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Richard H. Gonzalez v. City of Fresno

January 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Richard Gonzales ("Plaintiff"), appearing pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis, filed the instant action on August 31, 2011. He names the City of Fresno, Senior Deputy City Attorney Tamara Bogosian, Fresno City Attorney James Sanchez, the Fresno Police Department and Officer Ross Teraguchi as Defendants. His complaint consists of a three page letter and a stack of documents including personal calendars and computer file lists that appear to be related to his recently settled case from the Superior Court of the State of California.

A. Screening Standard

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court must conduct an initial review of the complaint for sufficiency to state a claim. The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the court determines that the action is legally "frivolous or malicious," fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) provides:

A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support, (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

A complaint must contain a short and plain statement as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which the defendants engaged in that support Plaintiff's claim. Id. Although a complaint need not outline all elements of a claim, it must be possible to infer from the allegations that all elements exist and that there is entitlement to relief under some viable legal theory. Walker v. South Cent. Bell Telephone Co., 904 F.2d 275, 277 (5th Cir. 1990); Lewis v. ACB Business Services, Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 405-06 (6th Cir. 1998).

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the Court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

B. Plaintiff's Allegations

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, Tammy Bogosian, and the City of Fresno, used coercion and threats through the Fresno Police Department to force Plaintiff to settle his case against the City of Fresno in state court. Although the facts are far from clear, it appears that in 2008 a Fresno Area Express Bus struck the vehicle Plaintiff was driving. Plaintiff brought suit in state court against the City of Fresno and eventually signed a notice of settlement for $50,000 on June 3, 2011. Plaintiff now claims that he is refusing to settle with the City of Fresno and has voided and returned his settlement check. He claims that the City of Fresno along with the other defendants violated his civil rights by allegedly placing phone taps in his home--which he believes to exist from a clicking noise he discovered coming from his ceiling fan--and using Fresno police Officer Ross Teraguchi to follow him and harass everyone around him. Plaintiff also alleges that he recently found that an unauthorized user "hacked" into his computer and he suspects foul play from defendants.

The remainder of his complaint consists of a plea to the Court for help in stopping the City of Fresno and the other defendants from mistreating similarly situated citizens. He also states that he would like all guilty parties fired, the City forced to get separate insurance, and "compensation would be nice."

C. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

According to the complaint and its appended documents, plaintiff seeks to have this Court review the decision of a state court with respect to his settlement. However, a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review final determinations of state courts, as well as claims "inextricably intertwined" with final state court decisions, even if such "inextricably intertwined" claims were not actually raised in the state court. See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 483-87, 483 n. 16 (1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); Olson Farms, Inc. v. Barbosa, 134 F.3d 933, 937 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding the "Rooker-Feldman" doctrine is jurisdictional). A federal district court is a court of original jurisdiction, and as such has no authority to review the final determinations of a state court in judicial proceedings. Worldwide Church of God v. McNair, 805 F.2d 888, 890 (9th Cir. 1986); Dubinka v. Judges of Superior Court of State of Cal. for County of Los Angeles, 23 F.3d 218, 221 (9th Cir. 1994). "[A] losing party in state court is barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United States District Court, based on the losing party's claim that the state judgment itself violates the loser's federal rights." Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994).

To the extent that Plaintiff's complaint is seeking a review of a determinations made by the state court in the course of the state court suit, or matters inextricably intertwined with the state court judgment, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to conduct such a review. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to ...

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