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Marshbanks v. City of Stockton

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 9, 2014

TONI MARSHBANKS, , Plaintiffs,
CITY OF STOCKTON, , Defendants.


KENDALL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.

Toni Marshbanks and Dorothe Marshbanks (collectively "plaintiffs"), who are proceeding without counsel in this action, have requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.[1] (ECF Nos. 2, 3.) Plaintiffs' applications in support of their requests to proceed in forma pauperis make the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) with respect to both plaintiffs. Accordingly, the undersigned grants plaintiffs' requests to proceed in forma pauperis.

The determination that plaintiffs may proceed in forma pauperis does not complete the required inquiry. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court is directed to dismiss the case at any time if it determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant.

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 where 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); Franklin , 745 F.2d at 1227.

To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions, " "labels and conclusions, " or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus , 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes , 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

Pro se pleadings are liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't. , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). Unless it is clear that no amendment can cure the defects of a complaint, a pro se plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is entitled to notice and an opportunity to amend before dismissal. See Noll v. Carlson , 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987); Franklin , 745 F.2d at 1230.

I. Plaintiffs' Allegations

Plaintiffs make the following allegations in their complaint. The City of Stockton ("Stockton") and San Joaquin County (collectively "defendants") engaged in a united effort to take peoples' property without due process. (Compl. at 1.) Through this effort, defendants took unidentified "property" belonging to plaintiff Toni Marshbanks without due process and are now in the process of taking plaintiff Dorothe Marshbanks' "property" without due process. (Id.)

Plaintiffs further allege that Stockton harasses people by citing them when no violation has taken place and that both defendants then attach "enormous fines and fees to the property tax, without due process." (Id.) In addition to this practice, plaintiffs assert that Stockton also engages in the practice of abating its own property and "charg[ing] it to the adjacent property owner." (Id. at 2.)

Plaintiffs also allege that Stockton discriminatorily "sweeps" certain neighborhoods and "cite[s] people unequally and unfairly." (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that defendants "have placed a dump in the residential area of East Stockton, " that "[t]rash blows out of this dump and litters the streets and people's [sic] yards, " and that "Stockton then does sweeps, and fines property owners for having the City's mess in their yards." (Id.)

Plaintiffs allege that someone must first pay a fee in order to contest a citation issued by Stockton and that the judges located in Stockton have been hired by the City, which means that they "will not go against the City of Stockton, even when the City of Stockton is clearly wrong." (Id.)

Plaintiffs further allege that defendants allow for "people's property to be stolen" because the Stockton police allow persons "who are in the process of stealing" to "enter and remove things from the house." (Id.)

Plaintiffs also allege that defendants "have removed the library from East Stockton, " which has required people to travel downtown to the central library. (Id.) In addition, plaintiffs claim that "[t]he outside mail boxes have been removed from the post office in East Stockton, " which limits peoples' ability to mail letters and is "an inconvenience to many people." (Id. at 2-3.)

Plaintiffs allege that Stockton discriminates against disabled persons "by having limited disable [sic] access, and limited disable [sic] parking at City Hall." (Id. at 3.) In particular, plaintiffs allege that "there are only a few disable [sic] parking spaces near the entrance" to City Hall, that "most of the parking near the entrance [to City Hall] is for city vehicles only, " and that there are signs posted prohibiting "the drop off of anyone at the entrance" to City Hall. (Id.) Furthermore, plaintiffs allege that "there is limited access to the Library" and that [d]uring the asparagus festival, disable [sic] parking is removed all together [sic], even at the library." (Id.) In addition, plaintiffs assert that they were told at the Arena that disabled parking was located across the street, but that when they went across the street they were told that there was no disabled parking. (Id.)

Plaintiffs further claim that defendant "San Joaquin County discriminates against the disable [sic] by having doors to the San Joaquin County Administration Building, that are too heavy for anyone to open." (Id.) They also allege that "[t]he automatic button [to open the doors] is difficult to locate, " "is not located near the doors, " and "is difficult to push." (Id.)

Plaintiffs claim that Stockton "charges residents a utility tax, " but does not state that the proceeds from this tax go to the City of Stockton. (Id.)

Plaintiffs further allege that defendants "do not provide equal protection" because "[t]hey will not investigate... crimes that occur in certain neighborhoods and will not prosecute a perpetrator of these crimes when caught, and because "[v]ictims cannot get any information." (Id.)

Plaintiffs also allege that one of them was "pulled over by a Stockton Unified District police [sic]" and was subsequently beaten.[2] (Id.) The allegedly beaten plaintiff called the Stockton Police, but they would not come, and later made several attempts to file a report ...

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