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Kern v. Stroud

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 28, 2014

STEPHEN R.J. KERN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
STROUD, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This pro se prisoner civil rights suit comes before the Court for initial review of the complaint. Action on the pauper application is deferred at this time.

When a "prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity, " the court must "identify cognizable claims or 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).

In considering whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, all material factual allegations are accepted as true for purposes of initial review and are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Russell v. Landrieu, 621 F.2d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 1980). However, mere legal conclusions unsupported by any actual allegations of fact are not assumed to be true in reviewing the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). That is, bare and conclusory assertions that constitute merely formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action and that are devoid of further factual enhancement are not accepted as true and do not state a claim for relief. Id.

Further, the factual allegations must state a plausible claim for relief, meaning that the well-pleaded facts must permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct:

[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." [ Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).] 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. Id., at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955. 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. Ibid. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id., at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (brackets omitted).
.... [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not "show[n]" - "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Allegations of a pro se complainant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).

Plaintiff Stephen Kern seeks compensatory and punitive damages from High Desert State Prison ("High Desert") alleged Warden Stroud and Correctional Officer Jason Henry, in their individual and official capacities.

The complaint, which seeks monetary damages only, does not state a claim for relief against either defendant in their official capacity. First, claims for monetary damages from a defendant in their official capacity are barred by state sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); Cardenas v. Anzal, 311 F.3d 929, 934-35 (9th Cir. 2002). Second, state officials sued in their official capacity for monetary damages also are not "persons" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 & n.10 (1989).

Nor does the complaint state a claim for relief against defendant Stroud in his individual capacity in any of the counts. Plaintiff only lists Stroud as a defendant, and the complaint includes no allegations regarding any individual involvement by Stroud in any of the alleged constitutional violations. There is no respondeat superior vicarious liability under § 1983 by a supervisory official for the alleged acts of subordinates. A supervisory official may be held liable in his individual capacity only if he either was personally involved in the constitutional deprivation or a sufficient causal connection existed between his unlawful conduct and the constitutional violation. See, e.g., Jackson v. City of Bremerton, 268 F.3d 646, 653 (9th Cir. 2001).

Count I otherwise states a claim for relief for alleged excessive use of force against defendant Henry in his individual capacity.

Count I further alleges that "medical staff has stopped pain relief medication-caretreatment-examination and products, " even after plaintiff requested further care. Such allegations do not state a claim for relief against a defendant named in the complaint. Neither Henry nor Stroud are alleged to have had personal involvement in the discontinuation of further care by medical staff. Moreover, merely alleging conclusorily that medical care was discontinued despite plaintiff's requests that it be ...


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