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VENEGAS v. GIURBINO

October 5, 2005.

SALVADOR VENEGAS, CDC #P-92548, Plaintiff,
v.
G. GIURBINO, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRMA GONZALEZ, District Judge

ORDER:
(1) GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS, IMPOSING NO INITIAL PARTIAL FILING FEE, GARNISHING $250 FROM PRISONER'S TRUST ACCOUNT [Doc. Nos. 2, 3];
(2) SUA SPONTE DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b)
Plaintiff, Salvador Venegas, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Centinela State Prison ("Centinela") and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has not prepaid the $250 filing fee mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); instead, he has filed two Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [Doc. Nos. 2, 3]. I. Motions to Proceed IFP [Doc. Nos. 2, 3]

Effective February 7, 2005, all parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $250. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if the plaintiff is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, prisoners granted leave to proceed IFP remain obligated to pay the entire fee in installments, regardless of whether their action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002).

  Section 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), further requires that each prisoner seeking leave to proceed IFP submit a "certified copy of [his] trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) . . . for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Using these certified trust account statements, the Court must assess an initial payment of 20% of (a) the average monthly deposit, or (b) the average monthly balance in the account for the past six months, whichever is greater, and collect that amount as the prisoner's initial partial filing fee, unless he has no current assets with which to pay. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850. Thereafter, the institution having custody of the prisoner must collect subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which his account exceeds $10, and forward those payments to the Court until the entire filing fee is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 847.

  The Court finds that Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit that complies with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) [Doc. Nos. 2, 3] as well as a certified copy of his prison trust account statement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and Civil Local Rule 3.2. Plaintiff's trust account statement shows an average monthly balance of zero, and an average monthly deposit of zero for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of his Complaint. In addition, Plaintiff has a negative account balance of $2.72 due to holds. Accordingly, the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's Motions to Proceed IFP [Doc. Nos. 2, 3], and assesses no initial partial filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) (court shall assess initial partial filing fee only "when funds exist"); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) ("In no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action . . . for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee."); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850 (finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) acts as a "safety-valve" preventing dismissal of a prisoner's IFP case based solely on a "failure to pay . . . due to the lack of funds available to him when payment is ordered."). However, Plaintiff is required to pay the full $250 filing fee mandated by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a) and 1915(b)(1), by subjecting any future funds credited to his prison trust account to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

  II. Sua Sponte Screening per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A

  The PLRA also obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program," "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these provisions, the Court must sua sponte dismiss any IFP or prisoner complaint, or any portion thereof, which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or which seeks damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446 (9th Cir. 2000) (§ 1915A).*fn1 Before amendment by the PLRA, the former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) permitted sua sponte dismissal of only frivolous and malicious claims. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126, 1130. An action is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). However 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A now mandate that the court reviewing an IFP or prisoner's suit make and rule on its own motion to dismiss before effecting service of the Complaint by the U.S. Marshal pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 4(c)(2). Id. at 1127 ("[S]ection 1915(e) not only permits, but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim."); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A).

  "[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick, 213 F.3d at 447; Barren, 152 F.3d at 1194 (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). In addition, the Court's duty to liberally construe a pro se's pleadings, see Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988), is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992).

  A. Constitutional Claims

  Section 1983 imposes two essential proof requirements upon a claimant: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

  1. Personal Liability & Causation

  As an initial matter, the Court finds that while Plaintiff names nine Defendants in this matter, he fails to specify what a majority of these Defendants did to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights. However, a person may be said to deprive another "of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, [only] if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which [the plaintiff complains]." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). "Causation is, of course, a required element of a § 1983 claim." Estate of Brooks v. United States, 197 F.3d 1245, 1248 (9th Cir. 1999). "The inquiry into causation must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976)); Berg v. Kincheloe, 794 F.2d 457, 460 (9th Cir. 1986). Section 1983 provides for relief only against those who, through their personal involvement as evidenced by affirmative acts, participation in another's affirmative acts, or failure to perform legally required duties, cause the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutionally protected rights. Johnson, 588 F.2d at 743.

  Thus, to the extent that Plaintiff wishes to state any constitutional claim against any of the individual persons he simply includes on a separate list of Defendants, he must amend his pleading to allege facts which explain what each of these individuals did, or failed to do, and why he believes those acts or omissions amounted a violation of the specific constitutional rights discussed below. Id.; see also Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002) ("In order for a person acting under color of state law to be liable under § 1983, there must be a showing of personal participation in the alleged rights deprivation.").

  2. Eighth Amendment Conditions Claims

  The Eighth Amendment "does not mandate comfortable prisons," and conditions imposed may be "restrictive and even harsh." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 347, 349 (1982). Like failure to protect claims, Eighth Amendment humane conditions of confinement claims also require the prisoner to satisfy two requirements: one objective and one subjective. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 1994). Under the objective requirement, the plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to show that "a prison official's acts or omissions must result in the denial of the `minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347). This objective component is satisfied so long as the institution "furnishes sentenced prisoners with adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety." Hoptowit, 682 F.2d at 1246; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 534; Wright v. Rushen, 642 F.2d 1129, 1132-33 (9th Cir. 1981). The subjective requirement, relating to the defendant's state of mind, requires the plaintiff to allege facts sufficient to show "deliberate indifference." Allen, 48 F.3d at 1087. "Deliberate indifference" in this ...


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