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Copeland v. Nevada Southern Detention Center

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 19, 2019




         Before the Court is Plaintiff Arnold Copeland’s Amended Civil Complaint alleging violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 8).

         The Court granted Plaintiff’s in forma pauperis application on March 7, 2019, dismissed Plaintiff’s Complaint without prejudice, and provided Plaintiff with an opportunity to amend his Complaint, which he did in a timely manner. The Court now screens the Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         I. Screening Procedures

         Federal courts are given the authority to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant/third party plaintiff who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint, or portion thereof, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted “if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims that would entitle him to relief.” Buckey v. Los Angeles, 968 F.2d 791, 794 (9th Cir. 1992). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous if it is premised on a nonexistent legal interest or delusional factual scenario. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327–28 (1989). Moreover, “a finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915(e), the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         The Court shall liberally construe a complaint by a pro se litigant. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 2007). This is especially important for civil rights complaints. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). However, a liberal construction may not be used to supply an essential element of the claim absent from the complaint. Bruns v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., 12 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Laboratory Corp. of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). 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. Twombley, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). The court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations contained in the complaint, but the same requirement does not apply to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory allegations, do not suffice. Id. at 1949. Secondly, where the claims in the complaint have not crossed the line from plausible to conceivable, the complaint should be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         All or part of a complaint filed by a prisoner may therefore be dismissed sua sponte if the prisoner’s claims lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g. claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g. fantastic or delusional scenarios). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).


         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the Nevada Southern Detention Center (“NSDC”) where he was at all relevant times. Plaintiff further alleges the Director/Warden, Medical Supervisor, Dr. Jason Liu, and Dr. Jay Peterson are proper defendants in this action. Plaintiff identifies the Director/Warden and Medical Supervisor as John Doe I and John Doe II.

         Plaintiff states that the “medical staff” at NSDC: (1) was “fully aware” of the issues with his hip and his extreme discomfort; (2) showed deliberate indifference to the fact that he was “forced to sleep on the floor while other similarly situated individuals received proper medical treatment and diagnosis which allowed the access to medication[, ] lower bunk access and routine treatment”; and (3) violated his Fifth Amendment rights to due process when Drs. Liu and Peterson intentionally ignored his continued requests for proper medical care. Plaintiff states he used and exhausted the grievance process and that his grievance was denied. Plaintiff says he has “suffered unnecessarily, ” experienced intense pain, slept on the floor, and “languished in duress and depression.” Plaintiff states he now uses a wheelchair and that his injuries were exacerbated without just cause. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment, compensatory damages for $125, 000 against each defendant, and punitive damages of $25, 000 against each defendant. Plaintiff also seeks a jury trial if necessary.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Claims Against The Defendants

         State officials sued in their official capacity are not persons under § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). However, a state official sued in his personal capacity may be found liable for damages if a plaintiff can show that the defendant personally violated his constitutional rights. OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, 669 F. 9d 1053, 1069 (9th Cir. 2012). Plaintiff brings suit against all Defendants in both their official and individual capacities. The Court must determine whether a suit is brought against a defendant in his individual or official capacity by considering the ...

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