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Lambert v. Martinson

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


October 29, 2010

JAWANTA J. LAMBERT, CDCR #V-42105, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J. MARTINSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING MOTIONS TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) AND 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) AND DISMISSING CIVIL ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR FAILING TO PREPAY FULL CIVIL FILING FEE [Doc. Nos. 2, 3]

Plaintiff, an inmate currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff alleges prison officials at Centinela State Prison violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by using excessive force against him on April 21, 2009, and by failing to properly address his administrative grievances regarding the incident. See Compl. at 3-6.

Plaintiff has not prepaid the $350 filing fee mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); instead, he has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [Doc. No. 2], as well as a Motion for Appointment of Counsel [Doc. No. 3].

I. MOTION TO PROCEED IFP

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 $350. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a party's failure to pay only if the party is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2007); Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). "Under the PLRA [Prison Litigation Reform Act], all prisoners who file IFP civil actions must pay the full amount of the filing fee," regardless of whether the action is ultimately dismissed for any reason. See Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2)).

In order to comply with the PLRA, prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP must also submit a "certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint...." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). From the certified trust account statement, the Court assesses an initial payment of 20% of (a) the average monthly deposits in the account for the past six months, or (b) the average monthly balance in the account for the past six months, whichever is greater, unless the prisoner has no assets. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), (4); see 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 the prisoner's 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).

While Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Proceed IFP in this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), he has not attached a certified copy of his prison trust account statement for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of his Complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. CAL. CIVLR 3.2. Section 1915(a)(2) clearly mandates that prisoners "seeking to bring a civil action ...without prepayment of fees ... shall submit a certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) ... for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) (emphasis added).

Without Plaintiff's trust account statement, the Court is simply unable to assess the appropriate amount of the filing fee which is statutorily required to initiate the prosecution of this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP must be DENIED.

II. MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

Plaintiff has also filed a motion for appointment of counsel in this matter. Generally, there is no right to counsel in a civil action. Palmer v. Valdez, 560 F.3d 965, 970 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Storseth v. Spellman, 654 F.2d 1349, 1353 (9th Cir. 1981)). Under "exceptional circumstances," however, a court may exercise its discretion under another provision of the IFP statute and "request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford counsel." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (emphasis added); Agyeman v. Corrs. Corp. of Am., 390 F.3d 1101, 1103 (9th Cir. 2004) (under "exceptional circumstances" court may appoint counsel for indigent civil litigants).

Here, Plaintiff has been denied IFP status because his failure to provide a certified copy of his prison trust account statement prevents the Court from determining whether he is sufficiently impoverished to justify commencement of a civil action without full payment of the $350 filing fee. Likewise, Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel does not demonstrate that he is "unable to afford counsel" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Nor does it show the "exceptional circumstances" which must exist in order to justify such an appointment. See Palmer, 560 F.3d at 970 (citing Weygandt v. Look, 718 F.2d 952, 954 (9th Cir. 1983); Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1986)).

Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel is DENIED without prejudice.

III. CONCLUSION AND ORDER

For the reasons set forth above, IT IS ORDERED that:

(1) Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP [Doc. No. 2] and Motion for Appointment of Counsel [Doc. No. 3] are DENIED.

(2) This action is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to prepay the $350 filing fee mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).

(3) Plaintiff is GRANTED an additional forty five (45) days from the date this Order is Filed to either: (1) pay the entire $350 filing fee, or (2) file a new Motion to Proceed IFP, which includes a certified copy of his trust account statement for the 6-month period preceding the filing of his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. CAL. CIVLR 3.2(b).

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall provide Plaintiff with a Court-approved form "Motion and Declaration in Support of Motion to Proceed IFP" in this matter. If Plaintiff neither pays the $350 filing fee in full nor sufficiently completes and files the attached Motion to Proceed IFP, together with a certified copy of his prison trust account statement within 45 days, this action shall remained closed without further Order of the Court.*fn1


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