United States District Court, E.D. California
Gregory G. Hollows UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
proceeding in this action pro se, has requested leave to
proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule
302(21), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
has submitted an affidavit making the showing required by 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Accordingly, the request to proceed
in forma pauperis will be granted.
federal in forma pauperis statute authorizes federal courts
to dismiss a case if the action is legally "frivolous or
malicious, " fails to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221,
1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a
claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The
critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however
inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis.
See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir.
1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.
complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain
factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to
relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965
(2007). "The pleading must contain something more ...
than ... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion
[of] a legally cognizable right of action."
Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure 1216, pp. 235-235 (3d ed. 2004).
"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "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
pleadings are liberally construed. See Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595-96
(1972); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't.,
901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). Unless it is clear that no
amendment can cure the defects of a complaint, a pro se
plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is entitled to notice
and an opportunity to amend before dismissal. See Noll v.
Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987);
Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1230.
complaint alleges, among other things, that Child Protective
Services ("CPS") used false allegations of domestic
violence, lied about plaintiff's character, and
fabricated evidence for use in state court proceedings which
apparently resulted in the removal of his children from his
home or custody. With regard to the second defendant named,
Mercy San Juan Hospital, he alleges that he was physically
assaulted and injured by hospital personnel. He seeks to have
his children returned to him and his wife immediately and to
be awarded damages for the abuse he claims. Plaintiff
predicates his claims on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
to the federal Constitution without any specificity as to how
those Amendments are relied on.
court finds the allegations in plaintiff's complaint so
vague and conclusory that it is unable to determine whether
the current action is frivolous or fails to state a claim for
relief. The court has determined that the complaint does not
contain a short and plain statement as required by
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a
flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice
and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly.
Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649
(9th Cir. 1984). In order to satisfy the Rule 8 standard and
state a plausible claim for relief, plaintiff must go beyond
the general statement that "lies" were told about
him by employees of defendant Child Protective Services. He
must identify by name or description who told the lies, what
the lies were, when and where the lies were told. By the same
token he does not identify what employee or employees of
Mercy San Juan Hospital participated in the assault that
injured him, when they did so, and other surrounding
does plaintiff state any specific legal claims beyond the
reference to the foregoing Amendments. Plaintiff must allege
with at least some degree of particularity that a person
acting under color of law subjected plaintiff to the actions
complained and identify the violation of specific statutes,
ordinances, regulations, custom, or usage which allegations
are essential elements of a section 1983 claim. Id.
complaint also indicates that state court proceedings were a
part of the deprivation of custody of his children about
which plaintiff complains. It is inappropriate for a federal court
to interfere in this family law matter pending in state
court. See Coats v. Woods, 819 F.2d 236, 237 (9th
Cir. 1987), cert. denied 484 U.S. 802 (1987) (no
abuse of discretion in district court's abstention from
hearing § 1983 claims arising from a child custody
dispute pending in state court); Peterson v.
Babbitt, 708 F.2d 465, 466 (9th Cir. 1983) (upholding
abstention by district court in dispute involving
father's visitation rights). Disputes regarding child
custody and visitation are domestic relations matters
traditionally within the domain of the state courts, and it
is appropriate for federal district courts to abstain from
hearing such cases, especially when there are ongoing state
judicial proceedings. Coats, 819 F.2d at 237. In
this case, it is unclear whether the state judicial
proceedings are ongoing or concluded; however, if they are
ongoing, plaintiff has an adequate opportunity to raise his
constitutional claims in the state courts.
state court proceedings are no longer ongoing, but have
resolved adversely to plaintiff, there is still no federal
jurisdiction which would permit this court to interfere with
any orders issued by state court related to custody of
plaintiff's children. Plaintiff's allegations of
errors in the state court are barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine because they expressly
entail review of a state court's prior judgment.
federal district court does not have jurisdiction to review
legal errors in state court decisions. Dist. of Columbia
Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476, 103
S.Ct. 1303, 1311-1312, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983); Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415, 44 S.Ct. 149,
150, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923). This doctrine has not aged well
with time. In recently advocating the abolishment of a
doctrine not at issue here, Justice Stevens characterized the
lack of vitality in Rooker-Feldman:
Rather than preserving whatever vitality that the
"exception" has retained as a result of the
Markham dicta, I would provide the creature with a
decent burial in a grave adjacent to the resting place of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Lance v.
Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, __, 126 S.Ct. ...