of his final grievance. See Dkt. 5, at 5.


         I. Screening Principles

         Under the PLRA, 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998).

         In order to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show the following: (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 Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981).

         Applying these principles, plaintiff's complaint suffers from deficiencies requiring dismissal of some claims if not corrected in an amended complaint, as set forth below.

         II. Racial Discrimination Claim Against Defendant Hanks

         Plaintiff appears to allege that defendant Hanks discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race by wrongly disciplining plaintiff, who is African-American, rather than the other prisoner, who is not African-American, as the instigator of the “heated encounter” in the medical overflow unit and by having plaintiff ...

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