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Chavez v. Hatch

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 22, 2017




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by Plaintiff Rudy Fernando Chavez Junior on February 2, 2017 (“Complaint”). (Doc. 1.) The Court will dismiss Chavez's Complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, but will grant Chavez leave to file an amended complaint within 30 days.

         1. Standards for Failure to State a Claim

         Plaintiff Chavez is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis on civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has the discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under either Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under Rule 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if “it is ‘patently obvious' that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting McKinney v. Okla. Dep't of Human Servs., 925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim should be dismissed where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         Under § 1915(e)(2)(B) the Court may dismiss the complaint at any time if the Court determines the action fails to state a claim for relief or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(2). The authority granted by § 1915 permits the court the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). See also Hall, 935 F.2d at 1109. The authority to “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations” means that a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). The Court is not required to accept the truth of the plaintiff's allegations but, instead, may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other materials filed by the parties, as well as court proceedings subject to judicial notice. Id.

         In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff must abide by the applicable rules of court. Ogden v. San Juan Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). The Court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual allegations to support the plaintiff's claims. Nor may the Court assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         In deciding whether to dismiss the complaint, in whole or in part, the Court is to consider whether to allow plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint. Pro se plaintiffs should be given a reasonable opportunity to remedy defects in their pleadings. Reynoldson v. Shillinger, 907 F.2d 124, 126 (10th Cir. 1990). The opportunity to amend should be granted unless amendment would be futile. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1109. An amendment is futile if the amended claims would also be subject to immediate dismissal under the rule 12(b)(6) or § 1915(e)(2)(B) standards. Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004).

         2. Claims for Relief Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must assert acts by government officials acting under color of law that result in a deprivation of rights secured by the United States Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). There must be a connection between official conduct and violation of a constitutional right. Conduct that is not connected to a constitutional violation is not actionable under Section 1983. See Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998).

         Further, a civil rights action against a public official or entity may not be based solely on a theory of respondeat superior liability for the actions of co-workers or subordinates. A plaintiff must plead that each government official, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Plaintiff must allege some personal involvement by an identified official in the alleged constitutional violation to succeed under § 1983. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008). In a Section 1983 action, it is particularly important that a plaintiff's complaint “make clear exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom, to provide each individual with fair notice as to the basis of the claim against him or her.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1249-50 (10th Cir. 2008). Generalized allegations against “defendants” or “officers, ” without identification of individual actors and conduct that caused the deprivation of a constitutional right, do not state any claim for relief. Id.

         To state a claim against a supervisory official, it is not enough for a plaintiff to make indefinite allegations that a defendant was in charge of other state actors who actually committed the violation. Instead, the plaintiff must establish a deliberate, intentional act by the supervisor to violate constitutional rights. Serna v. Colo. Dep't. of Corr., 455 F.3d 1146, 1151 (10th Cir. 2006). To impose § 1983 liability the plaintiff must establish the supervisor's subordinates violated the Constitution as well as an affirmative link between the supervisor and the violation. Id. To meet this “affirmative link” requirement a Plaintiff must show: (1) personal involvement by the supervisor, (2) sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's personal involvement and the constitutional violation, and (3) a culpable state of mind on the part of the supervisor. A plaintiff may establish the defendant-supervisor's personal involvement by demonstrating his personal participation in the constitutional violation, his actual exercise of control or direction over the officials in the commission of the violation, his failure to supervise, or his knowledge of the violation and acquiescence in it. Poolaw v. Marcantel, 565 F.3d 721, 732-33 (10th Cir. 2009); Jenkins v. Wood, 81 F.3d 988, 995 (10th Cir. 1996). A defendant supervisor's promulgation, creation, implementation, or utilization of a policy that caused a deprivation of plaintiff's rights also may constitute sufficient personal involvement. See Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1528 (10th Cir. 1988). A plaintiff then must establish the requisite causal connection by showing the defendant set in motion a series of events that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known would cause others to deprive the plaintiff of his constitutional rights. Poolaw, 565 F.3d at 732-33; see also, Snell v. Tunnell, 920 F.2d 673, 700 (10th Cir. 1990). Last, the plaintiff is required to show the supervisor had a culpable state of mind, meaning “the supervisor acted knowingly or with ‘deliberate indifference' that a constitutional violation would occur.” Serna, 455 F.3d at 1151, 1154. Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1194-96 (10th Cir. 2010).

         3. Chavez's Complaint Fails to State a Claim for § 1983 Relief

         Applying the § 1915(e)(2)(B) and Rule 12(b)(6) standards, the original Complaint filed by Chavez fails to state a claim for relief under § 1983. Chavez claims:

“On August 31st I was placed in a dry cell for 3 days. I completely complied with Corrections Officers an provided them stool samples at their request as well as urin. [sic] There was never any contraband discovered in the stool samples nor the urin. [sic] However I was still charged for possession with no tangible evidence. When I questioned the integrity of the claim of dangerous drugs I was denied my right to due process an held accountable on these trumped up charges. It is pure harassment that these charges are still being ...

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