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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIEORNTA
OLTVER B MITCHELL, l No. CV 13-6030-ODW(CW)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DISMISS]NG COMPLA]NT
WTTH T,EAVE TO AMEND V.
U.S. DEP'T OF
^t
eL dL.
t
VETERANS AFFAIRS)
De fendant s
Plaintiff Oliver B. Mitchell, III opened this action with a
request to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee dated and
filed August 16, 2013.
[Docket
no. 1.] Leave to file was granted and
Plaintlff's Complaint was filed September 26, 2013.
IDocket
no. 3.]
Plaintiff is appearing pro se and seeking to proceed in forma
pauperis,
oD a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. S 1983. For
reasons stated below, the complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.
STA}iIDARD OE' REVIEW
Complaints such as Plaintiff's are sub;ect to the court's sua
sponte review under provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of
Plarnt
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iff,
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ass 2.1"3-cv-00il30-CDW-CU", D*cumei:t 2,j f:tr*tJ *1l2LlL4 7a*.* ? *t 7 Pare lD
+:l7S
1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, i10 Stat. 7321 (1996). See 2B
U.S.C. S 1915A(a). The court shall dlsmiss such a complaint, dt any
time, tf the court finds that 1t (1) is frj-volous or malicious, (2)
fails to state a cfaim on which relief may be granted, or (3) seeks
monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. See Lopez
v. Smith, 203 F.3d 7122, 1126-27 and n.-l (9th Cir. 2400) (en
banc); 28
U.S.C. S 1915 (e) (2) (B) (in forma
pauperis
complaints).
"A c]aim is
'frivol-ous'when
it is without
'basis
in law or
facL,'and'mallcious'when it is 'fi1ed with the intention or desire
to harm another."' Knapp v. Hogan, No. 11-11572, F.3d.
_t
2013
WL 6801005, at
*1
(9th
Cir. Dec. 2f
,
2A73) (quoting Ancirews v. King,
398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Clr. 2005)
).
"Failure to state a claim" has
the same meaning on PLRA review that it has in review of a motion to
dismiss under Fed. R. Civ- P. 72(b) (5). Knapp, id. (citing Moore v.
Maricopa Countv Sheriff's Office, 657 F.3d 890, 893 (9th Cir. 2011)
).
A Rule 12(b) (5) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim "'tests
the legal sufficiency of a claim."' Conservation Force v. Salazar,
646 F.3d i240, 7242 (9th Cir. 207L) (quoting Navarro v. Block, 250 tr.3d
1ta
'111
/o+Ia
Cir. 2001)). Dismissaf for failure to state a claim may t LJ, t JL
\
/L11
be based on "'lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of
sufficient facts afleged under a cognizable 1ega1 theory.
"'
Conservation Force, 646 F.3d at 1242 (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica
Po]ice Dep't, 907 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). A complaint may
also be dlsmissed for failure to state a claim if it discloses a fact
or complete defense that will necessarily defeat the claim. Franklin
v. Murphv, J45 F.2d 7227, 7228-29 (9th
Cir. 1984) (citing 2A Moore's
Federal Practice !1 12.08).
To survive review for failure to state a claim, a complaint must
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al1ege facts sufficlent "'to state a facially plausrbfe claim to
re1ief."' Conservation Force, 646 F.3d at 7242 (quoting Shrover v.
New Cinsular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, lA47 (9th
Cir.2010)). The Ninth Circuit has surTrmarized the standard as foffows:
A complaint rs properly dismrssed under Rule 12(b) (6) unless
j-t
contains "enough facts to state a clalm to relief that is
pJ-ausible on its face." Coto Settlement v. Elsenberq, 593
F.3d 1031, 7034 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 69't, 129 S. Ct. 1931
,
ll3 L. Ed. 2d 868
(2009)
).
Well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as
true, but conclusory statements or "bare asse::tions" are
discounted. See Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1702,
1108 (9th
Cir-2012); see afso Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 68l, \29 S.
cr. 1931 .
Recinto v. U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, J06 F.3d 111),,7111 (9th
(.tr.
,/\) 1)-
If a complaint fails this review, a court rnay dismiss it with or
without leave to amend. Lopez
,
243 tr.3d at 1126-30. Leave to amend
shoufd be granted if it appears that defects can be corrected,
especially if a pJ-aintiff is appearing pro se. Id. at 1130-31. If
after careful consideration, it is cfear that a complarnt cannot be
cured by amendment, the court may dismiss without feave to amend. See
Cato v. United States
,
J0 F.3d 1103, 1107-11 (9th Cir. 1995) .
PLAINTIFF' S AILEGATIONS AI{D CI,AIMS
Plaintiff names as defendants the United States Department of
Veterans Affairs ("VA"), Eric K. Shinseki
(VA Secretary), Donna Beiter
(Director, VA Medical Center, West Los Angeles), and Lisa K. Holliday
(General
Counsel, VA Medical Center, West Los Angeles). Defendants
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Beiter and Holliday are explicj-t1y named in both official and
indivldual capacities. Plaintiff makes lengthy but vague allegations
that the VA and VA employees have harassed him in numerous ways,
viofating his federal civil rights under 42 U.S.C. S 1983 and other
statutes. He seeks monetary damages.
tCpt. l
DEFECTS IN PLAINTIFF'S COMPI,AINT
To state a federal civil rights claim rrnder 42 U.S.C. S 1983, a
plaintiff must plead: (1)
that a defendant acted under cofor of state
lawi and (2) that the defendant caused the plaintiff to be deprived of
a right secured by the federal constitution or laws. Johnson v.
Knowles, 113 f.3d 1174, 1117 (9th Cir. 1991). The pJ-aintiff must set
forth factual allegations with sufficient particufarlty to glve a
defendant "fair notice of the type of cfaim bei-ng pursued." Crtez v.
Washington County, BB F.3d 804, 810 (9th Cir. 1996).
Here, Plaintiff's S 1983 claims are asserted against a federal
agency and three of its employees. However, a federal agency and
federal employees acting under color of federal faw are not persons
acting under color of state faw who may be sued under 42 U - S. C.
S 1983. See. e.q., Billinqs v. United States, 5'/ tr.3d'/9'7, 801 (9th
Cir.1995) ("S 1983 provides no cause of action against federal agents
acting under color of federaf law."); Agra v. Franco, No. CV
72-7055-SJO(DTB), 201-3 WL 7100913, at
*6
(C.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2013)
(citing Billings). Accordingly, al.l of Plaintiff's S 1983 claims are
subject to dismissal on PLRA screening.r
r
Pl-aintiff also attempts to assert claims under 42 U.S.C. SS
1981, 7982, 1985, 7986, and 1988. Sections 1981 and 7982 apply to
intentionaf racial discrimination in regard to contract (S 1981) or
property (S l.982) rights, and do not require action under color of
(continued...
)
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a.ce 2:i3-cv-S6il3*-ilD\4i-C\tr *acumer:t 24 Fiied *1"121114 Pagle 5 *f 7 Fage lD
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A plaintiff may bring a claim for damages against a federal
agent, acting under color of federal 1aw, for violatinq federal
constitutional rights, under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the
Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 4A3 U.S. 3BB, 9l S. Ct. 7999, 29 L. Ed.
?,d 6\9 (1971). However, a Blvens action cannot be brought against a
federal agency or a federal agent named in an official capacity. FDIC
v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 417, 486, 774 S. Ct. 996, 121 L. Ed. 2d 308 (1994)
(no Bivens cfaim against federal agency); Conseio de Desarrollo
Economico de Mexicali v. United States
,
482 F.3d 1157
,
77'7 3 (9th Cir.
2001
)
(no Bivens action against federal agent in an official capacity).
Therefore, Plaintiff's complaint cannot be amended to state a Bivens
claim against the VA or any VA employee in an official capacity.
A Bivens claim may be stated for a constitutional violation under
color of federal law by a federal agent named in an individual
capacity. Consejo, 482 F.3d at 1173. An individual capacity claim rs
based on what the individual defendant allegedJ-y did or failed to do,
(. . . continued)
-+-+^
I
-,,
C'.
sLdLe rdw. )eC_,_-_C-_g.
,
General Building Contractors Ass'n v.
pennsvlvanial
458 u.s. 3'/5, 3gt, to2 s. ct. 3141, J3 L. Ed. 2d 835
(1982) (S 1981); Shaare Tefile Conqregation v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615, 611,
107 S. Ct. 2019, 95 L. Ed. 2d 594
(1987) (S 7982). Plaintiff's factual
allegations do not support such claims. Section 1985 requires a claim
of conspiracy to deny a person equal protection of the laws, and
requ-ires a racial or other Iimited class-based discrimrnation. See
Griffin v. Breckenridqe, 403 U.S. BB, 702-03, 9I S. Ct. 1190, 29 L.
Ed. 2d 338
(1971).
Section S 1986 authorizes a claim for failure to
prevent a conspiracy that would have been actionable under S 1985, and
a S 1986 cl-aim can only be stated when a complaint also contains a
valid S 1985 claim. See, e.9., Karim-Panahi v. Los Anqeles Police
Dep't
,
839 F.2d 627, 626 (9th Cir. 19BB). Plaintiff's allegations do
not support such claims. Section 19BB provides that a prevailing
party in a civil rights action under one of these sections may obtain
attorneys fees. See, e.9., Sole v. Wvner, 551 U.S.f4, Jf,721 S. Ct.
2188, 76'l L. Ed. 2d 1069 (2001). Here, however, Plalntiff is not a
prevailing party on such a cause of action.
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whrie an official capacrty cfaim ]s based sole1y on a defendant's
official positron. See, e.q., Hafer v. Mefo, 502 U.S. 21, 25-26, 112
S. Ct. 358, 116 L. Ed. 2d 301 (1991) . Here, Plaintiff has not alleged
any indivldual actions by Defendants Shinseki or Beiter. Accordi,ngly,
Plaintiff's complaint cannot be amended to state a Bivens claim
against Shinseki or Beiter.
Plaintiff has made allegations about individual acts by Defendant
Hol1iday, but his factual allegations, ds they stand, do not show that
Defendant Hollrday violated any of hls constitutional rights. On the
other hand, Plaintiff might be able successfully to amend his
compJ,aint, consistently with his factual allegations, to state a
Bivens claim against Defendant Holliday. In light of the liberal
pollcy toward amendment of pro se pleadings, Plaintiff w111 be given
leave to amend his complaint to state a Bivens claim, for violation of
a federal constitutional right, against Defendant HclJ-iday in an
indlvidual capacity only.
rV. ORDERS:
It is therefore ORDERED as follows:
1. The Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.
2. Within thirty (30) days of the filing of this Memorandum and
Order, Plaintiff may file a "First Amended Complaint" which corrects
the defects discussed above and complies with these requirements:
/-\ml--\\r:--
(d/ lrre rrrst Amended Complaint" must bear the present case number
"cv 13-5030-oDW (CW) . "
(b) It must be complete in itself and may not incorporate by
reference any part of any prior complaint.
(c) Plaintiff may not use "et aL." in the caption, but must clearly
name each defendant against whom a claim is stated in the First
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AnLended Complarnt. (The cl-erk uses the caption to make sure that
defendants are correctly listed on the docket.)
(d) Plaintiff may not add new partles without the court's permission.
3. If Plaintiff fries an amended complaint, the court wl11
issue further orders as appropriate; rf not, the magistrate judge will
recommend that this action be dlsmlssed, without prejudrce, for
failure to prosecute or to comply with court orders, BS well as for
the reasons stated above.
4. The clerk shall serve this Memorandum and Order on
Plaintiff.
DATE: January 27, 2014
fu@m.e@
CARLA M. WOEHRLE
United States Maoistrate Judoe