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Reynolds v. Shaffer

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 28, 2015

FERDINAND REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
v.
JENNIFER P. SHAFFER, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IFP AND DISMISSING ACTION PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

EDMUND F. BRENNAN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] In addition to filing a complaint, he seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).

II. Screening Requirement and Standards

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

A pro se plaintiff, like other litigants, must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) "requires a complaint to include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). While the complaint must comply with the "short and plaint statement" requirements of Rule 8, its allegations must also include the specificity required by Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions, " "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-557. In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

III. Screening Order

The court has reviewed plaintiff's complaint pursuant to § 1915A and finds it must be dismissed. Plaintiff alleges that he received his first and only parole suitability hearing on March 11, 2009. Apparently, the Board did not find plaintiff suitable for parole and deferred his next hearing by fifteen years pursuant to Proposition 9, also known as Marsy's Law. Allegedly, the Board in 2014 admitted to miscalculating plaintiff's minimum eligible parole date. Plaintiff claims that the corrected date would have entitled plaintiff to a parole suitability hearing as early as September 2008, when the maximum deferral period would have only been two years (as opposed to fifteen under Marsy's Law).

Plaintiff names as the sole defendant Jennifer P. Shaffer, the Executive Chair of the California Parole Board. He seeks one million dollars for each year that he has been incarcerated beyond his minimum eligible parole date.

As discussed below, plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to state a claim for monetary damages against defendant in either her official or individual capacity. Moreover, any claim for equitable relief would be barred by either Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), or the pending class action in Gilman v. Davis, No. Civ. S-05-830-LKK-GGH.

The Eleventh Amendment bars plaintiff's claims for damages against defendant in her official capacity. Claims for damages against the state, its agencies or its officers for actions performed in their official capacities are barred under the Eleventh Amendment, unless the state waives its immunity. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985); see also Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (neither a state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are persons under § 1983). ...


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