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Sheppard v. Hood

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 23, 2015

WILLIAM HENRY SHEPPARD, CDCR #C-61934, Plaintiff,
v.
RODNEY G. HOOD, MD, et al., Defendants.

ORDER: 1) GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [ECF Doc. No. 2] AND 2) DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) AND 1915A(b)(1)

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

William Henry Sheppard ("Plaintiff"), currently incarcerated at California Men's Colony ("CMC") in San Luis Obispo, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights complaint ("Compl.") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF Doc. No. 1).

Plaintiff claims six doctors employed by Alvarado Hospital in San Diego provided him inadequate treatment and committed "medical malpractice" in 2010 after he was transported there from Centinela State Prison ("CEN") for emergency gallbladder surgery. ( See Compl., ECF Doc. No. 1, at 1, 3.) Plaintiff claims that during the surgery Defendants inserted a "ERCP stent, " and that it was not until sometime in 2013, after he developed an infection, pancreatitis, and diabetes, that he was told by unidentified prison medical officials at CEN that his ailments were "caused by" the stent which was intended to be temporary. (Id. ) Plaintiff seeks $6 million in general and compensatory damages against the doctors at Alvarado. (Id. at 7.)

Plaintiff has not prepaid the filing fees required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) to commence a federal civil action; instead, he has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF Doc. No. 2.)

I. 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).[1] An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if he is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2007); Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, a prisoner who is granted leave to proceed IFP remains obligated to pay the entire fee in "increments" see Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), and regardless of whether his action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), a prisoner seeking leave to proceed IFP must submit a "certified copy of [his] trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for... the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1119 (9th Cir. 2005). From the certified trust account statement, the Court assesses an initial payment of 20% of (a) the average monthly deposits in the account for the past six months, or (b) the average monthly balance in the account for the past six months, whichever is greater, unless the prisoner has no assets. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). The institution having custody of the prisoner then collects subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which his account exceeds $10, and forwards those payments to the Court until the entire filing fee is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

In support of his IFP Motion, Plaintiff has submitted a certified copy of his trust account statement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. CAL. CIVLR 3.2. Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's trust account statement, as well as the attached prison certificate issued by an accounting officer at CMC verifying his available balances. Plaintiff's statements show that while he had average monthly deposits of $24.67 to his account, and an average monthly balance of $4.26 during the 6-month period preceding the filing of this action, he had only $.02 in his account at the time of filing. Thus, while the Court assesses Plaintiff's initial partial filing fee at $4.93 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), it appears he is unable to pay that initial fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) (providing that "[i]n no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil action or criminal judgment for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee."); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850 (finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) acts as a "safety-valve" preventing dismissal of a prisoner's IFP case based solely on a "failure to pay... due to the lack of funds available to him when payment is ordered.").

Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP (ECF Doc. No. 2), and will direct the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") to collect the entire $350 balance of the filing fees mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1914 and forward them to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

II. INITIAL SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) AND § 1915A

A. Standard of Review

Notwithstanding Plaintiff's IFP status or the payment of any partial 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." 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these screening statutes, 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(b); 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)).

All complaints must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. The "mere possibility of misconduct" falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

"When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity, and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000) ("[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."); Barren v. Harrington, 152 ...


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