Matthew Alan Lawrie, an inmate confined at the California Substance Abuse Training Facility in Corcoran, California, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and is before the undersigned pursuant to plaintiff's consent. See E.D. Cal. Local Rules, Appx. A, at (k)(4).
I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Plaintiff has requested leave to proceedin forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Dckt. No. 2. Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court shall review "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). "On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) 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 Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides: Every 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 . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . . 42 U.S.C. § 1983. An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim unless the facts establish the defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978)
The court has reviewed plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and finds it does not state a cognizable claim. The gist of plaintiff's complaint is his claim that Article II, § 4 of the California Constitution, which disenfranchises incarcerated or on-parole felons, violates the federal Constitution and Voting Rights Act. For the reasons that follow, the court concludes that the complaint fails to state a claim.
Construed liberally, the complaint alleges that California's felon disenfranchisement law violates § 2 of the Voting Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1973) and numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution: (1) the 15th Amendment; (2) the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, § 2; (3) the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment; (4) the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment; and (5) the First Amendment. The court will address each claim in turn.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits states and their political subdivisions from imposing voting qualifications, prerequisites, standards, practices or procedures "which result in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color . . .." 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a). Plaintiff has not alleged that California's felon disenfranchisement law results in a denial or abridgment of his voting rights on account of his race or color. See Farrakhan v. Washington, 338 F.3d 1009, 1016 (9th Cir. 2003) ("Farrakhan I") (holding that a claim that a felon disenfranchisement law resulted in discrimination on the basis of race was cognizable under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act); Farrakhan v. Gregoire, 590 F.3d 989, 997 (9th Cir. 2010) ("Farrakhan II") (same); see also Farrakhan v. Gregoire, 623 F.3d 990, 992-93 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc, per curiam) (expressing skepticism that felon disenfranchisement laws may be challenged using § 2 of the Voting Rights Act despite the holding of Farrakhan I and concluding that, in any event, such claims require a showing "that the criminal justice system is infected by intentional discrimination or that the felon disenfranchisement law was enacted with such intent."). Accordingly, plaintiff has not alleged facts that state a claim under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The 15th Amendment similarly simply bars racial discrimination "in matters having to do with voting." Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 61-62 (1980), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated by Smith v. Salt River Project Agric. Improvement & Power Dist., 109 F.3d 586, 594 n. 5 (9th Cir. 1997). To state a claim for violation of the 15th Amendment, a plaintiff must allege that racial discrimination was a motivating factor in the enactment of the challenged law. Id. Plaintiff has not alleged that California's felon disenfranchisement law discriminates on the basis of race or that racial discrimination was a motivating factor in its enactment. Accordingly, plaintiff has not alleged facts that state a claim under the Fifteenth Amendment.
The Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV has a single purpose -- to bar a state from discriminating against citizens of other states within its jurisdiction without substantial justification. Toomer v. Witsell, 334 U.S. 385, 395 (1948); Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36, 77, 21 L. Ed. 394 (1872). Plaintiff does not allege that California's felon disenfranchisement law discriminates against citizens of other states within California without ...