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Hernandez v. Voak Homes

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 3, 2014

FERNANDO HERNANDEZ, et al.,
v.
VOAK HOMES, Defendants. Booking No. A797-35878, Plaintiffs,

ORDER: (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS (Doc. 2); (2) DENYING REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL (Doc. 3); (3) DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (Doc. 4); AND (4) SUA SPONTE DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) AND 1915A(b)

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

Fernando Hernandez ("Plaintiff"), currently housed at the San Diego Correctional Facility, and proceeding pro se, has filed this civil action rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. 3604. Plaintiff also purportedly brings this action on behalf of Mayra Piedrasanta, Jhoana Belen Chinchilla, Lucas Chinchilla, and Kevin Chinchilla.

Plaintiff did not prepay the civil filing and administrative fees required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) instead he has submitted a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Doc. 2). In addition, Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel, along with a "Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order." (Docs. 3, 4.)

I. PLAINTIFF'S 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 $400. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if the plaintiff 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, "[u]nlike other indigent litigants, prisoners proceeding IFP must pay the full amount of filing fees in civil actions and appeals pursuant to the PLRA [Prison Litigation Reform Act]." Agyeman v. INS, 296 F.3d 871, 886 (9th Cir. 2002). As defined by the PLRA, a "prisoner" is "any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h). A "civil detainee" on the other hand, is not a "prisoner" within the meaning of the PLRA. Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1122 (9th Cir. 2005); Agyeman, 296 F.3d at 886 (holding that INS detainee not also facing criminal charges is not a "prisoner" under § 1915).

Because Plaintiff is currently an immigration detainee, and is not a "prisoner" as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h) when he filed this action, the filing fee provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) do not apply to this case. Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1122. Therefore, the Court has reviewed Plaintiff's affidavit of assets, just as it would for any other non-prisoner litigant seeking IFP status, and finds it is sufficient to show that he is unable to pay the fees or post securities required to maintain this action. See S.D. CAL. CIVLR 3.2(d).

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Doc. 2).

II. REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

Plaintiff also 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, as 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. INITIAL SCREENING PER 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii) AND 1915A(b)(1)

Notwithstanding IFP status or the payment of any filing fees, 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)"). However, while a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences." Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, while the court "ha[s] 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)), it may not, in so doing, "supply essential elements of claims that were ...


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