United States District Court, D. Nevada
PHILLIP J. LYONS, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NEVADA ex rel, c/o ORTIZ, et al., Defendants.
JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.
Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss (doc. #77). Pro se plaintiff Lyons has filed an opposition (doc. #82), and defendants have replied (doc. #84).
Plaintiff Phillip Lyons filed a complaint alleging eleven civil rights violations occurred while Lyons was in state custody. Lyons alleges that these violations took place between May 9, 2008, and the present while Lyons has been housed at Nevada State Prison ("NSP"), Ely State Prison ("ESP"), and Southern Desert Correctional Center ("SDCC").
The eleven claims are as follows:
Count 1 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, Fourteenth Amendment due process, NRS 209.371 - corporal punishment and inhumane treatment, NRS 212.020 - inhumanity to prisoners, and NRS 197.200 - oppression under color of office. This count is asserted against defendants Ortiz and Baker.
Count 2 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Henley, Donat, Helling, and Skolnik.
Count 3 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, Fourteenth Amendment due process, Fourth Amendment right against search and seizure. This count is asserted against defendants Sims, Gentry, Nielsen, Terance, Pope, Halstead, Palmer, Skolnik, and Cox.
Count 4 - First Amendment retaliation, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Baze, Palmer, Vallaster, Terance, Soonwing, Gonzalez, and Helling.
Count 5 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Dutton, Ritchie, Jones, Willis, Endel, McDaniel, Cox, and Skolnik.
Count 6 - First Amendment retaliation, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Adams, Klein, Burson, Williams, Cox, Howell, Gibbons, Miller, Masto, and Skolnik
Count 7 - Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment and Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Howell, Williams, Cox, Skolnik, Ferber, and Jones.
Count 8 - First Amendment free exercise, Fourteenth Amendment due process, NRS 197.170 - extortion by public officer or employee. This count is asserted against defendants Burson and Cox.
Count 9 - First Amendment freedom of speech, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendant Jones.
Count 10 - First Amendment free exercise of religion, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Wilson and Burson.
Count 11 - First Amendment freedom of speech, Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment, Fourteenth Amendment due process. This count is asserted against defendants Burson, King, Skolnik, Cox, Williams, Howell, Dreesen, Gibbons, Sandoval, Miller, and Masto....
II. Legal Standard
A court may dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A properly pled complaint must provide "[a] short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to rise above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted).
In Iqbal, the Supreme Court clarified the two-step approach district courts are to apply when considering motions to dismiss. First, the court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint; however, legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. at 1949. Second, the court must consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint allege a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 1950. A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff's complaint alleges facts that allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 1949.
Where the complaint does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has "alleged - but not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. (internal quotations omitted). When the allegations in a complaint have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, plaintiff's claim must be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
As an initial matter, the court acknowledges that plaintiff's complaint was filed pro se and is therefore held to less stringent standards. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ("A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.") (internal quotations and citations omitted). However, " pro se litigants in an ordinary civil case should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record." Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364 (9th Cir. 1986).
Count 1 stems from an incident in which Lyons was transported in a vehicle with two other inmates. All the inmates were forced to wear a "black box" restraint device while being transported. Lyons claims that the "black box" was not the usual type of restraint used during transports, and the device caused him great discomfort, bruising, and swelling. Lyons asserts that by using a "black box" restraint, the Officers Ortiz and Baker showed deliberate indifference which amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Generally, when a prisoner alleges that handcuffs are too tight or a certain restraining device should not have been used, the prisoner is making a claim of excessive force. In this case, however, Lyons claims that the use of the black box amounts to deliberate indifference to his health and safety. Deliberate indifference claims are applicable in situations where prisoners are denied access to medical care or where prisoners make claims against general prison conditions. "[A]pplication of the deliberate indifference standard is inappropriate' in one class of prison cases: when officials stand accused of using excessive physical force.'" Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992)). Because count 1 of the amended complaint focuses on the infliction of pain from the use of a certain type of restraint, the court construes this as an excessive force claim.
"[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the [Eighth Amendment], the core judicial inquiry is... whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992). Lyons has made no allegation that the use of the black box was not intended to maintain discipline. The allegation is only that the black box should not have been used because it caused too much pain....
Lyons also asserts three state law claims based on this incident. NRS § 209.371 provides, "Corporal punishment and inhumane treatment of offenders are prohibited." Restraining a prisoner's hands in order to transport him safely is not inhumane treatment or ...