United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING
PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN THIRTY (30)
DAYS (ECF NO. 1)
Willis Randolph (“Plaintiff”), appearing pro
se, filed a Complaint on April 27, 2016. (ECF No. 1.)
The Complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the State of California, Jim Obbliger, Katherine
Hart, Bob Johansen, and Pete Chavez (collectively, the
“Defendants”). Id. Plaintiff alleges
that the Defendants engaged in conduct in 1987 that lead to
his conviction for murder, despite his asserted innocence.
The Court has screened the Complaint and makes its
recommendations herein, namely, that Plaintiff’s
Complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct a review
of a pro se complaint to determine whether it
“state[s] a claim on which relief may be granted,
” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or
“seek[s] monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” If the Court determines that
the complaint fails to state a claim, it must be dismissed.
Id. Leave to amend may be granted to the extent that
the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment.
Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir.
complaint 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
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct.
1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim that is plausible on its
face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While
factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions
are not. Id. at 678.
determining whether a complaint states an actionable claim,
the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as
true, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hospital,
425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe pro se pleadings
liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff,
Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000),
and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff’s favor.
Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “must be held
to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342
(9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints
should continue to be liberally construed after
Complaint alleges that in 1987, Defendant Obbliger, then a
deputy district attorney, visited Plaintiff at San Quentin
State Prison. Obbliger was accompanied by Defendants Chavez
and Johansen, both of whom were deputy sheriffs at the time.
The Defendants informed Plaintiff that they had obtained the
cooperation of a jailhouse informant who would place
Plaintiff at the scene of a crime. They further informed him
that they would seek an all-white jury and that Plaintiff
would be placed in in prison “for a long time.”
(Complaint at 3, ECF No. 1.) Defendant Katherine Hart
represented Plaintiff in his criminal proceedings (it is
unclear from the Complaint whether Hart was Plaintiff’s
attorney during his initial trial, on the appeal of his
eventual conviction, or both). Plaintiff asks for an
evidentiary hearing and for the reversal of his conviction
because of his allegedly wrongful conviction in his 1989
trial, which he asserts constitutes a violation of his
constitutional civil rights.
not Plaintiff’s first complaint to make these
allegations. In Randolph v. Rainwater, Case No.
1:13-cv-00016-AWI-JLT, Plaintiff sued Defendants Obbliger and
Hart, as well as Robert Rainwater, who represented Plaintiff
at some point, alleging that Obbliger withheld exculpatory
evidence, Hart failed to raise appropriate issues on appeal,
and Rainwater provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The
Complaint was dismissed without leave to amend on February
20, 2013. Similarly, Plaintiff has filed at least three
separate habeas petitions before the U.S. District Court
making similar allegations, the most recent of which was
filed on the same date this Complaint was filed. See
Randolph v. State of California, Case No.
1:16-cv-00592-AWI-JLT; Randolph v. Swarthout, Case
No. 1:13-cv-00543-SAB; Randolph v. People of
California, Case No. 1:93-cv-05604-LJO.
claim constitutes a challenge to the fact or duration of his
confinement. As a result, his sole federal remedy is a writ
of habeas corpus and a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is
inappropriate. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475,
479 (1973) (“Release from penal custody is not an
available remedy under the Civil Rights Act”);
Young v. Kenny, 907 F.2d 874, 875 (9th Cir. 1989)
(“Where a state prisoner challenges the fact or
duration of his confinement, his sole federal remedy is a
writ of habeas corpus.”).
a § 1983 claim is barred where a judgment in favor of a
plaintiff “would necessarily imply the invalidity of
his conviction or sentence.” Lockett v.
Ericson, 656 F.3d 892, 896 (9th Cir. 2011), quoting
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994) (“in
order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by
actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called
into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ
of habeas corpus.”). Plaintiff explicitly requests
relief invalidating his conviction because it was based on
unconstitutional conduct by Defendants. Plaintiff has not,
however, demonstrated that his conviction has already been
reversed, expunged, or otherwise called into question. Thus,
Plaintiff’s claims are not cognizable and must be
dismissed. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 (“A claim for
damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence
that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable
under § 1983.”).
Plaintiff’s claims were cognizable under § 1983,
they would be barred by the applicable statute of
limitations. Claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 use
the applicable state statute of limitations for personal
injury actions. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387
(2007). In California, this statute of limitations is two
years. Comm. Concerning Cmty. Improvement v. City of
Modesto, 583 F.3d 690, 701 n. 3 (9th Cir. 2009)
(“Claims under § 1983 are subject to the state
statute of limitations for personal injury claims. In
California, that state rule is two years.”). State
tolling rules also apply. Wallace, 549 U.S. at 394
(“We have generally referred to state law for tolling
rules, just as we have for the length of statutes of
limitations.”). California Code of Civil Procedure
§ 352.1(a) allows a statute of limitations to be tolled
for up to two years when a plaintiff is “at the time
the cause of action accrued, imprisoned on a criminal
charge.” Thus, a prisoner typically has four years to
assert a § 1983 action for a cause of action that
accrues while they are imprisoned. “A federal claim
accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the
injury which is the basis of the action.” Bagley v.
CMC Real Estate Corp., 823 F.2d 758, 760 (9th Cir.
1991). The conduct Plaintiff complains of occurred nearly
thirty years ago, in 1987. This is far beyond the applicable
statute of limitations.
the allegations in the Complaint cannot state a claim against
Defendant Hart as a matter of law. To state a claim under
§ 1983, a plaintiff “must allege a violation of a
right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United
States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state
law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988) (emphasis added). Plaintiff asserts that he was denied
his constitutional rights by Defendant Hart, his attorney. It
is well-settled, however, that attorneys do “not act
under color of state law when performing a lawyer’s
traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal
proceeding.” Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S.
312, 325 (1981) (upholding dismissal of a § 1983 claim
by a pro se prisoner against a public defender that