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Brumbaugh v. Roberts

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 15, 2014

JERRY DWAYNE BRUMBAUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN ROBERTS, Defendant.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING THAT THE COMPLAINT IN THIS ACTION BE DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND

GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Jerry Dwayne Brumbaugh ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed the complaint in this action on November 4, 2013. (Doc. 1). For the reasons detailed below, the Court recommends that the complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.

SCREENING STANDARDS

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court conducts a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint to assess its legal sufficiency. The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it determines that the action is "frivolous or malicious;" "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;" or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court finds a complaint to be deficient, the Court may grant leave to amend to the extent the deficiencies are curable by amendment. Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court notes that the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hebbe v. Pliler , 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972) (per curiam). Accordingly, pro se pleadings are construed liberally, with plaintiffs afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe , 627 F.3d at 342.

(i) Failure to State a Claim

As stated above, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must dismiss a case if the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In evaluating whether a complaint states a claim, the Court applies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a) further encompasses a "plausibility standard" for claims pled in a complaint, as explicated by the Supreme Court cases Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009). These cases hold that "the pleading standard Rule 8 announces... demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id . (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability... stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id . (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557). In assessing the plausibility of a claim to relief, well-pleaded factual content is accepted as true, while legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, " are not entitled to an assumption of truth. Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

(ii) Frivolous Claims

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must also dismiss a case if the Court determines that the complaint is frivolous. A complaint "is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 325, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). "[The] term frivolous, ' when applied to the complaint, embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual allegation." Id .; see also Martin v. Sias , 88 F.3d 774, 775 (9th Cir. 1996). Courts thus have not only "the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Neitzke , 490 U.S. at 327.

In sum, a claim must be dismissed as frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims premised on baseless factual allegations. See Neitzke , 490 U.S. at 327-28.

PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

Plaintiff names "Chief Justice John Roberts" as the defendant in this action ("Defendant"). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's complaint appears to largely consist of excerpts from various court opinions and documents such as the Federalist Papers. Plaintiff appears to be challenging driving license requirements as a general principle; however, his specific legal claims and factual allegations, as well as the remedies he seeks, are unclear to the point of being indecipherable. For example, Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that "Defendant has allowed licenses' to violate the common right to drive.'" (Doc. 1 at 3). Subsequently, Plaintiff states that he has "filed under the original right of self defense'" as described in the Federalist Papers. (Doc. 1 at 3-4). Plaintiff next explains that the "usurpation" he is challenging in this case "is that the Supreme Court has allowed the remedy to sue to be trespassed by rulings." (Doc. 1 at 4).

Plaintiff summarizes his claims against Defendant as follows:

1. The defendant has by unlawful rulings, in violation of the compact, harmed plaintiff by trespassing the civil liberty of plaintiff, ...

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