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Rhine v. McMahon

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 16, 2016

JOHN RHINE, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES McMAHON; ANGELA BARTOSIK; ALEX McDONALD; ALTERNATE DEFENDERS, Defendant.

          ORDER: (1) GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a); AND(2) SUA SPONTE DISMISSING CIVIL ACTION FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b)

          LARRY ALAN BURNS, District Judge.

         John Rhine ("Plaintiff"), a state inmate currently incarcerated at the California Rehabilitation Center, has filed a civil rights complaint ("Compl.") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) He seeks an injunction from "further suppression of evidence damaging my right to release from prison, parole." (Compl. at 7.) Plaintiff also seeks $35, 000, 000 in compensatory damages, $4, 500, 000 in punitive damages, and a jury trial in this Court. ( Id. )

         Plaintiff has not paid the civil filing fees required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) to commence a civil action; instead he has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (ECF No. 4.)

         I. Motion to Proceed IFP

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States must pay a filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). 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). Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, if the plaintiff is a prisoner, as Plaintiff is here, even if he is granted leave to proceed IFP, he remains obligated to pay the full entire fee in "increments, " see Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), regardless of whether his action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP must submit a "certified copy of the 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 percent 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 percent of the preceding month's income, in any month in which the prisoner's 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 certificate attesting to his trust account balance and activity for the six-month period prior to the filing of his Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2. The certificate shows Plaintiff has $0.00 in available funds to his credit at the time of filing. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP. Because Plaintiff has insufficient funds to pay a partial filing fee, the Court assesses no initial partial filing fee per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). 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 v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 850 (9th Cir. 2002) (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.") However, the entire $350 balance of the filing fees due for this case must be collected by the CDCR and forwarded to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         II. Sua Sponte Screening per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A

         "The Court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, " 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." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). 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; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         "Section 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). 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).

         A. Abstention

         While not entirely clear, it appears that Plaintiff is seeking this Court's intervention with his state criminal proceedings. However, federal courts may not interfere with ongoing state criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45-46 (1971); see Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982) ( Younger "espouse[d] a strong federal policy against federal-court interference with pending state judicial proceedings.") Absent extraordinary circumstances, abstention under Younger is required when: (1) state judicial proceedings are ongoing; (2) the state proceedings involve important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal issue. Columbia Basin Apartment Ass'n v. City of Pasco, 268 F.3d 791, 799 (9th Cir. 2001).

         There is no question Plaintiff's criminal proceedings involve important state interests. In addition, Plaintiff's claims are the type of claims the state courts afford an adequate opportunity to raise on direct appeal. Thus, because Plaintiff's criminal proceedings appear to be currently ongoing in the form of his appeal of his conviction, the injunctive relief he seeks is unavailable. See Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 608 (1975) (holding that Younger applies to state appellate proceedings as well as ongoing proceedings in state trial court); see alsoDrury v. Cox,457 F.2d 764, 764-65 (9th Cir. 1972) ("[O]nly in the most unusual circumstances is a defendant ...


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