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Wolinski v. Shaffer

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 29, 2015

JENNIFER P. SHAFFER, et al., Defendants.


EDMUND F. BRENNAN, Magistrate Judge.

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

I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 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

As explained below, plaintiff's allegations fail to state a cognizable claim and must be dismissed without leave to amend. The complaint names as defendants Governor Brown and Jennifer Shaffer, the Executive Officer at the International Prison Transfer Program. Plaintiff claims that he should be transferred to a prison in Poland because (1) he has no family in this country, (2) it would not pose a threat to the public, (3) it would be consistent with orders to reduce the prison population, (4) it would be consistent with a treaty between the United States of America and Austria, (5) he would be allowed to work, and (6) he would obtain excellent medical care. He requests that defendants issue an order granting him an international transfer to a Polish prison. It is plain from the complaint that plaintiff's requested relief is based on his preference to be in Poland, and not based on any violation of a federal constitutional or statutory right.

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) the violation of a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim unless the facts establish the defendant's personal involvement in the alleged rights deprivation, as there is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. Id. Plaintiff does not allege any facts to show how or which of his federal rights were violated by either of the named defendants. Moreover, the existence of court orders to reduce prison overcrowding does not give rise to a claim, as overcrowding, by itself, is not a constitutional violation. Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 545 n.1 (9th Cir. 1994); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1249 (9th Cir. 1982).

Moreover, plaintiff's contention that his continued custody violates an international treaty sounds in habeas. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) ("a district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the constitution or laws or treaties of the United States."). And where, as here, a prisoner challenges the legality or duration of his custody, or raises a constitutional challenge which could entitle him to an earlier release, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521 (2011); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973).

Accordingly, this action must be dismissed without leave to amend. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Under Ninth Circuit case law, district courts are only required to grant leave to amend if a complaint can possibly be saved. Courts are not required to grant leave to amend if a complaint lacks merit entirely."); see also Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995) ("[A] district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not be cured by the allegation of other facts.").

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) is granted. Plaintiff shall pay the statutory filing fee of $350. All payments shall be collected in accordance with the notice to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.

Further, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that the complaint (ECF No. 1) be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and that the Clerk be directed to terminate all outstanding motions and close the case.

These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Any response to the objections shall be served and filed within fourteen days after service of the objections. The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Turner v. Duncan, 158 F.3d 449, 455 (9th Cir. 1998); Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).

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