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Hoffman v. Unknown

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 25, 2014

PIERRE L. HOFFMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN, Defendant.

ORDER

ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, initiated this action by filing what he identified as a habeas petition. The document was addressed to San Joaquin County Superior Court. See ECF No. 1. The case was re-designated as an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 because, as this court noted previously, "[t]he allegations... to the extent they can be discerned, concern claims of excessive force and inadequate medical care, i.e., they challenge conditions to confinement." See Order, ECF No. 4 at 1.[1] Plaintiff, as petitioner, had failed to file an in forma pauperis affidavit or the required filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(a). Plaintiff was informed of the significant difference between the $5.00 filing fee for a habeas petition and the filing fee for a civil rights complaint and given the opportunity either to submit the appropriate affidavit in support of a request to proceed in forma pauperis or to pay the required $400 filing fee.[2] Plaintiff has evidently elected to proceed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because he has, in response to the order, requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. See ECF Nos. 7-9. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Plaintiff has consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned. ECF No. 3.

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

Screening Requirement

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

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.

A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-35 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 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." Id.

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees , 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen , 395 U.S. 411, 421(1969).

Plaintiff's Allegations

The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is his dissatisfaction with the prison grievance process. He sets forth the history of several staff misconduct complaints/inmate administrative appeals that he has evidently filed, complaining variously of a lack of response, a delayed response or an unsatisfactory response. One of his appeals concerns the alleged use of excessive force to which plaintiff complains he was subjected on February 28, 2014 and as a result of which he alleges he has suffered "excruciating pain & suffering" and "a permanent skin injury." Plaintiff also alleges he "suffers from a plethora of heart diseases" and references a February 17, 2014 open heart surgery procedure he underwent. But again, the focus of the complaint is his allegation that the prison is failing to respond appropriately to his 602 grievances. See Complaint, ECF No. 1.

Violation of Rule 8

Plaintiff's filing violates Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 sets forth general rules of pleading in the federal courts. Complaints are required to set a forth (1) the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction rests, (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing entitlement to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief plaintiff seeks. The complaint meets none of these requirements. All that is required are sufficient allegations to put defendants fairly on notice of the claims against them. See Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)(abrogated on another ground by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1202 (2d ed. 1990). Rule 8 requires "sufficient allegations to put defendants fairly on notice of the claims against them." McKeever v. Block , 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991)). Accord Richmond v. Nationwide Cassel L.P. , 52 F.3d 640, 645 (7th Cir. 1995) (amended complaint with vague and scanty allegations fails to satisfy the notice requirement of Rule 8.)

Far from providing sufficient allegations to put defendants fairly on the notice of the claims against them, plaintiff fails to identify any defendants or to set forth any colorable claims under § 1983. The complaint will ...


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