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Josh Olson v. Cassandra Dimagio

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


March 6, 2012

JOSH OLSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CASSANDRA DIMAGIO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff is an inmate at Plumas County Jail proceeding pro se. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either 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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim 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. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 1216, pp. 235-235 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 566 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "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." Id.

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740, 96 S.Ct. 1848 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 89 S.Ct. 1843 (1969).

Plaintiff names two defendants: Cassandra DiMagio (or DiMagiro), identified as employed by the California Highway Patrol, and David Hollister, whom plaintiff identifies as the Plumas County District Attorney. Complaint, p. 2. It is difficult to discern what plaintiff intends to allege. As to defendant DiMagio, plaintiff states the following: "No due process, no verified complaint stating actual physical harm or property damage, compelling me to be the only witness against myself, force of punishment on the poor." Id., at 3. The allegations against defendant Hollister are: "Knowing [sic] prof[f]ering false and forged instruments to be filed against me, perjury, malicious prosecution for personal gain to himself and others of fraternity, no due process, compelling a performance, only witness against myself, breach." Id.

Plaintiff alleges a litany of generally described misdeeds by the defendants but fails to provide a context for his claims by setting forth the factual predicate for his complaint. It is unclear whether plaintiff is making his allegations based on an arrest, prosecution and/or conviction. It is unclear what he has been or is being tried for or whether he has sustained a conviction, although at one point, plaintiff asserted that a pre-trial hearing was pending. If plaintiff is seeking money damages for claims of violations of his constitutional rights in his prosecution and conviction of a criminal offense, plaintiff is informed he may be foreclosed from proceeding by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S. Ct. 2364 (1994). In Heck, an Indiana state prisoner brought a civil rights action under § 1983 for damages. Claiming that state and county officials violated his constitutional rights, he sought damages for improprieties in the investigation leading to his arrest, for the destruction of evidence, and for conduct during his trial ("illegal and unlawful voice identification procedure"). Convicted on voluntary manslaughter charges, and serving a fifteen year term, plaintiff did not seek injunctive relief or release from custody. The United States Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal's dismissal of the complaint and held that: in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under 1983.

Heck, 512 U.S. at 486, 114 S. Ct. at 2372. The Court expressly held that a cause of action for damages under § 1983 concerning a criminal conviction or sentence cannot exist unless the conviction or sentence has been invalidated, expunged or reversed. Id. If plaintiff is seeking damages for a conviction he alleges was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights, he must show that the conviction has been overturned or otherwise invalidated. The complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend.

On the other hand, if plaintiff is currently involved in state criminal proceedings, plaintiff is informed that federal courts cannot interfere with pending state criminal proceedings, absent extraordinary circumstances which create a threat of irreparable injury. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45-46, 91 S.Ct. 746, 750-51 (1971). Irreparable injury does not exist in such situations if the threat to plaintiff's federally protected rights may be eliminated by his defense of the criminal case. Moreover, "even irreparable injury is insufficient [to permit interference with the proceeding] unless it is `both great and immediate.'" Id. at 46, 91 S.Ct. at 751 (quoting Fenner v. Boykin, 271 U.S. 240, 243-44, 46 S.Ct. 492, 493 (1926)).

"The Younger doctrine was borne of the concern that federal court injunctions might unduly hamper a state in its prosecution of criminal laws." Miofsky v. Superior Court, 703 F.2d 332, 336 (9th Cir. 1983). In practical terms, the Younger doctrine means that "'only in the most unusual circumstances is a defendant entitled to have federal interposition by way of injunction or habeas corpus until after the jury comes in, judgment has been appealed from and the case concluded in the state courts.'" Carden v. Montana, 626 F.2d 82, 83-84 (9th Cir. 1980) (quoting Drury v. Cox, 457 F.2d 764, 764-65 (9th Cir. 1972)). If plaintiff is involved in a pending state criminal matter, this court should abstain from considering this civil rights action on that basis.

If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). Also, the complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 96 S.Ct. 598 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Furthermore, vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

In addition, plaintiff is informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in an amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.

In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.

2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. Plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). All fees shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.

3. The complaint is dismissed for the reasons discussed above, with leave to file an amended complaint within twenty-eight days from the date of service of this order. Failure to file an amended complaint will result in a recommendation that the action be dismissed.

20120306

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