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Fisher v. Arresting Agency

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 15, 2014

GARY FRANCIS FISHER, Plaintiffs,
v.
ARRESTING AGENCY, Defendant.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND

JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Gary Fisher seeks to proceed pro se and in forma pauperis in this action for a violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the following reasons, the Court recommends Plaintiff's motions to proceed in forma pauperis be DENIED and the complaint be DISMISSED without leave to amend.

I. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

As a general rule, all parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a United States District Court must pay a filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However, the Court may authorize the initiation of an action "without prepayment of fees and costs of security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that... the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Thus, an action may proceed without payment of the filing fee only if leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted by the Court. See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1178, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999).

The Ninth Circuit has held "permission to proceed in forma pauperis is itself a matter of privilege and not a right; denial of an informa pauperis status does not violate the applicant's right to due process." Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1231 (9th Cir. 1984) (citing Weller v. Dickson, 314 F.2d 598, 600 (9th Cir. 1963)). The Court has broad discretion to grant or deny a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. O'Loughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 616 (9th Cir. 1990); Weller, 314 F.2d at 600-01. In making a determination, the Court "must be careful to avoid construing the statute so narrowly that a litigant is presented with a Hobson's choice between eschewing a potentially meritorious claim or foregoing life's plain necessities." Temple v. Ellerthorpe, 586 F.Supp. 848, 850 (D.R.I. 1984).

Here, the Court recommends the motions to proceed in forma pauperis be denied because, as discussed below, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C.§ 1915(e)(2).

II. Screening Requirement

When an individual seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is required to review the complaint and identify "cognizable claims." See 28 U.S.C § 1915(a)-(b). The Court must dismiss a complaint, or portion of the complaint, if it is "frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or... seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A claim is frivolous "when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992).

III. Pleading Standards

General rules for pleading complaints are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A pleading stating a claim for relief must include a statement affirming the court's jurisdiction, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief; and... a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, and pro se pleadings are held to "less stringent standards" than pleadings by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521-21 (1972).

A complaint must state the elements of the plaintiff's claim in a plain and succinct manner. Jones v. Cmty Redevelopment Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). The purpose of the complaint is to give the defendant fair notice and the grounds upon which the complaint stands. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). The Supreme Court explained,

Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Conclusory and vague allegations do not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). The Court clarified further,

[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." [Citation]. 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. [Citation]. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. [Citation]. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citations omitted). When factual allegations are well-pled, a court should assume them to be true and determine whether the facts would make the plaintiff entitled to relief; conclusions in the pleading are not entitled to the same assumption of truth. Id. The Court may grant leave to amend a complaint to the extent deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-28 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

IV. Section 1983 Claims

Plaintiff seeks to proceed in this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), which "is a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). Thus, an individual may bring an action for the deprivation of civil rights pursuant to Section 1983, which states in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C § 1983. To state a congnizable claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts from which it may be inferred (1) he was deprived of a federal right and (2) a person or entity who committed the alleged violation acted under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 670 (9th Cir. 1976).

V. Discussion and Analysis

Plaintiff asserts he was at the Greyhound station, and had only been "out on parole for 2 hours and 20 minutes" before he was arrested on January 5, 2010. (Doc. 1 at 3.) According to Plaintiff, he did not have any alcohol restrictions as part of his conditions of parole, but, evidently, was arrested for consumption and his parole violated. ( Id. at 4.) According to Plaintiff, the arresting officer "[n]ever gave [him] a field test." ( Id. at 3.) Therefore, Plaintiff seeks to challenge the validity of his arrest as a violation of his civil rights.

Importantly, this Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's grievance, because a determination in favor of Plaintiff implies his confinement is invalid. In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme Court held that:

in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal.... Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.

Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Applying Heck, the Ninth Circuit determined that, where the plaintiff was convicted of crimes for which he was arrested, the plaintiff's claims of wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy among police officers to bring false charges are barred. Guerrero v. Gates, 442 F.3d 697, 703-04 (9th Cir. 2006).

Here, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $13 million for violation of his civil rights under § 1983. ( See Doc. 1 at 1, 8.) Plaintiff alleges that he has been convicted and remains incarcerated. Consequently, Heck bars any claims by Plaintiff's related to the validity of his arrest.

VI. Findings and Recommendations

Plaintiff has failed to state a claim up which relief may be granted by this Court, because Plaintiff seeks to challenge the validity of his arrest, and the Court lacks jurisdiction over his claims pursuant to Heck.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED:

1. Plaintiff's requests to proceed in forma pauperis (Docs. 2, 9) be DENIED;
2. Plaintiffs Complaint be DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND;
3. Plaintiff's remaining motions be terminated as MOOT; and
4. The Clerk of Court be DIRECTED to close the action.

These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Rule 304 of the Local Rules of Practice for the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, Plaintiff may file written objections with the Court. The document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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