United States District Court, N.D. California
August 17, 2004.
JAIME ARIAS-MALDONADO, Plaintiff(s),
COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, et al, Defendant(s).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAUGHN WALKER, District Judge
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Plaintiff, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at
California State Prison, Solano, has filed a pro se civil rights
complaint under 42 USC § 1983 seeking damages for allegedly
unconstitutional deprivation of property. Plaintiff specifically
alleges that Santa Clara County Jail officials lost or destroyed
his property, including extensive legal materials, after they
transferred him from the jail to state prison.
Plaintiff also alleges that the deprivation of his legal
materials has left three of his pending court actions in "legal
limbo," and that the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
improperly denied his subsequent claim for relief.
Plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis under
28 USC § 1915.
A. Standard of Review
Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases
in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 USC § 1915A(a).
The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint,
if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id §
1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed, however.
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F2d 696, 699 (9th Cir
To state a claim under 42 USC § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2)
that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under
the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 US 42, 48 (1988).
B. Legal Claims
A negligent or intentional deprivation of property fails to
state a due process claim under § 1983 if the state has an
adequate post-deprivation remedy. See Hudson v. Palmer,
468 US 517, 533 (1984). California law provides such an adequate
post-deprivation remedy for deprivations of property. See
Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F3d 813, 816-17 (9th Cir 1994) (citing
Cal Gov't Code §§ 810-895). Plaintiff's allegations accordingly
fail to state a due process claim cognizable under § 1983. See id
Plaintiff's allegation that the deprivation of his legal
property has left three of his pending court actions in "legal
limbo" fails to state a claim for denial of access to the courts.
It is now well established that the right of access to the courts
is limited to the initiation of a court action. The state is not
required to enable a prisoner to discover grievances or to
litigate effectively once in court. See Lewis v. Casey,
518 US 343, 354 (1996). Finally, plaintiff's disagreement with the Santa Clara County
Board of Supervisors' rejection of his claim fails to state a
constitutional violation under § 1983. At most, plaintiff's
allegations that the board ignored its "duty" may state a claim
for negligence in state court. But such a claim is not cognizable
in federal court under § 1983. See County of Sacramento v.
Lewis, 523 US 833, 849 (1998) (Constitution does not guarantee
due care on the part of state officials; liability for
negligently inflicted harm is categorically beneath the threshold
of constitutional due process).
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's request to proceed in
forma pauperis is DENIED and the complaint is DISMISSED without
prejudice to seeking relief in the state courts.
The clerk shall close the file and terminate all pending
motions as moot. No fee is due.
[EDITORS' NOTE: THIS PAGE CONTAINED "CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE".] JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
() Jury Verdict. This action came before the Court for a
trial by jury. The issues have been tried and the jury has
rendered its verdict.
(X) Decision by Court. This action came to trial or hearing
before the Court. The issues have been tried or heard and a
decision has been rendered.
IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that this action is DISMISSED