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Sconiers v. Smith

July 13, 2010


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


(Docs. 1, 2, & 3)

Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff Janetta Sconiers filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and simultaneously moved for an orders appointing counsel and directing the Clerk of Court to issue summonses. This matter has been referred to a 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 and Factual Background

Plaintiff's complaint in this action is yet another chapter in her ongoing battle with her siblings and other heirs over the estate of Plaintiff's mother, Rosie Lee Sconiers. Plaintiff's first complaint in this series, filed September 2, 2008, was Janetta Sconiers v. Clarence Whitmore, Sr. (1:08-cv-01288-LJO-SMS) ("Sconiers I"). Following screening which revealed various legal deficiencies in Plaintiff's complaint in Sconiers I, 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.

Although none of Plaintiff's cases clearly alleges it, the probate dispute appears to have been tried in Fresno County Superior Court in or about September 2009. In both federal actions, Plaintiff alleged that the California court denied her the right to file many legal documents at about the same time as the trial appears to have been underway and contended that rulings by the probate judge and decisions of the probate clerk violated the United States Constitution and constituted torts under California law. Although Plaintiff refers to herself as having been labeled a vexatious litigant, she does not allege the timing or circumstances of the state court's order declaring her a vexatious litigant. Apparently, the probate case was appealed to the California Court of Appeal, which remanded certain matters, also not clearly alleged in Plaintiff's complaint, to the probate court.

While the appeal of Sconiers I was still pending, Plaintiff filed a second complaint, Sconiers v. Whitmore (1:09-cv-02168-OWW-SKO) ("Sconiers II), on December 14, 2009, re-alleging many of her claims against Rosie Lee Sconier's heirs and alleging civil rights violations against various state court personnel and attorneys involved in the underlying probate action.

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).

The District Court dismissed Sconiers II with prejudice on April 21, 2010, concluding that the federal courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to interfere in an ongoing action in state probate court. On May 21, 2010, Plaintiff filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Plaintiff filed this action ("Sconiers III") on June 23, 2010, alleging various violations of the United States Constitution and of state tort law arising out of the underlying probate action. She named as defendants state judges (M. Bruce Smith, Donald S. Black, Hilliary Chittick, Don Penner, W. Kent Hamlin, Deborah Kazanjian, and James Ardiaz), judicial council members (Ronald M. George and William C. Vickrey), the Clerk of the California Superior Court for Fresno County (Tamara Beard), lawyers and law firms (Coleman & Horowitt, William Coleman, Darryl Horowitt, Bonnie Anderson, Steven R. Hrdlicka, the Law Firm of Steven R. ...

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