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Sanders v. Matthew

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 23, 2016

PHILLIP SANDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
MATTHEW et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 17)

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Phillips Sanders (“Plaintiff”) appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against numerous defendants. (Doc. 1). The Court screened the pleading and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. (Doc. 8). On February 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration, as well as a Notice of Appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (“Ninth Circuit”). (Docs. 11 and 12). While the appeal was pending, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on March 4, 2016. (Doc. 17). Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied on March 9, 2016. (Doc. 18). The Ninth Circuit dismissed Plaintiff’s appeal on April 7, 2016, and issued the mandate on May 2, 2016. (Docs. 19 and 20). The Court now screens Plaintiff’s FAC.

         The FAC is disorganized but appears to allege causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations under the Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as several state law claims including intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault with a deadly weapon, and California Civil Codes §§ 43, 51.7 and 52.1. Plaintiff lists eight individuals as Defendants including: Fresno Police Officers Matthew and Sturgeon; Fresno Public Defender Sabrina Ashjian; Fresno County Assistant District Attorneys Stacy Phillips and John Gatschet; Probation Officer Keyana Davis; Frenso County Superior Court Appeals Clerk R. Arreola: and Kate Dashiel of the Central California Appellate Program (“CCAP”). The Court has screened the FAC and dismisses the FAC with leave to amend.

         As noted in its previous screening order, Plaintiff’s lawsuit challenges his a state criminal conviction and names various court and attorney personnel who participated in that conviction. In the last screening order, Plaintiff was advised that many of his claims were barred and that he needed to more clearly articulate his claims which he has not done. Plaintiff has requested that the Court provide him a legal team to assess his case. The Court cannot give Plaintiff legal advice about his case, but will provide Plaintiff with the appropriate legal standards and give Plaintiff one more opportunity to amend his complaint.[1]

         II.DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard for Screening

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct an initial review of the 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 in the Complaint can be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). Courts deem a complaint “frivolous” when it lacks “basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989). In other words, a complaint is frivolous where the litigant asserts “not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual allegation.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325.

         To state a claim, a 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 (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.

         To determine whether a Complaint states an actionable claim, the Court must accept the allegations in the Complaint as true, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hosp., 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 Iqbal).

         B. Plaintiff’s Complaint

         The allegations in Plaintiff’s FAC appear to stem from an incident on or about July 17, 2013, when he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, and a domestic violence offense.[2] Plaintiff contends that a disagreement occurred when a “young lady that did not live with him, ” asked him for some money. (Doc. 1, pgs. 15, lines 3-15). When he told her, “no, ” she became angry. Id. He alleges he ran to his house and locked the gate and the front door to get away from the woman, but she climbed the gate and kicked in his front door. Id. He was in shock and dragged the woman out of his house, “without any bodily injury, ” and told her to leave. Id. He realized that she was calling the police, so he ran after her and yelled that she had kicked in his door so the police could hear his version of events on the 911 call. The police arrived at the scene and arrested Plaintiff. In the FAC, Plaintiff contends that he was not convicted of an offense as a result of this incident. However, the Court takes judicial notice that in The People v. Phillip Sanders, Case No. F13906789[3] Fresno County Superior Court records indicate that Plaintiff pled nolo contendere to the misdemeanor offense of Corporal Injury to a Spouse/Cohabitant in violation of California Penal Code § 273.5 on July 30, 2013. Plaintiff filed an appeal on September 18, 2013. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded to the trial court for resentencing on September 5, 2014. Plaintiff did not appear at the resentencing hearing on September 9, 2014 as ordered.

         The bulk of Plaintiff’s complaint revolves around allegations that his public defender Sabrina Ashjian engaged in ineffective assistance of counsel during his criminal proceedings because she failed to get any discovery, did not properly investigate his case before encouraging him to plead, improperly permitted the imposition of felony probation on a misdemeanor conviction, and failed to request a stay of probation pending an appeal. (Doc. 17, pg. 13). He also alleges that his bail was too high, and he was improperly ordered to pay fees that he could not afford. Id.

         Plaintiff’s FAC further contends Officers Matthew and Sturgeon manipulated their police reports as well as the 911 CD, and engaged in malicious prosecution by bringing the charges against him. (Doc. 17, pg. 4-5, 7, 9). Plaintiff also alleges that at the time of his arrest, he was approached by two Fresno patrol units including a K-9 unit. (Doc. 17, pg. 5-6). Officer Sturgeon ordered Plaintiff to the ground with guns drawn. After Plaintiff complied, Officer Sturgeon handcuffed Plaintiff and placed him on the curb. He searched Plaintiff and placed Plaintiff in the back of the patrol car for five minutes. (Doc. 17, pgs. 6-7). Plaintiff contends that Officer Sturgeon drove Plaintiff to his house where Officer Matthews was located. (Id. at pg. 7). Once they arrived at the residence, he contends that Officer Matthew placed his handcuffs on Plaintiff “tightly and in a rough house manner, ” leaving two pairs of handcuffs on Plaintiff before removing Sturgeon’s handcuffs. (Id. at pg. 7.)

         Based on the above, Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Sixth Amendment for ineffective assistance of Counsel, an Eighth Amendment violation for cruel and unusual punishment based on excessive bail, and a violation of due process under the Fourteen Amendment against Public Defender Sabrina Ashjian. (Id. at 13-15). Plaintiff also alleges a Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violation against Officers Matthew and Sturgeon based on conspiracy, malicious prosecution, and alleges they fabricated a police report resulting in his illegal arrest. (Id. at pgs. 7, 9-10). Additionally, he alleges state law claims pursuant to California Civil Code §§ 43, 51.7 and 52.1, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Public Defender Ashjian, Officers Matthew and Sturgeon (Doc. 17, pgs. 7-15). Finally, he asserts a claim of assault with a deadly weapon against Officer Sturgeon. (Doc. 17, pg. 8).

         Finally, without any explanation, Plaintiff alleges causes of action pursuant to California Civil Code § 52.1 against Fresno County District Attorney Stacy Phillips and John Gatschet; Probation Officer Keyana Davis; Frenso County Superior Court Appeals Clerk R. Arreola: and Kate Dashiel of the Central California Appellate Program (“CCAP”).[4]

         A review of the Complaint reveals that Plaintiff has not stated a cognizable claim and that several of his claims appear to be barred for the reasons set forth below. However, Plaintiff will be provided with the following legal standards so that he can determine if he would like to pursue his case. Moreover, Plaintiff is advised that any amended complaint must include a request for relief as the FAC currently does not identify any relief he is seeking.

         C. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

         The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law …

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Therefore, to state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege a deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or other law of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color or state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. Any amended complaint must meet this standard and Plaintiff must identify how each defendant’s conduct resulted in a violation of his constitutional rights in order to state a cognizable claim under section 1983.

         1. ...


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