IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
March 24, 2011
FERNANDO ARANDA, PLAINTIFF,
R. SCICLUNA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff commenced this action on August 13, 2010, in the Sacramento County Superior Court. On November 12, 2010, defendants Miner, Scicluna, and Vandusseldorp removed this action to federal court and requested that the court screen plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and grant them thirty days from the date of the court's screening order to file a response to the complaint.*fn1
Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).
A district court must construe a pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). While detailed factual allegations are not required, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 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 to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.
Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). Although legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations, and are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950.
The complaint names R. Scicluna, M. Vandusseldporp, Larusso, Elizabeth Meyers, and E. Miner as defendants. While it is difficult to make sense of the complaint, it appears to allege that Meyers, along with the other defendants, have conspired to use "electronic speakers and video cameras to incessantly bombard plaintiff's mind with abusive words," such as "rapist," "child molester," and "pedophile." Compl. at 6, 17.*fn2 Plaintiff claims this has resulted in "prison inmates collaborating with prison officials" to threaten to murder plaintiff and poison his coffee.
Id. at 7, 12-13, 18. Plaintiff claims that defendants are trying "to produce physical effects upon plaintiff's human body to fraudulently promote allegations of crimes against plaintiff, via state trade secrets." Id. at 18. As explained below, and as plaintiff has previously been informed, these allegations are insufficient to state cognizable claims of conspiracy or Fourth Amendment violations. The court will therefore recommend that these claims be dismissed without leave to amend.
In his complaint, and in his objections to removal, plaintiff references an earlier civil action that he filed in this district. Id. at 31 (referencing Case No. Civ. S-07-2211 FCD DAD); Dckt. No. 5. The court has reviewed the docket in the earlier action, and finds that the allegations in the instant complaint are largely duplicative of the allegations in the earlier action.*fn3
The earlier action was dismissed for failure to state a claim. Aranda v. Meyers, No. Civ. 2:07-2211 FCD DAD ("Aranda"), Dckt. Nos. 5, 11 (dismissing action after § 1915A(a) screening for failure to state a cognizable federal claim and without prejudice to refiling state law claims in state court). In screening the complaint filed in the earlier action, the court found:
Plaintiff is incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison. In his complaint he alleges that defendant Detective Elizabeth Meyers of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and Doe defendants employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have conspired to "target" plaintiff and have "engaged in observing and monitoring plaintiff via computer/security system that includes electronic transmitters, speakers and video cameras installed throughout prison structure, collaborating with prison inmates and correctional officers." (Compl. at 5.) Plaintiff raised this same claim in a complaint filed on April 30, 2007 in Aranda v. Meyers, et al., CIV S-07-0805 MCE DAD P. That action was dismissed January 11, 2008 because plaintiff failed to state a cognizable conspiracy claim.
Plaintiff has previously been informed that in order to establish the existence of a conspiracy, he must allege facts demonstrating that there was an agreement between defendants to violate his constitutional rights. See Woodrum v. Woodward County, 866 F.2d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 1989); Fonda v. Gray, 707 F.2d 435, 438 (9th Cir. 1983). To state a cognizable conspiracy claim the complaint must also allege facts demonstrating that each participant in the alleged conspiracy shared the general conspiratorial objective. See Fonda, 707 F.2d at 438; see also Margolis v. Ryan, 140 F.3d 850, 853 (9th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff has not cured the deficiencies in his complaint in this action. As in his prior civil rights action, plaintiff has failed to provide sufficient factual allegations demonstrating the existence of an agreement among the named defendants and that he has suffered an actual deprivation of his constitutional rights as a result of the alleged conspiracy. Woodrum, 866 F.2d at 1126. Therefore, plaintiff's conspiracy claim concerning defendant Meyers should be dismissed.
Plaintiff also claims that defendants correctional officers Vandusseldorp, Casey, Scioluna, Larusso, and Miner have conspired to engage other prison inmates in the "monitoring and observing [of] plaintiff by promoting, facilitating, commanding, requesting, encouraging, provoking and/or aided and abetted such others to commit crime(s)." (Compl. at 5-6.) Although these allegations are disjointed and, at times, difficult to comprehend, it appears that plaintiff believes that as a result of a conspiracy, inmates have been used to threaten plaintiff, to poison his coffee, and to falsely accuse him of being a child molester. (Id. at 6-13.) As in his other civil rights action filed in this court and referred to above, the court finds that plaintiff is "postulating events and circumstances of a wholly fanciful kind." Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1228. In addition, plaintiff has not provided factual allegations demonstrating the existence of an agreement among the named defendants, or that those defendants encouraged or used other inmates to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights. Lastly, the objective of the conspiracy, which plaintiff contends was to monitor and observe him, fails to state an unlawful objective which violates plaintiff's constitutional rights.
The court notes that in his complaint plaintiff has referred to the "doctrine of pendent jurisdiction" without further explanation regarding any claims based on state law that he is attempting to pursue. (Compl. at 17.) To the extent that plaintiff may be seeking relief based on state law, the district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim "if the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). See also Binder v. Gillespie, 184 F.3d 1059, 1066 (9th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1154 (2000) (citing Fang v. United States, 140 F.3d 1238, 1241 (9th Cir. 1998) and Voight v. Savell, 70 F.3d 1552, 1565 (9th Cir. 1995)). If these findings and recommendations are adopted, the federal claims over which this court has original jurisdiction will be dismissed and thus the balance of relevant factors points toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims. See Gini v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dep't, 40 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 1994); Imagineering, Inc. v. Kiewit Pac. Co., 976 F.2d 1303, 1309 (9th Cir. 1992). Therefore, the undersigned will also recommend that plaintiff's state law claim be dismissed without prejudice to its refiling in state court.
Aranda, Dckt. No. 5 (footnote omitted). After the court dismissed his action and judgment was entered, plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Id.,Dckt. No. 13. In a memorandum decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court, finding:
The district court properly dismissed the surveillance claim because Aranda's allegations regarding the prison's use of electronic surveillance do not state a Fourth Amendment claim. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 527-28 (1984) ("A right of privacy in traditional Fourth Amendment terms is fundamentally incompatible with the close and continual surveillance of inmates and their cells required to ensure institutional security and internal order.").
The district court properly dismissed the conspiracy claim because Aranda's allegations do not indicate that the defendant correctional officers conspired to poison Aranda's coffee, threaten him, or falsely accuse him of being a child molester. See Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir. 2004) ("[T]he court [is not] required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
The district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state-law claims after properly dismissing the federal claims. See Bryant v. Adventist Health Sys./West, 289 F.3d 1162, 1169 (9th Cir. 2002).
Id., Dckt. No. 17.
In this new action, plaintiff fails to cure the same deficiencies. His instant complaint repeats the same flaws that have previously been identified for him by both this court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court finds that plaintiff's complaint fails to state any valid claims arising under federal law. After several attempts, plaintiff appears to be unable to correct the deficiencies in his allegations. The court therefore recommends that plaintiff's claims purportedly arising under federal law be dismissed without leave to amend. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (district courts must afford pro se litigants an opportunity to amend to correct any deficiency in their complaints unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts).
To the extent any state law claims remain, it is within the court's discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. Carlsbad Tech., Inc. v. HIF BIO, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 1862, 1866-67 (2009); Albingia Versicherungs A.G. v. Schenker Int'l Inc., 344 F3d 931, 936 (9th Cir. 2003); 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) ("The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if . . . the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction . . . .)." "[I]n the usual case in which all federal-law claims are eliminated before trial, the balance of factors to be considered under the pendent jurisdiction doctrine-judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity-will point toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims." Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 351 (1988). Indeed, "[n]eedless decisions of state law should be avoided both as a matter of comity and to promote justice between the parties, by procuring for them a surer-footed reading of the applicable law." United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966). Here, because purported federal claims will be eliminated at the pleadings phase, and any remaining claims are state law claims, it is in the interests of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity to remand any remaining claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk shall randomly assign a United States District Judge to this case.
Further, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that:
1. All claims purportedly arising under federal law be dismissed without leave to amend. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A;
2. Any remaining claims arising under state law be remanded to the Sacramento County Superior Court.
3. The Clerk be directed to close this case.
These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Turner v. Duncan, 158 F.3d 449, 455 (9th Cir. 1998); Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).