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Janetta Sconiers v. Fresno County Superior Court

November 23, 2011

JANETTA SCONIERS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRESNO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING THAT COMPLAINT BE DISMISSED FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH COURT RULES (Doc. 51)

On October 21, 2011, the Court entered an order, returnable on November 16, 2011, requiring Plaintiff to show cause why the complaint in this matter should not be dismissed for failure to comply with F.R.Civ.P. 8 and 11, and sanctions imposed. Neither Plaintiff nor her counsel having appeared, and having reviewed the record and applicable law, the undersigned recommends that the complaint be dismissed.

I. Procedural and Factual Background

On January 20, 2011, Plaintiff Janetta Sconiers, ostensibly by her attorney, Ralston Courtney, filed a 569-page complaint alleging 128 causes of action against approximately 73 named defendants and 50 John Doe defendants. She paid the filing fee. In addition to its excessive length and verbosity, the complaint appeared to name as defendants numerous individuals absolutely exempt from federal court process and to raise numerous previously adjudicated claims. On January 24, 2011, this Court struck Plaintiff's complaint for the failure of Plaintiff's counsel to sign the complaint, noting:

Should Plaintiff and Attorney Courtney elect to sign and re-file the complaint at a later date, they are directed to review carefully the representations that an attorney or unrepresented plaintiff make to the Court by signing a complaint (F.R.Civ.P. 11(b)) and the potential sanctions for misrepresentations to the Court (F.R.Civ.P. 11(c)). Plaintiff and Attorney Courtney may also wish to review and carefully consider F.R.Civ.P. 8(a), which requires that a complaint include short and plain statements setting forth the grounds for the Court's jurisdiction and short and plain statements of the claim showing that the Plaintiff is entitled to relief. "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." F.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).

Doc. 5.

On March 4, 2011, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. In response, on March 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed the same complaint, purportedly signed by counsel. Plaintiff added a verification:

I, Janetta Sconiers, am the PLAINTIFF in this proceeding. I have read the foregoing complaint and know its contents. The facts stated herein are true and are within my personal knowledge.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct and that this Verification was executed on MARCH 7, 2011 at Fresno, California. /s/ JANETTA SCONIERS JANETTA SCONIERS, DECLARANT On the same date, Plaintiff filed a motion to disqualify Hon. Lawrence J. O'Neill, Hon. Anthony W. Ishii, and Hon. Oliver W. Wanger from hearing the complaint. Plaintiff charged the judges with defamation, failure to comply with their statutory duties, breach of fiduciary duty, and RICO violations, and demanded various damages and equitable relief; a motion to disqualify all judges of the Eastern District of California from hearing the complaints in which she charged the judges with defamation, failure to comply with their statutory duties, breach of fiduciary duty, and RICO violations, and demanded various damages and equitable relief; and a motion demanding the immediate issuance of summonses in this action. On March 11, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion to continue the order to show cause pending issuance of summonses.

On March 14, 2011, the Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's motion for a continuance and entered an order to show cause why the case should not be dismissed and sanctions imposed for failure to comply with Rules 8 and 11. The order was returnable March 30, 2011. On March 21, 2011, Plaintiff appealed the Court's order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and moved to stay the District Court's action pending the outcome of her appeal. Plaintiff again moved for a stay of March 22, 2011. On March 25, 2011, Plaintiff filed a notice of interlocutory appeal, motion to proceed in forma pauperis, and a motion to stay the District Court proceedings pending the outcome of her appeal. On March 28, 2011, the Court stayed proceedings pending appeal.

On June 1, 2011, after the Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal for Plaintiff's failure to respond to a court order, this Court again issued an order to show cause, returnable July 29, 2011. In response, on July 4, 2011, Plaintiff filed two "motions for more definite statement," a motion demanding issuance of summonses, and a motion to disqualify all district judges and magistrate judges in the Eastern District. On July 21, 2011, Plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction to stay the hearing of the order to show cause. On July 25, 2011, Plaintiff again filed an interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit and a motion to stay district court proceedings pending the outcome of her appeal. On July 26, 2011, the Magistrate Judge entered an order staying district court proceedings. On July 27, 2011, the District Judge entered an order denying Plaintiff's request to appeal in forma pauperis. On October 17, 2011, the Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

On October 20, 2011, the Magistrate Judge lifted the stay and entered an order denying Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction barring the July 29, 2011 hearing as moot. The next day, Plaintiff filed "objections to the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations," which challenged the Magistrate Judge's orders of March 14 (Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Continuance of Order to Show Cause Why Complaint Should Not Be Dismissed for Failure to Prosecute) (Doc. 13); March 28 (Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion For Stay Pending Appeal) (Doc. 26); July 26 (Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion For Stay Pending Appeal) (Doc. 39); and October 20, 2011 (Order Lifting Stay Following Dismissal by United States Court of Appeals) (Doc. 46) and (Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction as Moot) (Doc. 47). In an October 21, 2011 order denying the motion, which he characterized as a motion for reconsideration, the District Judge observed that Plaintiff's reason for focusing on these particular motions had no apparent purpose other than to challenge the authority of the Court. He noted that two of the motions granted a stay requested by Plaintiff herself; one lifted a stay when the appeal that formed the basis for the stay was dismissed. Two were "housekeeping motions": one addressing Plaintiff's failure to amend her complaint within a reasonable period of time after the Court struck the original complaint, and one clearing motions for preliminary injunctions that had become moot during the pendency of Plaintiff's second interlocutory appeal.

In her October 21, 2011 order denying Plaintiff's "motions for a more definite statement," the Magistrate Judge also recognized Plaintiff's compulsion to repeatedly defy the Court's authority, noting that the two inappropriately named motions challenged the Court's authority to require Plaintiff's pleadings to conform to Rules 8 and 11. Also on October 21, 2011, the Magistrate Judge again entered an order to show cause, returnable November 16, 2011.

On October 27, 2011, Plaintiff twice filed a motion for reconsideration of her objections to the "magistrate judge's findings and recommendations that is disguised as an order dated October 21, 2011."*fn1 The District Judge struck both motions on October 28, 2011, characterizing them as frivolous, abusing judicial process, lacking good faith, and intended to vex defendants and the Court. The Judge warned Plaintiff that he would strike any additional filings made before the November 16, 2011 hearing on the order to show cause. On October 31, 2011, Plaintiff again appealed to the Ninth Circuit and filed in this Court a motion creatively entitled "Motion Notice of Amended Docketing Statement." The District Judge struck the motion notice on November 1, 2011.

On November 14, 2011, Plaintiff filed a notice in which she attempted to substitute herself as attorney in lieu of Courtney. The Court recharacterized the motion as the appropriate motion to withdraw as attorney and scheduled a hearing date in January 2012.

On November 15, 2011, the Ninth Circuit denied Plaintiff's "motion for reconsideration," adding, "No further filings shall be accepted in this closed case." Doc. 65.

Neither Plaintiff nor Courtney appeared at the hearing on the order to show cause convened on November 16, 2011.

II. Plaintiff's Prior Litigation

Plaintiff has filed civil rights claims in this court since at least 1989.*fn2 See Sconiers v. U.S. Postal Service (1:89-cv-00796-OWW). She has also frequently filed lawsuits in California state court.

On January 4, 2000, the Fresno County Superior Court declared Plaintiff a vexatious litigant in Sconiers v. Fresno Unified School Dist. (Fresno County Superior Court, No. 6433106). See Administrative Office of the Courts, Vexatious Litigants List, www.courts.ca.gov/12272.htm (November 1, 2011). See also Sconiers v. Fresno Unified School District, 2002 WL 31723098 (Cal.App., 5th App. Dist., December 5, 2002) (No. F038261). The vexatious litigant classification included a prefiling order. Sconiers v. McGlothin, 2006 WL 2130118 at *5 (Cal.App., 5th Dist. August 1, 2006) (No.F047446). Plaintiff continues to be classified as a vexatious litigant in California Courts. Vexatious Litigants List.

Beginning in or about 2006, as Plaintiff exhausted the state appeals in Fresno Unified School District and McGlothin, the frequency and complexity of her federal civil rights claims increased. Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff began repeatedly advancing the same claims against the same defendants. The complaint at issue in this case incorporates defendants and claims previously set forth in seven prior federal cases. Awareness of Plaintiff's prior litigation is essential to understanding the frivolity and malice embodied in the complaint that is the subject of these findings and recommendations.

A. The Probate Cases

1. Sconiers v. Whitmore, et al. (1:08-cv-01288-LJO-SMS) ("Whitmore I")

In Whitmore I, Plaintiff alleged constitutional violations in state probate court's administration of the contested distribution of the estate of Plaintiff's mother, Rosie Sconiers. She also alleged claims pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Fair Housing Act, and numerous pendant state claims.

On December 1, 2008, the Magistrate Judge filed findings and recommendations recommending that certain claims be dismissed without right to amend, certain claims be dismissed with right to amend, and certain claims be permitted to be restated in an amended complaint. Within the period for objections to the findings and recommendations, Plaintiff filed objections, numerous other motions, and an amended complaint that did not comply with the Magistrate Judge's recommendations.

On February 5, 2009, the District Judge adopted the findings and recommendations, denied Plaintiff's motion to amend, and struck the amended complaint that Plaintiff filed during the objections period. His order provided that, within 30 days, Plaintiff could file an amended complaint in accordance with the provisions of the findings and recommendations. The order reminded Plaintiff that, as a pro se litigant, her pleadings would remain subject to screening.

Instead of amending the complaint, Plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit. On March 19, 2009, in light of Plaintiff's failure to amend her complaint in accordance with the February 5, 2009 order, the Magistrate Judge filed findings and recommendations recommending that the case be dismissed for failure to follow a court order. Plaintiff filed objections and lodged another amended complaint on April 14, 2009.

The District Judge adopted the findings and recommendations, dismissing the action without leave to amend on April 16, 2009. On April 17, 2009, he sua sponte filed an addendum emphasizing the Court's interests in promoting judicial economy and in managing its docket.

Plaintiff again appealed to the Ninth Circuit on May 15, 2009. The Ninth Circuit summarily affirmed the District Court decision on January 21, 2010.

2. Sconiers v. Whitmore, et al. (1:09-cv-02168-OWW-SKO) ("Whitmore II")

While the appeal of Whitmore I was still pending, Plaintiff filed a new complaint which again alleged constitutional violations in state probate court's administration of the contested distribution of her mother's estate. For the first time, Plaintiff paid the filing fee, later arguing that the Court erred in screening her complaint since she was not proceeding in forma pauperis. On April 21, 2010, this Court dismissed the claims with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

Plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal after Plaintiff failed to perfect it in accordance with Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Noting that Plaintiff had appealed the state court decision to state appellate court, which had remanded to the probate court, this Court again declined to interfere in an ongoing state court proceeding, citing Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 49-53 (1971). The Court noted that settlement and distribution of decedents' estates are peculiarly matters of state law and that Plaintiff's constitutional claims were more appropriately addressed in the context of the state proceedings. See Harris v. Zion Savings Bank & Trust Co., 317 U.S. 447, 450 (1943); United States v. Security-First Nat'l Bank of Los Angeles, 130 F. Supp. 521, 524 (S.D. Cal. 1955). Finally, the Court again noted that appellate jurisdiction of state court judgments rests with the U.S. Supreme Court, not the federal district court.

3. Sconiers v. Smith, et al. (1:10-cv-01130-AWI-SMS)

For the third time, Plaintiff alleged constitutional violations in state probate court's administration of the contested distribution of her mother's estate. Plaintiff again paid the filing fee, maintaining that the Court could not screen her complaint if she was not proceeding in forma pauperis. On August 23, 2010, this Court dismissed the claims with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

Noting that Plaintiff had appealed the state court decision to state appellate court, which had remanded to the probate court, this Court again declined to interfere in an ongoing state court proceeding, citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 49-53. The Court reiterated that settlement and distribution of decedents' estates are peculiarly matters of state law and that Plaintiff's constitutional claims were more appropriately addressed in the context of the state proceedings. See Harris, 317 U.S. at 450; Security-First Nat'l Bank of Los Angeles, 130 F. Supp. at 524. Finally, the Court noted that appellate jurisdiction of state court judgments rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, not the federal district court.

B. The Workers' Compensation Case: Sconiers v. Schwarzenegger, et al. (1:08-cv-01289-OWW-DLB)

Plaintiff alleged "at least 24" claims arising from a workers' compensation action, including civil rights claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the California constitution, and state law. Although the Magistrate Judge included a detailed discussion of each of Plaintiff's claims in his findings and recommendations, he recommended abstention under Younger. On December 4, 2008, the District Judge adopted the findings and recommendations in full and dismissed the complaint without leave to amend.

3. The In-Home Care Cases

a. Sconiers v. California Dept. of Social Services, et al. (1:06-cv-01260-AWI-LJO) ("CDSS I")

Plaintiff filed a 236-page complaint alleging Section 1983 claims against various defendants in connection with a fraud investigation of Plaintiff. In a screening order filed September 27, 2006, the Magistrate Judge dismissed Plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend, describing it as "legally frivolous." On February 15, 2007, the District Judge dismissed the complaint without ...


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