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Johnson v. Natural Roots Marijuana Dispensary

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 2, 2013

ANTHONY RASHAD JOHNSON Booking #13708274, Plaintiff,
v.
NATURAL ROOTS MARIJUANA DISPENSARY; ROBERT ESPINOSA; ISAAC RODRIGUEZ; JOSH FELDMAN; and CITY OF SAN DIEGO Defendants.

ORDER:1) DENYING MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL AND (2) SUA SPONTE DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b)

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

I.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 18, 2013, Anthony Rashad Johnson, ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, submitted a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) In addition, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP"), along with a Motion Appoint Counsel. (ECF Nos. 2, 3.) In his original Complaint, Plaintiff claimed Defendants, who are alleged to be the owner and "employee/volunteers" of the Natural Roots Medical Marijuana Dispensary, violated his constitutional rights by "operating a storefront marijuana dispensary illegally." (Compl. at 3.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that on January 24, 2013, Defendants "g[ot] high off marijuana, " drank "meth taps (juice with methamphetamine)", and "caused [his] client & several other customers to be victims in a heist type armed robbery." ( Id. ) Plaintiff claimed he was subject to cruel and unusual punishment, denied due process, equal protection, and was falsely imprisoned due to Defendants' failures to employ "armed security guards, " post the proper "signs and symbols, " or otherwise comply with the "Prop. 215 laws." ( Id. at 3, 4.) Plaintiff sought a restraining order keeping Defendants 100 yards away from him and his family, as well as general and punitive damages. ( Id. at 7.)

On June 13, 2013, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP, denied Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel and sua sponte dismissed his Complaint for failing to state a claim. (ECF No.4 at 6-7.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint in order to correct the deficiencies of pleading identified in the Court's Order. Id. at 7.) Plaintiff has now filed a second Motion for Appointment of Counsel, along with a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (ECF Nos. 5, 6.)

II.

MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

Plaintiff, once again, requests the appointment of counsel to assist him 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 his physical liberty if he 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 denies Plaintiff's request without prejudice because, for the reasons set out 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.

III.

SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b)

As stated in the Court's previous Order, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program, " "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these provisions of the PLRA, the Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en bane) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446 (9th Cir. 2000) (§ 1915A); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (discussing § 1915A).

"[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, 213 F.3d at 447; Barren, 152 F.3d at 1194 (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). In addition, the Court's duty to liberally construe a pro se's pleadings, see Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988), is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). However, in giving liberal interpretation to a pro se civil rights complaint, the court may not "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.

Section 1983 imposes two essential proof requirements upon a claimant: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. ...


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