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Chacon v. Albuquerque Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 31, 2018

JORGE CHACON, Plaintiff,

          Jorge Chacon Torrance County Detention Center Estancia, New Mexico Plaintiff Pro Se.


         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, filed March 1, 2017 (Doc. 1)(“Complaint”). Plaintiff Jorge Chacon is incarcerated, appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma pauperis. He asserts that Defendants Benjamin Daffron and Jonathan Franco, who are Police Officers with the Albuquerque Police Department (“APD”), used excessive force during his December, 2015, arrest. Having reviewed the matter sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court will dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a cognizable claim, but grant leave to amend.


         For the limited purposes of this ruling, the Court assumes the following facts from the Complaint are true. On December 3, 2015, Daffron and Franco approached Chacon in an alley near California Street in southeast Albuquerque, New Mexico. See Complaint at 2. They instructed Chacon to stop and to get on the ground. See Complaint at 2. As he was attempting to comply, one of the officers grabbed Chacon, slammed him down to the ground, and thrust his knees into Chacon's head and ribs. See Complaint at 2. The officer also directed Chacon to “quit resisting, ” although Chacon alleges that he was not resisting arrest. See Complaint at 2. The officer then grabbed Chacon's right arm, forced it up towards Chacon's head until it made a popping sound, and thrust his knee into Chacon's back. See Complaint at 2. Chacon informed the officer that he recently had open heart surgery, and was experiencing pain in his chest and elbow. See Complaint at 2. The officer initially refused to listen, but eventually called an ambulance. See Complaint at 2. When Chacon arrived at the University of New Mexico Hospital, the medical providers discovered a fracture in his right elbow. See Complaint at 2. At some point Chacon inquired why he was arrested, but the Daffron and Franco refused to answer. See Complaint at 2. After Chacon was transported to the Metropolitan Detention Center, he learned that Daffron and Francisco arrested him for a crime he did not commit. See Complaint at 2. The state court eventually dismissed the case, but Chaco “still did time.” Complaint at 2.


         Based on the foregoing, Chacon raises claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and assault against Defendant Albuquerque Police Department, Daffron, and Franco. See Complaint at 1. See Complaint at 1. Chacon's claims include excessive force, false arrest, and assault. See Complaint at 1-4. Chacon seeks five million dollars in damages. See Complaint at 5.


         Title 28 of the United States Code, § 1915A, imposes a mandatory obligation on district courts to screen “before docketing, if feasible, or in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner[1] seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A)(a). Section “1915A applies to all prison litigants, without regard to their fee status, who bring civil suits against a governmental entity, officers, or employee.” Plunk v. Givens, 234 F.3d 1128, 1129 (10th Cir. 2000). On review, the court must dismiss the action if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or if it “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The standards used for rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure guide review under § 1915A. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). To resist dismissal under that rule, the plaintiff must frame a complaint that contains sufficient facts to “‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Section 1915A expands this inquiry, however, by granting courts “the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims” that the record belies. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)(construing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)(1988), which is now 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)). See Lee v. Maye, 589 Fed. App'x 416 (10th Cir. Jan. 7, 2015)(Gorsuch, J.)(applying Neitzke v. Williams to § 1915A).

         Where the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the “pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall v. Bellman, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). If the court can “reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, . . . confusion of various legal theories, . . . poor syntax and sentence construction, or . . . unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.” Hall v. Bellman, 935 F.2d at 1110. At the same time, however, it is not “the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant.” Hall v. Bellman, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         Finally, in deciding whether to dismiss the complaint on screening, the Court must consider whether to allow the plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint. See Reynoldson v. Shillinger, 907 F.2d 124, 126 (10th Cir. 1990). The Court should freely give leave to amend “where deficiencies in a complaint are attributable to oversights likely the result of an untutored pro se litigant's ignorance of special pleading requirements . . . .” Reynoldson v. Shillinger, 907 F.2d at 126. The Court need not grant leave to amend, however, if any amended claims would also be subject to immediate dismissal under rule 12(b)(6) or § 1915A. See Hall v. Bellman, 935 F.2d at 1109; Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004).

         LAW REGARDING 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party ...

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