United States District Court, C.D. California
August 25, 2014
MELISSA BALIN, Plaintiff,
CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants.
ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
PHILIP S. GUTIERREZ, District Judge.
On June 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed pro per a "Complaint for Injunctive Relief Complex Class Action Jury Trial Demanded" in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Defendant City of Los Angeles removed it to this Court on July 22, 2014. (Defendant County of Los Angeles has apparently not yet been properly served.) The City averred that this case was related to Balin v. City of Los Angeles et al., No. CV 13-9395-PSG (JPR) - which this Court dismissed with prejudice on August 7, 2014 - because "it relates to identical claims and the same defendants." (Kades Decl. ¶ 2.)
In fact, the two complaints are different, most significantly because this one purports to be a class action lawsuit on behalf of "all present and future female inmates confined in the Lynwood Correctional Women's County Jail." (Compl. at 7.) Plaintiff's proposed "damages class" is "[a]ll pregnant inmates who suffered a miscarriage, unlawful termination of pregnancy, or involuntary sterilization (victims of torture according to International Law) Under the Color of Law by Los Angeles County." (Id.) The allegations of the complaint relate mainly to the treatment of pregnant women at the jail and rely on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (id. at 10-11); she raised such allegations concerning her own treatment in Case No. CV 13-9395-PSG (JPR). (See, e.g., FAC at 36, 38-39, 43-44, 46-49, 79, 83.) Plaintiff seeks only declaratory and injunctive relief (Compl. at 11-13) and asks that the ACLU be appointed to represent her (id. at 10).
The law is clear that a pro per nonlawyer may not act on behalf of a purported class of people. See Simon v. Hartford Life, Inc. , 546 F.3d 661, 664-65 (9th Cir. 2008) (noting that "courts have routinely adhered to the general rule prohibiting pro se plaintiffs from pursuing claims on behalf of others in a representative capacity" and collecting cases). This includes a prohibition against pro per nonlawyers bringing putative class actions; such lawsuits or claims must be dismissed. See, e.g., Kendall v. United States, 541 F.Appx. 781, 781 (9th Cir. 2013) ("The district court properly dismissed Kendall's claims on behalf of a putative class because non-attorney pro se litigants have no authority to represent anyone other than themselves."); Mitchell v. Powers, 411 F.Appx. 109, 110 (9th Cir. 2011) (upholding dismissal of putative class action bringing § 1983 claims because plaintiff in pro per); White v. Geren, 310 F.Appx. 159, 160 (9th Cir. 2009) (upholding dismissal of class-action claims alleging race discrimination against minority employees because plaintiff was proceeding pro se).
Plaintiff's request that the ACLU be appointed to represent her and the class cannot save her complaint because Plaintiff has provided no evidence to show that the ACLU, a private organization,  is willing to take on the case. The Court is not authorized to effect payment to the ACLU to represent Plaintiff, see Tedder v. Odel , 890 F.2d 210, 211 (9th Cir. 1989) ("The Supreme Court has declared that the expenditure of public funds [on behalf of an indigent litigant] is proper only when authorized by Congress...." (alterations in original, internal quotation marks omitted)); United States v. 30.64 Acres of Land , 795 F.2d 796, 801 (9th Cir. 1986) (noting that no provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 provides funds to pay for counsel), and cannot force a private entity to work for free. Cf. Kendall, 541 F.Appx. at 781-82 (denying plaintiff's request for counsel to represent class because he "has failed to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances warranting appointment of counsel").
The complaint does not appear to raise any claims solely on behalf of Plaintiff, but even if it did it would likely still have to be dismissed because the Court already dismissed with prejudice her claims in Case No. CV 13-9395-PSG (JPR) arising from the same allegations.
Accordingly, no later than 21 days from the date of this Order, Plaintiff must show cause in writing why this lawsuit should not be dismissed because it appears to raise only putative class claims and she may not prosecute such an action pro se. Moreover, to the extent the complaint raises claims specific to Plaintiff, she must show cause why she should be allowed to pursue them when they appear to be the same as some of those dismissed with prejudice in Case No. CV 13-9395-PSG (JPR). Plaintiff is expressly warned that if she fails to timely and sufficiently respond to this Order to Show Cause, her lawsuit may be dismissed for that reason as well as those outlined above.