Woods v. Chappell et al

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-01291

ORDER DISMISSING CASE AND DENYING PENDING MOTIONS. Motions terminated: {{37}} Motion to Appoint Counsel, {{38}} Motion for Evidentiary Hearing. Signed by District Judge Jeffrey S. White on 11/3/17.

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 EARNEST CASSELL WOODS, Case No.15-cv-01291-JSW Plaintiff, 8 ORDER DISMISSAL; DENYING v. PENDING MOTIONS 9 10 KEVIN CHAPPELL, et al., Re: Dkt. Nos. 37, 38 Defendants. 11 12 INTRODUCTION Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Plaintiff, a California prisoner, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 14 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint was dismissed with leave to amend, and then dismissed 15 because Plaintiff failed to timely amend his complaint. On appeal, the judgment was 16 reversed because Plaintiff was not afforded sufficient opportunity to obtain a copy of his 17 original complaint prior to dismissal, and the case was remanded to this Court for further 18 proceedings. Plaintiff has since filed an amended complaint. The amended complaint is 19 reviewed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and it is dismissed for failure to cure the 20 deficiencies in the original complaint. 21 DISCUSSION 22 I. Standard of Review 23 Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners 24 seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 25 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the 26 complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or 27 fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a 28 defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be 1 liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). 2 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of 3 the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; 4 the statement need only '"give the defendant fair notice of what the. . . . claim is and the 5 grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) 6 (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed 7 factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds of his 'entitle[ment] 8 to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the 9 elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise 10 a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 11 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state 12 a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974. Pro se pleadings must be Northern District of California United States District Court 13 liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). 14 To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: 15 (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and 16 (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state 17 law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 18 II. Discussion 19 The original complaint was dismissed because it contained a number of improperly 20 joined claims under Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the order 21 granting leave to amend, the Court advised Plaintiff of the deficiencies in the complaint 22 and how to cure them, as follows: 23 The federal rules on joinder are straightforward. "A party asserting a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third- 24 party claim may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." Fed. R. Civ. 25 P. 18(a). The rules are somewhat different when, as here, there are multiple parties. Multiple parties may be joined as 26 defendants in one action only "if any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect 27 to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact 28 common to all defendants will arise in the action." Id. at 2 20(a)(2). The upshot of these rules is that "multiple claims 1 against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2 2." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). "Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in 3 different suits." Id. "A buckshot complaint that would be rejected if filed by a free person – say, a suit complaining that 4 A defrauded plaintiff, B defamed him, C punched him, D failed to pay a debt, and E infringed his copyright, all in different 5 transactions – should be rejected if filed by a prisoner." Id. Plaintiff names 29 Defendants, including different state 6 and federal government agencies, namely the United States Veterans Administrations, the California Department of 7 Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the California Board of Parole Hearings. His complaint, which runs more than thirty 8 pages with hundreds of pages of unlabeled and un-cited exhibits, sets forth a narrative that appears to catalogue every 9 incident he finds objectionable over a three-year period. For example, he alleges that parole officials wrongfully denied 10 parole, prison officials have not properly processed his administrative appeals, that a number of prison disciplinary 11 violations were unfounded, he has not received adequate religious meals in prison, he did not timely receive medication 12 and on another different medication was confiscated, he did not Northern District of California United States District Court receive adequate phone calls with his attorney, a psychologist 13 made a false report about his mental state, parole officials used improper procedures at his parole hearings, prison dental care 14 was inadequate, federal officials have not sent his veteran benefits to his parents, a prison official used excessive force 15 against him, he was placed in segregation in retaliation for filing inmate grievances, prison officials have denied him a 16 surgery he needs, the law library at his prison was inadequate, prison officials improperly interfered with his mail, officials 17 properly process his administrative appeals, contraband was "planted" on him, and disciplinary proceedings were conducted 18 improperly. He does not list his claims, but rather, in the course of his narrative he asserts a wide variety of 19 constitutional violations arising from these unrelated incidents and involving different state and federal officials. 20 As alleged, his claims do not arise out of the same transaction, occurrence or series of occurrences, and do not 21 involve a common question of law or fact. Rule 20(a) does not allow a plaintiff to assert a grab-bag of unrelated claims against 22 different defendants. This is precisely what Plaintiff has done. Accordingly, the Court finds the claims and defendants 23 improperly joined. Although a Court may strike individual claims that are 24 not properly joined, the Court cannot here determine which of the many claims Plaintiff may wish to keep and which he 25 wants to omit. Thus, instead of dismissing certain claims and defendants, the Court will dismiss the complaint with leave to 26 file an amended complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff may only allege claims that (a) 27 arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, and (b) present questions of law or 28 fact common to all defendants named therein. Claims that do 3 not satisfy Rule 20(a) must be alleged in separate complaints 1 filed in separate actions. The amended complaint must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a) concerning joinder 2 of claims and defendants, and if it does not, then this action will be dismissed. 3 ... Plaintiff will not be given another opportunity to cure 4 these deficiencies after the amended complaint ordered below; if the deficiencies are not cured in the amended complaint, this 5 case will be dismissed. 6 The remand order of the United States Court of Appeals did not undermine, criticize or 7 address this reasoning. 8 The amended complaint contains the exact same deficiencies as the original 9 complaint. Specifically, it seeks to join numerous distinct claims against different 10 defendants arising from unrelated incidents. His claims arise from events occurring 11 between 2011 and 2014, and relate to such diverse matters as the denial of the right to 12 exercise his religion, delays in his classification hearings, insufficient access to the courts, Northern District of California United States District Court 13 inadequate medical and dental care, an inaccurate parole report, the failure to commute or 14 pardon his sentence, fraudulent disciplinary proceedings, retaliation for filing 15 administrative appeals and lawsuits, confiscation of money, unreasonable cell searches, 16 and the use of excessive force. He brings claims under the Fourteenth, Fourth, First, and 17 Eighth Amendments, and the Administrative Procedures Act. Moreover, as with the 18 original complaint, it cannot be discerned from the amended complaint which of these 19 claims Plaintiff may wish to omit or to have stricken. 20 Plaintiff was informed that the Federal Rules prohibit him from bringing a grab-bag of 21 unrelated claims against different defendants in a single case, and he was directed to file an 22 amended complaint that did not do so, at peril of dismissal. Plaintiff's amended complaint 23 ignores these instructions and instead sets forth a long narrative that appears to include 24 everything he found objectionable over the course of approximately four years. In doing 25 so, the amended complaint repeats precisely the same joinder problems as the original 26 complaint, and shows that Plaintiff will not follow the instructions of the Court to include 27 only properly joined claims in this case. Accordingly, the case will be dismissed without 28 further leave to amend because granting such leave would be futile. 4 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the reasons discussed above, this case is DISMISSED. In view of this 3 dismissal, the motions for appointment of counsel and for an evidentiary hearing are 4 DENIED. 5 The Clerk shall close the file. 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. 7 Dated: November 3, 2017 8 9 JEFFREY S. WHITE 10 United States District Judge 11 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5 1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 EARNEST CASSELL WOODS, 4 Case No. 4:15-cv-01291-JSW Plaintiff, 5 v. CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE 6 KEVIN CHAPPELL, et al., 7 Defendants. 8 9 I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. 10 District Court, Northern District of California. 11 12 Northern District of California That on November 3, 2017, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by United States District Court 13 placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by 14 depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery 15 receptacle located in the Clerk's office. 16 17 Earnest Cassell Woods ID: D58091 California State Prison - San Quentin 18 San Quentin, CA 94974 19 Dated: November 3, 2017 20 21 Susan Y. Soong Clerk, United States District Court 22 23 24 25 By:________________________ Ivy Lerma Garcia, Deputy Clerk covering for 26 Jennifer Ottolini, Deputy Clerk to the 27 Honorable JEFFREY S. WHITE 28 6