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Trice v. Modesto City Police Dep't

January 13, 2009

KEVIN LAQUAN TRICE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MODESTO CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT NO LATER THAN THIRTY DAYS AFTER THE DATE OF SERVICE OF THIS ORDER (DOC. 1) ORDER DIRECTING THE CLERK TO SEND TO PLAINTIFF A CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT FORM FOR A PERSON IN CUSTODY

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se with an action for damages and other relief concerning alleged civil rights violations. The matter has been referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rules 72-302 and 72-304. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and his complaint, both filed on December 9, 2008.

I. Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has made the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff is obligated to make monthly payments in the amount of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to Plaintiff's trust account.

II. Directions to the Department of Corrections

The California Department of Corrections is required to send to the Clerk of the Court payments from Plaintiff's account each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00, until the statutory filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

III. Screening the Complaint

A. Legal Standards

The Court must screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the Court determines that an allegation of poverty is untrue or that the action is 1) frivolous or malicious, 2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2). "Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989).

Although a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff does not meet his or her obligation to provide the grounds of entitlement to relief by supplying only conclusions, labels, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a claim. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). Factual allegations must be sufficient, when viewed in light of common experience, to raise a right to relief above the speculative level and to provide plausible grounds to suggest and infer the element, or to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the required element. Bell, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the Court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations of the complaint, and it may not be dismissed based on a court's assessment that the plaintiff will fail to find evidence to support the allegations or prove the claim to the satisfaction of the finder of fact. Bell, 127 S.Ct. at 1969.

If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend should be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Dismissal of a pro se complaint for failure to state a claim is proper only where it is obvious that the Plaintiff cannot prevail on the facts that he has alleged and that an opportunity to amend would be futile. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d at 1128.

A claim is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). A frivolous claim is based on an inarguable legal conclusion or a fanciful factual allegation. Id. A federal court may dismiss a claim as frivolous if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or if the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id.

The test for malice is a subjective one that requires the Court to determine whether the applicant is proceeding in good faith. Kinney v. Plymouth Rock Squab. Co., 236 U.S. 43, 46 (1915); see Wright v. Newsome, 795 F.2d 964, 968 n. 1 (11th Cir. 1986). A lack of good faith is most commonly found in repetitive suits filed by plaintiffs who have used the advantage of cost-free filing to file a multiplicity of suits. A complaint may be inferred to be malicious if it suggests an intent to vex the defendants or abuse the judicial process by relitigating claims decided in prior cases, Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1309 (D.C.Cir. 1981); if it threatens violence or contains disrespectful references to the Court, id.; or if it contains untrue material allegations of fact or false statements made with knowledge and an intent to deceive the Court, Horsey v. Asher, 741 F.2d 209, 212 (8th Cir. 1984).

B. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is serving a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Jose Ruiz, committed in the course of a robbery of the victim's home in Modesto early March 2002. (Cmplt. pp. 21, Doc. 1-2 p. 55.) In a twenty-seven page complaint followed by approximately 175 additional pages of exhibits, Plaintiff sues the Modesto Police Department as well as the Chief of Police and individual officers thereof, and the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office and two deputy district attorneys, seeking damages and declaratory relief (impeachment and/or fining of officers) with respect to alleged civil rights violations occurring in the course of the investigation of the murder and Plaintiff's arrest and detention as well as alleged errors in the trial proceedings that resulted in his conviction. Plaintiff's allegations are generally that the police officers and prosecutors acted in concert to arrest and interrogate Plaintiff and charge and convict him of the crime unlawfully based on false or fraudulent evidence.

C. Civil Rights Violations

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must plead that defendants acted under color of state law at the time the act complained of was committed and that the defendants deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir. 1986).

Further, the statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, 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 complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

D. Heck v. Humphrey

Although Plaintiff alleges that he was convicted, he does not allege that his conviction has been reversed or otherwise invalidated.

The allegations of the complaint are disorganized, conclusional, and uncertain in some respects, but Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and subjected to a search without probable cause at a time when Plaintiff had suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach and was being transported to and treated in a hospital for the wound; Defendant police officers thereby violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures. (Cmplt. pp. 4.) Plaintiff alleges in a conclusional fashion that the Defendants engaged in a conspiracy based on their employment. (Cmplt. pp. 11-13.) It appears that the gist of Plaintiff's complaint is that ...


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