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William J. Brainard v. Christopher W. Boyd

July 20, 2011

WILLIAM J. BRAINARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHRISTOPHER W. BOYD, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, William Brainard, proceeding in this matter pro se and in forma pauperis, has filed an amended complaint. This matter was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court is required to dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the plaintiff's allegations of poverty is untrue or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co.v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows: A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . . , (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

The court find the allegations in plaintiff's amended complaint still too vague and conclusory to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claims and must allege facts that state the elements of each claim plainly and succinctly. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertions' devoid of 'further factual enhancements.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S.---, ---, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). A plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which the defendants engaged in that support the plaintiff's claims. Jones, 733 F.2d at 649. A complaint must also contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction" and "a demand for the relief sought." Fed.R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1) & 8(a)(3).

Here, plaintiff's amended complaint is deficient in several respects. First, the allegations found in plaintiff's amended complaint fail to reveal the nature of defendants' alleged wrongful conduct. It appears from a reading of the amended complaint that on January 20, 2011 plaintiff was pulled over by officer E. Miller while driving in the City of Citrus Heights, California, because plaintiff was not wearing his seatbelt. When officer Miller asked plaintiff for his California Driver's License, plaintiff produced only his California Identification Card. Officer Miller subsequently learned that plaintiff's California Driver's License was suspended. (Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 4) at 3-4.)

Plaintiff's amended complaint is practically undecipherable. He alleges that defendant police officer Miller "knowing it unlawful to . . . make any false or fraudulent statement . . . imposed the minimum sentence; '24 hours deprivation of property by impound.'" (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff's alleges that his vehicle was then towed by College Oak Towing, an agent of "defendant Little." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he then proceeded to the office of the Chief of Police, where he was informed by "defendant Boyd" that "if a cash payment of eighty dollars was not tendered by plaintiff to his office the release order would not issue for plaintiff's property."*fn1

As a result of these events plaintiff claims that he: was physically and emotionally exhausted from the contempt he received and endured by seizure of private property; arrest; adjudication; punishment and imposition of sentence upon plaintiff under the color of state law.(Id. at 6.)

Notwithstanding plaintiff's alleged exhaustion, it is entirely unclear what wrongful acts plaintiff is attempting to allege that the defendants engaged in that would support a claim for relief. While plaintiff has asser ted a number of claims, the amended complaint does not indicate how any of those claims are supported by the actions of any defendant. Simply stated, it is not apparent from a reading of plaintiff's amended complaint what plaintiff is alleging that the defendants did that was unlawful.

Second, plaintiff's amended complaint alleges in a conclusory manner that the defendants violated his "rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments . . . including but not limited to" the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to due process of law, the right to be free from the excessive use of force, and the right to be free from false arrest. (Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 4.) at 11.)

A litigant who complains of a violation of a constitutional right does not have a cause of action directly under the United States Constitution. Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994) (affirming that it is 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation of rights secured by the United States Constitution); Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 617 (1979) (explaining that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was enacted to create a private cause of action for violations of the United States Constitution); Azul-Pacifico, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 973 F.2d 704, 705 (9th Cir. 1992) ("Plaintiff has no cause of action directly under the United States Constitution.").

Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that,

[e]very person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of ยง 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is ...


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