United States District Court, S.D. California
(1) DISMISSING ACTION FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; AND (2) TERMINATING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DIRECT U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE (ECF NO. 11)
CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.
Plaintiff Debbie Baize ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP"), commenced this action on October 29, 2014. ( See ECF No. 1, 4.) On November 13, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed IFP and dismissed Plaintiff's initial complaint without prejudice and with leave to amend. (ECF No. 4.) Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on November 21, 2014, followed by a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") on December 1, 2014. ( See ECF Nos. 6, 8.) On April 27, 2015, after issuance of the summons, Plaintiff also filed a motion to direct service by the U.S. Marshals. (ECF No. 11.)
For the following reasons, the Court (1) DISMISSES this action in its entirety WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; and (2) TERMINATES AS MOOT Plaintiff's motion to direct service by the U.S. Marshals.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal courts have an obligation to dismiss a complaint brought by a person proceeding IFP at any time if the court determines that the action "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). See Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (holding that the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners).
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 Atl. 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. at 679. 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 Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (noting that § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)").
However, while the court has an obligation where the plaintiff "is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the [plaintiff] the benefit of any doubt, '" Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985)), it "may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Moreover, "[v]ague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient." Ivey, 673 F.2d at 268.
In the SAC, Plaintiff alleges she suffered "[t]ort [c]laim injuries[, ] [a]nguish[, ] deprivation of [her] civil liberties, [l]ibel, [s]lander, defamation, " theft of her vehicle, money, and legal personal documents, and violations of her federal constitutional rights and due process rights. (SAC at pp, 1-3.) Plaintiff further alleges Defendant forged documents and made false allegations which caused her to be falsely arrested, and verbally threatened her from pursuing legal action. (Id. at p. 2.) Plaintiff, who was incarcerated for seven years, seeks to "correct [her] innocence" and money damages. (Id. at pp. 1-4.)
Plaintiff does not identify or seek relief under a specified federal statute. However, as Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will liberally construe the SAC as seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988) (where a plaintiff appears pro se, the Court must construe her pleadings liberally and afford plaintiff any benefit of the doubt); Hebbe, 627 F.3d at 342 & n.7.
As the Court stated in its prior order dismissing Plaintiff's initial complaint, "[s]ection 1983 creates a private right of action against individuals who, acting under color of state law, violate federal constitutional or statutory rights." Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1074 (9th Cir. 2001) (emphasis added). Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "To establish § 1983 liability, a plaintiff must show both (1) deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128, 1138 (9th Cir. 2012) (quotations and citation omitted and emphasis added).
"The traditional definition of acting under color of state law requires that the defendant in a § 1983 action have exercised power possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (internal quotations and citation omitted). State employment, for example, is generally sufficient to render the defendant a state actor. Id. Private parties, on the other hand, are generally not acting under color of state law. Price v. State of Haw., 939 F.2d 702, 707-08 (1991); see also Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49 (1999) ("[T]he under-color-of-state-law element of § 1983 excludes from its reach merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful.")
As in her initial Complaint, Plaintiff has still not alleged or even indicated that Defendant was acting under color of state law. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the ...