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Carlo A. Carrion v. Michelle Thomas

February 20, 2013

CARLO A. CARRION,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHELLE THOMAS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States Magistrate Judge Carla M. Woehrle

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

The pro se plaintiff is seeking to proceed in forma pauperis on a civil rights complaint. His complaint was lodged on January 23, 2013, and was filed on January 30, 2013 (as docket no. 5), pursuant to the court's Order re Leave to File Action Without Prepayment of Full Filing Fee (docket no. 4). For reasons discussed below, the complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.*fn1

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Complaints such as Plaintiff's are subject to the court's sua sponte review under provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court shall dismiss such a complaint, at any time, if the court finds that it (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 and n.7 (9th Cir. 2000)(en banc); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(in forma pauperis complaints).

PLRA review for failure to state a claim applies the same standard applied in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). See Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests the legal sufficiency of a claim for relief. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). "In deciding such a motion, all material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true, as well as all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them." Id. "A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a 'lack of a cognizable legal theory' or 'the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'" Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare System, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008)(quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). A complaint may also be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it discloses a fact or defense that necessarily defeats the claim. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228-29 (9th Cir. 1984) (citing 2A Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 12.08).

Possible failure to state a claim is reviewed under the pleading standard of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)("Iqbal"). The Rule 8 pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations," but does require more than merely "labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "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. This plausibility standard is not a probability requirement, but does ask for more than mere possibility. Id.

In Iqbal, the Supreme Court applied a two-pronged approach to reviewing possible failure to state a claim. Id. at 678-81. First, the reviewing court may identify statements in a complaint that are actually conclusions, rather than factual allegations, and, as such, are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Id. at 678-79. It is the statements' conclusory nature, rather than any fanciful or nonsensical nature, "that disentitles them to the presumption of truth." Id. at 681. Second, the court presumes the truth of any remaining "well-pleaded factual allegations," and determines whether these allegations and reasonable inferences from them plausibly support a claim for relief. Id. at 679-80; see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S. Ct. 2101 (2012); Hydrick v. Hunter, 669 F.3d 937, 940-41 (9th Cir. 2012)(discussing Iqbal and Starr).

If the court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, the court may dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126-30. Leave to amend should be granted if it appears that defects can be corrected, especially if the plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). If, after careful consideration, it is clear that a complaint cannot be cured by amendment, the court may dismiss without leave to amend. Cato, 70 F.3d at 1107-11.

II. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

Plaintiff has submitted a 176 page complaint, with supplemental material, naming over twenty defendants and asserting scores of legal claims. It is almost impossible to derive a clear and simple statement of the underlying facts from Plaintiff's complaint, but the factual basis for his claims appears to be that he was arrested in an incident that occurred on August 6, 2004, and, after lengthy proceedings (apparently) ultimately entered a guilty plea, which he later sought unsuccessfully to withdraw. Plaintiff names as defendants the County of Los Angeles, various county agencies, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and police officers. He asserts federal civil rights claims, state tort claims, and a series of claims citing federal and state criminal statutes. He seeks damages, the reversal of his state conviction, and an official investigation of his case.

III. GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL

The complaint contains multiple defects, and is subject to dismissal on several grounds.

First, Plaintiff has failed to provide the "short and plain statement" of his claim required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). If Plaintiff seeks to proceed in this action he must include in his complaint a simple and straightforward statement of his factual allegations (apart from his legal claims or arguments), so that the court can clearly see what exactly Plaintiff alleges happened. Without this, the court cannot even begin to apply the standard of Ashcroft v. Iqbal to determine whether Plaintiff's factual allegations plausibly support his legal conclusions. However, even without a clear statement of facts, certain other fundamental defects in Plaintiff's complaint are evident, as discussed below.

Second, Plaintiff attempts to sue certain defendants who are immune from suit. Thus, Plaintiff has named as defendants, a number of judges who were involved in his superior court case. However, judges are absolutely immune from suit for acts performed in a judicial capacity. See Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, Inc., 508 U.S. 429, 435 & n.10, 113 S. Ct. 2167, 124 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1993); Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9, 112 S. Ct. 286, 116 L. Ed. 2d 9 (1991)(per curiam); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 357-60, 98 S. Ct. 1099, 55 L. Ed. 2d 331 (1978); Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986)(en banc). Judicial immunity bars suit even if a judge is accused of acting in bad faith, maliciously, corruptly, erroneously, or in excess of jurisdiction. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11-13. Plaintiff also appears to have named several prosecutors as defendants. However, prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity from civil rights suits for damages based on their activities as ...


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