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Winterer v. United States

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

July 23, 2019




         This matter has been referred to this Court pursuant to General Order 02-19. Before the Court is plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel (Dkt. 13), plaintiff's Motion for Federal Court to Intervene in State Matters (Dkt. 14), and plaintiff's Motion to Add Defendant (Dkt. 17). Plaintiff initially filed this § 1983 Prisoner Civil Rights complaint and Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP) on April 16, 2019. Dkt 1. After several deficiencies, plaintiff's IFP was granted in part on May 28, 2019. Dkt. 11. The Court has not yet directed service upon defendants.

         Plaintiff's is granted leave to amend his complaint, but not to add the United States as a defendant. Plaintiff has stated his intent to name the United States as a defendant and the Court notes that the United States is not a proper defendant in this §1983 action. Nonetheless, plaintiff may add other defendants, if necessary and appropriate, if he chooses to amend his complaint. Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel is denied because plaintiff is granted leave to amend his complaint and the Court cannot determine at this stage whether or not plaintiff's claim is likely to succeed on the merits. Plaintiff's motion for this Court to intervene in state matters is denied due to Younger abstention.


         Plaintiff is currently housed at Monroe Correctional Complex. See Dkt. 12, p. 2. Plaintiff begins his complaint with a lengthy factual discussion of a brain injury he suffered at age sixteen and the treatment he received. See Dkt. 12, p.3-4 (“This is a 15 year long one paragraph complaint regarding deliberate indifference shown by the state of Washington to information essential to providing constitutional services.”). Plaintiff appears to allege that due to inadequate medical treatment “[t]he State of Washington is liable for everyday after [the date of the car accident] that I have lived in violation of the right to pursue happiness.” Dkt. 12, p. 6. He also appears to allege that he has not received adequate treatment for his condition while incarcerated. See Dkt. 12, p. 9-11 (citing numerous instances of plaintiff allegedly being denied medical treatment).

         Plaintiff's request for relief includes monetary damages, expungement of his criminal record, release from confinement, and medical treatment. See Dkt. 12, p. 11.


         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, at least three elements must be met: (1) defendant must be a person acting under the color of state law; (2) the person's conduct must have deprived plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the constitution or laws of the United States, Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, (1981) (overruled in part on other grounds); Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31, (1986); and (3) causation. See Mt. Healthy City School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 286-87, (1977); Flores v. Pierce, 617 F.2d 1386, 1390-91 (9th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 875, (1980).

         I. Complaint.

         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).

         Plaintiff's complaint is difficult to follow and contains over ten pages of background information related to plaintiff's injury. See Dkts. 12, p. 3-13, 12-1. The Court is required to liberally construe pro se documents. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Nonetheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). “Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d).

         While the background information plaintiff submitted may be evidence in support of plaintiff's complaint, “the Court cannot glean what claims for relief might lay hidden in the narration provided by plaintiff and it is plaintiff's responsibility to make each claim clear and provide only a short statement of facts supporting [each] claim, ” Henderson v. Scott, 2005 WL 1335220, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 4, 2005). Plaintiff also alleges Fifth and Eighth Amendment violations, but it is unclear what the injuries from these violations are, and who committed the alleged harm. See Dkt. 12, p. 12.

         Plaintiff appears to direct his complaint against the State of Washington. See Dkt. 12, p. 6. Neither states nor state officials acting in their official capacities are “persons” for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). This rule applies equally to state agencies. See Kaimowitz v. Board of Trustees of the Univ. of Ill., 951 F.2d 765, 767 (7th Cir. 1991); Johnson v. Rodriguez, 943 F.2d 104, 108 (1st Cir. 1991). However, State employees may be defendants in a § 1983 suit under certain circumstances. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 n. 10 (1989) (State officials sued in their official capacity for injunctive-that is, non-monetary-relief are persons for purposes of § 1983). In a similar fashion, state official sued in their personal capacity are “persons” for purposes of § 1983. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 27 (1991).

         Here, it is not clear from plaintiff's complaint who the claimed defendant(s) might be or the nature of alleged claim(s). Plaintiff must allege facts showing how a defendant caused or personally participated in causing the harm alleged ...

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