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ARIAS-MALDONADO v. COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA

United States District Court, N.D. California


August 17, 2004.

JAIME ARIAS-MALDONADO, Plaintiff(s),
v.
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.

  DISCUSSION

  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 1990).

  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 at 817.*fn1

  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).

  CONCLUSION

  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.

  SO ORDERED.

 [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 without prejudice.


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