UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
August 6, 2012
AMINA SALVADOR, DETAINEE NO. A200968077, PLAINTIFF,
MS. LENIMER, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. BattagliaU.S. District Judge
(1) GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [ECF No. 2]; (2) DENYING MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL [ECF No. 3]; and (3) SUA SPONTE DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM AND AS FRIVOLOUS
Amina Salvador ("Plaintiff"), currently detained at the San Diego Detention Center located in San Diego, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil action. Plaintiff has not prepaid the $350 filing fee mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); instead, she has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [ECF No. 2], along with a Motion to Appoint Counsel [ECF No. 3].
MOTION TO PROCEED IFP
All parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus must pay a filing fee of $350. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if the plaintiff is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, "[u]nlike other indigent litigants, prisoners proceeding IFP must pay the full amount of filing fees in civil actions and appeals pursuant to the PLRA [Prison Litigation Reform Act]." Agyeman v. INS, 296 F.3d 871, 886 (9th Cir. 2002). As defined by the PLRA, a "prisoner" is "any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h). Under this definition, "an alien detained by the INS pending deportation is not a 'prisoner' within the meaning of the PLRA," because deportation proceedings are civil, rather than criminal in nature, and an alien detained pending deportation has not necessarily been "accused of, convicted of, sentenced or adjudicated delinquent for, a violation of criminal law." Agyeman, 296 F.3d at 886. Thus, because Plaintiff claims she was civilly detained pursuant to immigration or deportation proceedings, and not a "prisoner" as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), the filing fee provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) do not apply to her.
Accordingly, the Court has reviewed Plaintiff's affidavit of assets, just as it would for any other non-prisoner litigant seeking IFP status, see S.D. CAL. CIVLR 3.2(d), finds it is sufficient to show that Plaintiff is unable to pay the fees or post securities required to maintain this action, and hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [ECF No. 2].
MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL
Plaintiff also requests the appointment of counsel to assist her in prosecuting this civil action. The Constitution provides no right to appointment of counsel in a civil case, however, unless an indigent litigant may lose her physical liberty if she loses the litigation. Lassiter v. Dept. of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18, 25 (1981). Nonetheless, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), district courts are granted discretion to appoint counsel for indigent persons. This discretion may be exercised only under "exceptional circumstances." Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991). "A finding of exceptional circumstances requires an evaluation of both the 'likelihood of success on the merits and the ability of the plaintiff to articulate his claims pro se in light of the complexity of the legal issues involved.' Neither of these issues is dispositive and both must be viewed together before reaching a decision." Id. (quoting Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1986)).
The Court deniesPlaintiff's request without prejudice because, for the reasons set forth below, neither the interests of justice nor exceptional circumstances warrant appointment of counsel at this time. LaMere v. Risley, 827 F.2d 622, 626 (9th Cir. 1987); Terrell, 935 F.2d at 1017.
SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28U.S.C.§1915(e)(2)
Any complaint filed by a person proceeding IFP is subject to sua sponte dismissal by the Court to the extent it contains claims which are "frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (holding that "the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners."); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) ("[S]section 1915(e) not only permits, but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim."). "[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (§ 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).").
Plaintiff's Complaint contains very few factual allegations and is mostly illegible. Plaintiff appears to allege Defendant Lenimer is "stealing body parts" and is "prone to using slanderous words." (Compl. at 2.) The Court finds Plaintiff's claims to be frivolous because they lack even "an arguable basis either in law or in fact," and appear "fanciful," "fantastic," or "delusional." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 at 325, 328 (1989). Thus, the Court dismisses the entirety of Plaintiff's Complaint as frivolous.
To the extent that Plaintiff may be alleging facts relating to her confinement in a Federal Immigration center and she may be trying to claim violation of her civil rights by federal actors, the Court also construes this matter as arising under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Bivens established that "compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest [by federal officials alleged to have acted under color of federal law] could be vindicated by a suit for damages invoking the general federal question jurisdiction of the federal courts [pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331]." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 486 (1978). "Actions under § 1983 and those under Bivens are identical save for the replacement of a state actor under § 1983 by a federal actor under Bivens." Van Strum v. Lawn, 940 F.2d 406, 409 (9th Cir. 1991).
To state a private cause of action under Bivens, Plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution of the United States was violated, and (2) that the violation was committed by a federal actor. Id.; Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 624 (9th Cir. 1988). Bivens provides that "federal courts have the inherent authority to award damages against federal officials to compensate plaintiffs for violations of their constitutional rights." Western Center for Journalism v. Cederquist, 235 F.3d 1153, 1156 (9th Cir. 2000). However, aBivens action may only be brought against the responsible federal official in his or her individual capacity. Daly-Murphy v. Winston, 837 F.2d 348, 355 (9th Cir. 1988). Bivens does not authorize a suit against the government or its agencies for monetary relief. FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 486 (1994); Thomas-Lazear v. FBI, 851 F.2d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 1988); Daly- Murphy, 837 F.2d at 355.
Nor does Bivens provide a remedy for alleged wrongs committed by a private entity alleged to have denied Plaintiff's constitutional rights under color of federal law. Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 69 (2001) ("'[T]he purpose of Bivens is to deter the officer,' not the agency.") (quoting Meyer, 510 U.S. at 485); Malesko, 534 U.S. at 66 n.2 (holding that Meyer "forecloses the extension of Bivens to private entities.").
Based on the factual allegations set forth above, the Court simply cannot determine the true nature of her allegations or whether she is attempting to state a claim under federal law. It is unclear if the named Defendant is an employee of the private corporation that runs the facility where Plaintiff is detained. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Federal question jurisdiction exists over "civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Because Plaintiff's Complaint does not comply with § 1331, there is no subject matter jurisdiction.
For all the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's entire action is dismissed as frivolous, for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Good cause appearing therefor, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [ECF No. 2] is GRANTED.
2. Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel [ECF No. 3] is DENIED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:
3. Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b). However, Plaintiff is GRANTED forty five (45) days leave from the date this Order is filed in which to file a First Amended Complaint which cures the deficiencies of pleading noted above. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must be complete in itself without reference to the superseded pleading. See S.D. CAL. CIVLR 15.1. Defendants not named and any claim not re-alleged in the Amended Complaint will be considered waived. See King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987). If Plaintiff fails to file an Amended Complaint within 45 days, this case shall remain dismissed for failing to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
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