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Lewis v. Reno Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 28, 2017

AUBREY U. LEWIS, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
RENO POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM G. COBB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is Plaintiff's pro se Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 23.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (IFP) with this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 23; Order granting app. to proceed IFP, ECF No. 3.) The events giving rise to this action, however, involve Plaintiff's arrest and pretrial detention.

         Plaintiff filed his original complaint on August 11, 2016. (ECF Nos. 1-1, 4.) On August 23, 2016, the undersigned issued an order granting his IFP application (subject to the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA)), and screened the complaint, which was brought against a John Doe Reno Police Department officer, two John Doe Washoe County Jail employees, a Jane Doe medical staff member at the Washoe County Jail., and unspecified Washoe County medical staff members. (ECF No. 3 at 2-3.) The undersigned concluded that Plaintiff stated colorable claims for unlawful seizure and excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, as well as a pretrial detainee claim for denial or delay of medical care under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.) Plaintiff had named the “Reno Police, ” “Washoe County Jail, ” and “County Jail Medical” in the caption of the original complaint, but otherwise listed only doe defendants. Therefore, the undersigned directed the City of Reno and Washoe County to enter a limited appearance and permitted Plaintiff to conduct limited pre-service discovery in an effort to ascertain the identity of the doe defendants. (Id.) At that time, the court prospectively extended the ninety-day deadline for service under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) in light of the need to conduct pre-service discovery. (Id.)

         The court intended to set the matter for a status conference in ninety days, but due to a calendaring error, this did not occur. When that error was discovered, the court set the matter for a case management conference on February 8, 2017. (ECF No. 7.) In the interim, Plaintiff had been released from custody, and the notice of the status conference was returned as undeliverable. (ECF No. 8.) The court vacated the status conference, and directed Plaintiff to provide a notice of change of address. (ECF No. 9.) Washoe Legal Services, who was not representing Plaintiff, but has a program assisting inmates in the Washoe County Detention Facility with legal matters, informed the court on January 23, 2017, that Plaintiff was released for a period of time, but had returned to the jail for sentencing and was expected to be there through February 16, 2017. (ECF No. 10.) After that time, he could be reached at an alternative address. (Id.) The court rescheduled the conference for February 13, 2017. (ECF No. 13.)

         The City of Reno and Washoe County made limited appearances at the status conference, and Plaintiff appeared via telephone from the Washoe County Detention Facility. (ECF No. 18.) Following the conference, the court issued an order concerning Plaintiff's failure to timely file an amended complaint identifying the doe defendants and to serve the complaint. (ECF No. 19.) The court concluded that Plaintiff presented a case of excusable neglect, and granted Plaintiff until April 18, 2017, to identify the doe defendants and file an amended complaint naming those defendants or a motion to substitute in the true name of the defendants. (Id.) He was also given an additional forty-five days, until June 2, 2017, to complete service of the summons and complaint. (Id.)

         On March 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to substitute in the true names of the defendants. (ECF No. 20.) As the court described in its March 14, 2017 order, the problem was that the complaint named one John Doe Reno Police Department officer, two John Doe Washoe County Jail employees, and one Jane Doe Washoe County Jail medical staff member, while the motion to substitute named two Reno Police Department officers, two male and two female Washoe County Detention Facility booking/administration employees, an additional twelve Washoe County Sheriff's Department deputies, as well as Dr. Han. The conduct of all of these individuals was not described in the original complaint, and the motion to substitute was not accompanied by an amended pleading detailing their action. Therefore, the court gave Plaintiff until April 3, 2017 to file an amended complaint which identified each defendant against whom he intended to proceed as well as factual allegations as to the conduct of each of the defendants. (ECF No. 21.)

         Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on March 28, 2017, which the court will now screen. (ECF No. 23.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         When a party is proceeding IFP, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that” “the action or appeal” “is frivolous or malicious;” “fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). In addition, the court must review “a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity” and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint” that is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (b)(1)-(2).

         Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and this court applies the same standard under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 1915A when reviewing the adequacy of the complaint or amended complaint. See Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Review under 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Lab. Corp. of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000).

         In reviewing the complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Allegations in pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and must be liberally construed. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (per curiam); Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 893 (9th Cir. 2011).

         A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id. (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 1216, at 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)). At a minimum, a plaintiff should state "enough facts to state a ...


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