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Jones v. San Diego County Jail

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 15, 2013

BRUCE JONES, Inmate Booking No. 13711679, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY JAIL; SHERIFF WILLIAM GORE, Defendants.

ORDER: (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS, IMPOSING NO INITIAL PARTIAL FILING FEE AND GARNISHING BALANCE FROM PRISONER'S TRUST ACCOUNT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [ECF No. 2]; (2) DISMISSING DEFENDANT AND CLAIMS FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM; AND (3)) DIRECTING U.S. MARSHAL TO EFFECT SERVICE OF COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO FED.R.CIV.P. 4(c)(3) & 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

Bruce Jones, ("Plaintiff'), an inmate currently incarcerated at the George Bailey Detention Facility located in San Diego, California, and proceeding pro se, has submitted a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (ECF No. 2.)

I. 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 ifhe 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, a prisoner granted leave to proceed IFP remains obligated to pay the entire fee in installments, regardless of whether his action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), a prisoner seeking leave to proceed IFP must submit a "certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the prisoner for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1119 (9th Cir. 2005). From the certified trust account statement, the Court must assess an initial payment of 20% of (a) the average monthly deposits in the account for the past six months, or (b) the average monthly balance in the account for the past six months, whichever is greater, unless the prisoner has no assets. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). The institution having custody of the prisoner must collect subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which the prisoner's account exceeds $10, and forward those payments to the Court until the entire filing fee is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

In support of his IFP Motion, Plaintiff has submitted a certified copy of his trust account statement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. CAL. CrvLR 3.2. Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. Plaintiff's trust account statement shows he has insufficient funds to pay a partial initial filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4)(providing that "[i]nnoevent shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil action or criminal judgment for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay [an] initial partial filing fee."); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850 (finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) acts as a "safety-valve" preventing dismissal of a prisoner's IFP case based solely on a "failure to pay... due to the lack of funds available.").

Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP (ECF No. 2), and assesses no initial partial filing fee per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(l). However, the entire $350 balance of the filing fees mandated shall be collected and forwarded to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(l).

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

The PLRA also 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 banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).

"[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) (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). In addition, courts "have an obligation where the petitioner is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1985)). The court may not, however, "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.

To the extent Plaintiff alleges that the "San Diego County Jail" has violated his constitutional rights, his Complaint fails to state a claim because this entity is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983. Neither a local law enforcement department (like the San Diego County Sheriff's Office) or a jail (like the San Diego County Jail) are proper defendants under § 1983. See Vance v. County of Santa Clara, 928 F.Supp. 993, 996 (N.D. Cal. 1996) ("Naming a municipal department as a defendant is not an appropriate means of pleading a § 1983 action against a municipality.") (citation omitted); Powell v. Cook County Jail, 814 F.Supp. 757, 758 (N.D. Ill. 1993) ("Section 1983 imposes liability on any person' who violates someone's constitutional rights under color of law.' Cook County Jail is not a person.');

While the County of San Diego itself may be considered a "person" and therefore, a proper defendant under § 1983, see Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Hammond v. County of Madera, 859 F.2d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 1988), Plaintiff has not named the County as a Defendant. Thus, Plaintiff's claims against "San Diego County Jail" are dismissed from this action.

Plaintiff alleges that jail officials violated his constitutional rights when they refused to provide him with names of attorneys. (See Compl. at 4.) As a result, Plaintiff alleges that this hindered his access to legal counsel. (Id.) Prisoners do "have a constitutional right to petition the government for redress of their grievances, which includes a reasonable right of access to the courts." O'Keefe v. Van Boening, 82 F.3d 322, 325 (9th Cir. 1996); accord Bradley v. Hall, 64 F.3d 1276, 1279 (9th Cir. 1995). The Supreme Court has held that "the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons who are trained in the law." Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). To establish a violation of the right to access to the courts, however, a prisoner must allege facts sufficient to show that: (1) a nonfrivolous legal attack on his conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement has been frustrated or impeded, and (2) he has suffered an actual injury as a result. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353-55 (1996). An "actual injury" is defined as "actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim." [d. at 348; see also Vandelft v. Moses, 31 F.3d 794, 7.96 (9th Cir. 1994); Sands v. Lewis, 886 F.2d 1166, 1171 (9th Cir. 1989); Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1093 (9th Cir. 1996).

Here, Plaintiff has failed to allege any actions with particularity that have precluded his pursuit of a non-frivolous direct or collateral attack upon either his criminal conviction or sentence or the conditions of his current confinement. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355 (right to access to the courts protects only an inmate's need and ability to "attack [his] sentence[], directly or collaterally, and... to challenge the conditions of [his] confinement."). Plaintiff must also describe the non-frivolous nature of the "underlying cause of action, whether anticipated or lost." Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002). Plaintiff's Complaint contains no allegations of an action related to his conditions of confinement or conviction that were impeded by the actions of jail officials.

In short, Plaintiff has not alleged that "a complaint he prepared was dismissed, " or that he was "so stymied" by any individual defendant's actions that "he was unable to even file a complaint, " direct appeal or petition for writ of habeas corpus that was not "frivolous." Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351; Christopher, 536 U.S. at 416 ("like any other element of an access claim[, ]... the predicate claim [must] be described well enough to apply the nonfrivolous' test and to show that the arguable' nature of the underlying claim is more than hope."). Therefore, Plaintiff's access to courts claims must be dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which section 1983 relief can be granted.

As for the remaining claims, the Court finds Plaintiff's allegations sufficient to survive the sua sponte screening required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b).[1] See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126-27. Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff is entitled to U.S. Marshal service on his behalf. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) ("The officers of the court shall issue and serve all process, and perform all duties in [IFP] cases."); FED.R.CIV.P. 4(c)(3) ("[T]he court may order that service be made by a United States marshal or deputy marshal... if the plaintiff is authorized to proceed in fonna pauperis under28 U.S.C. § 1915.").

III. CONCLUSION AND ORDER

Good cause appearing, 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. The Watch Commander for the George Bailey Detention Facility, or his designee, shall collect from Plaintiff's prison trust account the $350 filing fee owed in this case by collecting monthly payments from the account in an amount equal to twenty percent (20%) of the preceding month's income and forward payments to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10 in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). ALL PAYMENTS SHALL BE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED BY THE NAME AND NUMBER ASSIGNED TO THIS ACTION.

3. The Clerk of the Court is directed to serve a copy of this Order on Watch Commander, George Bailey Detention Facility, 446 Alta Road, Suite 5300, San Diego, California 92158.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:

4. Plaintiff's access to courts claim and Plaintiff's claims against the "San Diego County Jail" are DISMISSED for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) & § 1915A. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate Defendant San Diego County Jail from the Court's docket.

5. The Clerk shall issue a summons as to Plaintiff's Complaint upon the remaining Defendants and shall forward it to Plaintiff along with a blank U.S. Marshal Form 285 for each Defendant. In addition, the Clerk shall provide Plaintiff with a certified copy of this Order, a certified copy of his Complaint, and the summons so that he may serve each named Defendant. Upon receipt of this "IFP Package, " Plaintiff is directed to complete the Form 285s as completely and accurately as possible, and to return them to the United States Marshal according to the instructions provided by the Clerk in the letter accompanying his IFP package. Upon receipt, the U.S. Marshal shall serve a copy of the Complaint and summons upon each Defendant as directed by Plaintiff on the USM Form 285s. All costs of service shall be advanced by the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d); FED.R.CIV.P. 4(c)(3).

6. Defendants are thereafter ORDERED to reply to Plaintiff's Complaint within the time provided by the applicable provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a). See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2) (while a defendant may occasionally be permitted to "waive the right to reply to any action brought by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility under section 1983, " once the Court has conducted its sua sponte screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b), and thus, has made a preliminary determination based on the face on the pleading alone that Plaintiff has a "reasonable opportunity to prevail on the merits, " the defendant is required to respond).

7. Plaintiff shall serve upon the Defendants or, if appearance has been entered by counsel, upon Defendants' counsel, a copy of every further pleading or other document submitted for consideration of the Court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper to be filed with the Clerk of the Court a certificate stating the manner in which a true and correct copy of any document was served on Defendants, or counsel for Defendants, and the date of service. Any paper received by the Court which has not been filed with the Clerk or which fails to include a Certificate of Service will be disregarded.


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