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Sconiers v. Whitmore

March 4, 2010


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


Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff Janetta Sconiers moves for an order directing the Clerk of Court to issue summonses relating to the complaint in this action. This matter has been referred to the magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rules 72-302 and 72-304. Because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the issues raised in the complaint, the undersigned recommends that the Court dismiss this case with prejudice.

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff's complaint in this action is substantially similar to her previous complaint, filed September 2, 2008, Janetta Sconiers v. Clarence Whitmore, Sr. (1:08-cv-01288-LJO-SMS) ("Sconiers I"), and understanding its disposition is essential in properly evaluating the instant complaint. Following screening which revealed various legal deficiencies in Plaintiff's complaint, this Court filed findings and recommendations on December 1, 2008, recommending that the District Court dismiss the complaint in part without leave to amend and in part with leave to amend. Plaintiff was granted thirty days to file objections to the findings and recommendations.

On February 3, 2009, Plaintiff filed a document entitled "Objections to Magistrate Judge Findings and Recommendations," in which she moved for leave to file an amended complaint, for a temporary restraining order, for a writ of mandate, and for an order to show cause re: preliminary injunction. Thereafter, without having received permission to amend, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order.

On February 10, 2009, the District Court denied Plaintiff's motion to file an amended complaint, instead adopting the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, which permitted Plaintiff to file an amended complaint within thirty days, but only in compliance with the findings and recommendations, including the dismissal of certain claims without leave to amend. Plaintiff did not file a complying amended complaint, but instead, on March 5, 2009, appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On March 19, 2009, the magistrate judge filed findings and recommendations recommending that the action be dismissed for Plaintiff's failure to follow a court order, to file an amended complaint, and to prosecute the case. On April 16, 2009, the district court adopted the findings and recommendations, and dismissed the case without leave to amend. The clerk entered a judgment of dismissal. Thereafter, the district court was advised that Plaintiff had filed objections to the findings and recommendations and had again attempted to file an amended complaint on April 14, 2009. Accordingly, on April 17, 2009, the district court issued an addendum to its order adopting the findings and recommendations in which it found that Plaintiff's attempt to file an amended complaint was untimely and reaffirmed its dismissal order. While her appeal was still pending, Plaintiff filed this complaint on December 14, 2009.

On January 21, 2010, the Ninth Circuit summarily affirmed the district court's judgment in Sconiers I, stating "A review of the record and response to the order to show cause indicates that the questions raised in this appeal are so insubstantial as not to require further argument." Sconiers v. Whitmore at *1 (9th Cir. January 21, 2010)(No. 09-16041).

II. Screening

The December 2009 complaint again seeks damages and other relief for alleged civil rights violations arising from a family probate dispute. The new complaint is 98 pages long and names 25 defendants as well as fifty "John Does." In light of its substantial similarity to the complaint in the 2008 action, as well as the appeal then pending before the Ninth Circuit, the complaint in was referred to this Court for review.*fn1

A court has inherent power to control its docket and the disposition of its cases with economy of time and effort for both the court and the parties. Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936); Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1260 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 915 (1992). In light of Plaintiff's pro se status and the complaint's similarity to the dismissed 2008 complaint, prior to ordering service on the many defendants named in this case, this Court screened Plaintiff's complaint to determine whether it alleged cognizable claims.

III. Pleading Standards

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies here. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). 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. Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Plaintiff must set forth sufficient factual matter accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Although accepted as true, "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555 (citations omitted). A plaintiff must set forth "the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 555-56 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To adequately ...

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