United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) AND 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) [Dkt. No. 9.]
GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.
On November 4, 2013, nonprisoner Plaintiff Paul Hupp, proceeding pro se, commenced this action against Defendants County of San Diego, Albertson and Davidson LLP, James Patrick Romo, Theodore Stephen Drcar, Judith I. Beyl, Stewart Richard Albertson, Keith A. Davidson, Byron Keith Husted, and Roes 1-10 alleging violations of constitutional and civil rights. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff concurrently filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). On January 8, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP, but dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to the sua sponte screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (Dkt. No. 6.) The Court granted Plaintiff forty-five days to file an Amended Complaint. On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 9.) For the following reasons, the Court DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
I. Legal Standard
Any complaint filed pursuant to the IFP provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) is subject to a mandatory and sua sponte review and dismissal by the Court, if it finds the complaint is "frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Calhoun v. Stahl , 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) ("[T]he provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners."); Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (noting that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) "not only permits but requires" the court to sua sponte dismiss an IFP complaint that fails to state a claim).
"[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); 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)"); see also Andrews v. King , 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005). In addition, the Court has a duty to liberally construe a pro se's pleadings, see Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't , 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988), which is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet , 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). In giving liberal interpretation to a pro se civil rights complaint, however, the court may not "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).
Undertaking this sua sponte review, the Court finds that Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 upon which relief can be granted and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges ten total causes of action: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability for violation of Plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights due to filing of a "vexatious litigant" motion; (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability for denial of access to the courts against the County of San Diego; (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability for conspiracy related to the filing of a "vexatious litigant" motion against all defendants; (4)-(8) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability for gross negligence in the hiring, training, supervision, discipline, and retention of District Attorneys against the County of San Diego; (9) declaratory and injunctive relief against California Superior Court Judge Edward D. Webster; (10) malicious prosecution in violation of California state law as to all Defendants; and (11) intentional infliction of emotional distress in violation of California state law as to all Defendants. The Court addresses Plaintiff's allegations related to each cause of action in turn.
A. First and Third Causes of Action: Vexatious Litigant Motion
Plaintiff's First and Third Causes of Action seek to hold Defendants liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for filing and conspiracy to file a "vexatious litigant" motion against Plaintiff in Plaintiff's state court case despite "constructive and actual knowledge" that the motion had been filed, argued, and denied by a federal judge in a separate federal case. (Dkt. No. 9, First Amended Compl. ["FAC"] ¶¶ 113-14.) Plaintiff alleges "DEFENDANTS knew their conduct was illegal but engaged in it in spite of this fact" and that "[n]o reasonable person would have filed a Vexatious Litigant' motion against Plaintiff [in state court] knowing the exact same Vexatious Litigant' motion had been filed, argued, decided, and denied, on the merits by a presiding federal judge within the prior year." (FAC ¶ 118) (emphases in original). Plaintiff alleges the filing of the vexatious litigant motion "infers actual malice, and violates Plaintiff's constitutionally protected rights." (Id. ¶ 119.)
Section 1983 imposes two essential proof requirements upon a claimant: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Nelson v. Campbell , 541 U.S. 637 (2004); Haygood v. Younger , 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). "A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Barren v. Harrington , 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998).
Here, taking Plaintiff's allegations as true, Plaintiff has failed to allege a violation of a right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. As an initial matter, Plaintiff claims "DEFENDANTS knew their conduct was illegal, " (FAC ¶ 118), but does not allege which local, state, or federal law Defendants' alleged conduct violated. The closest Plaintiff comes to alleging a rights violation is a broad assertion of "denial of access to the courts under the 1st Amendment and denial of due process rights under the 14th Amendment." (FAC at 26.) Plaintiff's claim is essentially that Defendants' filing and granting of a vexatious litigant motion denied Plaintiff access to the courts.
However, "vexatious litigant" motions are expressly provided for by California state statute. Cal. Code Civ. P. §§ 391 et seq. Under the vexatious litigant statute, defendants can move for an order requiring security by showing that "the plaintiff is a vexatious litigant and has no reasonable probability of prevailing." Wolfe v. George , 486 F.3d 1120, 1124 (9th Cir. 2007). Furthermore, state and federal courts have repeatedly upheld the California "vexatious litigant" statutory scheme against Constitutional challenges. Wolfe , 486 F.3d at 1125 ("A long line of California decisions upholds [the vexatious litigant statutory scheme] against constitutional challenges... We see no reason to disagree with them."). Plaintiff's allegations that Defendants violated the Constitution by exercising the rights provided for by the vexatious litigant statute are therefore foreclosed by precedent upholding the statutory scheme.
Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff has failed to allege a deprivation of a right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States sufficient to support a claim under section 1983 and DISMISSES Plaintiff's First and Third Causes of Action ...