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Robert Louis Watkins v. Jamie Pope

August 5, 2011

ROBERT LOUIS WATKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMIE POPE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, Robert Watkins, is proceeding in this action pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 against the California Public Employees Retirement System, ("CALPERS"), and an individual named Jamie Pope. The case was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court must dismiss the complaint at any time if the court determines that the pleading is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a complaint as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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).

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.

Here, in his amended complaint plaintiff alleges that the defendants discriminated against him based on his race. In this regard, plaintiff alleges that:

Plaintiff Watkins has been employee (sic) for 17 years and is currently eligible for retirement as he has attained the age of 50. He sought an accounting, and information as to the process for retiring with a pension. After his requests for information on his account, and retirement by mail did not produce a response, he went in person to CALPERS. [Defendant] Pope said they could not help him, and that he was to leave immediately, or police would remove him from the premises. The confrontation caused him to have a heart attack which resulted in transport by ambulance to Mercy General.*fn1

(Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 12) at 2.) Plaintiff states that this action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and that he seeks "to redress the deprivation of civil rights arising under the Constitution of the United States." (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff's amended complaint, however, is deficient in several respects.

First, § 1981 is not "a general proscription of racial discrimination . . . it expressly prohibits discrimination only in the making and enforcement of contracts." Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164, 176 (1989). See also Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, 791 (1966) ("The legislative history of the 1866 Act clearly indicates that Congress intended to protect a limited category of rights").

In this respect, [§ 1981] prohibits discrimination that infects the legal process in ways that prevent one from enforcing contract rights, by reason of his or her race, and this is so whether this discrimination is attributed to a statute or simply to existing practices. It also covers wholly private efforts to impede access to the courts or obstruct non-judicial methods of adjudicating disputes about the force of binding obligations, as well as discrimination by private entities, such as labor unions, in enforcing the terms of a contract.

Patterson, 491 U.S. at 177. "Any claim brought under § 1981, therefore, must initially identify an impaired 'contractual relationship,' § 1981(b), under which the plaintiff has rights." Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 476 (2006). "[A] plaintiff cannot state a claim under § 1981 unless he has (or would have) rights under the existing (or proposed) contract that he wishes 'to make and enforce.'" (Id. at 479-80.)

Here, plaintiff's amended complaint is devoid of any allegations regarding a contractual relationship between the parties.

Second, 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. ยง 1983 was enacted to create a private cause of action for violations of the United States Constitution); Azul-Pacifico, ...


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