IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
April 29, 2009
CHARLES G. REECE, PLAINTIFF,
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 72-302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.
Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff has been without funds for six months and is currently without funds. Accordingly, the court will not assess an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff is obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments shall be collected and forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2).
A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.
A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 1216, pp. 235-235 (3d ed. 2004). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that he is one of a class of prisoners, those who are indigent, against whom a future anticipated regulatory subsection will discriminate in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Plaintiff states that this future regulation will also violate indigent prisoners' right of access to the courts by limiting the number of pages of a petition (or any legal document) to be copied to 50 pages. Plaintiff alleges that he cannot exhaust administrative remedies as to this claim because the regulation, CAL. CODE REGS. tit.xv, § 3162(c), is as yet unimplemented. Plaintiff asks the court to enjoin defendant
Matthew Cate to repeal the adopted subsection and keep it from being implemented. Plaintiff also alleges that a putative provision of the newly adopted subsection that may permit indigent prisoners to copy additional pages if they can demonstrate to the librarian that they are necessary to the petition also violates his right to access the courts. Complaint, pp. 2-46.
The court's own research confirms that § 3162 currently only has subsections (a) and (b). The court will not address the merits of this claim because plaintiff has a threshold obstacle. The claim is not yet ripe. Texas v. U.S., 523 U.S. 296, 300, 118 S.Ct. 1257, 1259 (1998), quoting Thomas v. Union Carbide Agricultural Products Co., 473 U.S. 568, 580-581, 105 S.Ct. 3325, 3333 (1985)(internal citation omitted)(claim "not ripe for adjudication if it rests upon 'contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or may not occur at all.'") Although plaintiff contends that subsection (c) has been adopted, he concedes that it has not yet been implemented. The court has no way to determine the final form of the anticipated provision until such time as it is formally a part of the regulation at issue. The court will dismiss the complaint but plaintiff will be granted leave to amend to further detail the facts regarding implementation.
Plaintiff is informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. Local Rule 15-220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in an amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.
In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.
2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. The fee shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.
3. The complaint is dismissed for the reasons discussed above, with leave to file an amended complaint within thirty days from the date of service of this order. Failure to file an amended complaint will result in a recommendation that the action be dismissed.
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