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Henry A. Jones v. T. Virga

April 19, 2013

HENRY A. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
T. VIRGA, WARDEN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 302.

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 prison trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make 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 when 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), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) ("a judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless."); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, 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." Id. However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555) (citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, id., and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

Plaintiff filed a document entitled "Civil and Criminal Complaint." (Dkt. No. 1.) However, in this complaint, plaintiff states that he previously filed the same complaint in the superior court on June 18, 2012, and also filed the same complaint in the District of Columbia, in Washington, D.C. (Dkt. No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff is advised that he cannot maintain the same action in three separate courts. Plaintiff must choose one venue in which to pursue his claims. The federal venue statute provides that a civil action "may be brought in (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or

(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this action, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). To the extent plaintiff seeks to file a civil rights complaint concerning an incident occurring at California State Prison, Sacramento, such claims are properly venued in this court.

Moreover, plaintiff's request for the issuance of an arrest warrant or imposition of criminal charges against defendants is not appropriate. When a criminal statute is violated, the question of whether to prosecute and what criminal charges to bring are decisions that generally rest in the discretion of the prosecutor, not the court. United States v. Batchelder, 442 U.S. 114, 124 (1979); see Inmates of Attica Correctional Facility v. Rockefeller, 477 F.2d 375 (2d Cir. 1973) (prosecution of state officials for alleged violation of inmates' federal civil rights is for discretion of U.S. Attorney). Criminal statutes generally do not provide a private cause of action or a basis for civil liability. See, e.g., Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980) (18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242 provide no private right of action and cannot form basis for civil suit); Pawelek v. Paramount Studios Corp., 571 F.Supp. 1082, 1083 (N.D. Ill.1983) (no private cause of action inherent in federal criminal statutes defining civil rights violations). Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable state law claims based on defendants' alleged violation of California criminal statutes. Thus, plaintiff should not renew such criminal claims in any amended complaint.

However, it appears plaintiff may be able to state a cognizable civil rights claim based on his allegations that defendants Jones or Whitted used excessive force against plaintiff on March 14, 2011, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Dkt. No. 1 at 18-19; 50.) However, because plaintiff's civil rights claims are interspersed with his claims of alleged criminal activity, it is not clear that plaintiff has addressed all of the elements required.

"What is necessary to show sufficient harm for purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause [of the Eighth Amendment] depends upon the claim at issue . . . ." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). "The objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim is . . . contextual and responsive to contemporary standards of decency." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The malicious and sadistic use of force to cause harm always violates contemporary standards of decency, regardless of whether or not significant injury is evident. Id. at 9; see also Oliver v. Keller, 289 F.3d 623, 628 (9th Cir. 2002) (Eighth Amendment excessive force standard examines de minimis uses of force, not de minimis injuries)). However, not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9. "The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments ...


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