United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to
28 U.S.C. 1915. His declaration makes the showing required
by 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(1) and (2). See ECF No.
2. Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma
pauperis is granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).
that plaintiff may proceed in forma pauperis does
not complete the required inquiry. Pursuant to §
1915(e)(2), the court must dismiss the case at any time if it
determines the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if the
action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against
an immune defendant. As discussed below, plaintiff's
complaint fails to state a claim and must be dismissed.
pro se pleadings are liberally construed, see Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), a complaint, or
portion thereof, should be dismissed for failure to state a
claim if it fails to set forth "enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007)
(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957));
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "[A]
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause
of action's elements will not do. Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level on the assumption that all of the
complaint's allegations are true." Id.
(citations omitted). Dismissal is appropriate based either on
the lack of cognizable legal theories or the lack of pleading
sufficient facts to support cognizable legal theories.
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d
696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must
accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question,
Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S.
738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the
plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395
U.S. 411, 421 (1969). A pro se plaintiff must satisfy the
pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to include
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)).
a federal court is a court of limited jurisdiction, and may
adjudicate only those cases authorized by the Constitution
and by Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.,
511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The basic federal jurisdiction
statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1332, confer
"federal question" and "diversity"
jurisdiction, respectively. Federal question jurisdiction
requires that the complaint (1) arise under a federal law or
the U.S. Constitution, (2) allege a "case or
controversy" within the meaning of Article III, § 2
of the U.S. Constitution, or (3) be authorized by a federal
statute that both regulates a specific subject matter and
confers federal jurisdiction. Baker v. Carr, 369
U.S. 186, 198 (1962). To invoke the court's diversity
jurisdiction, a plaintiff must specifically allege the
diverse citizenship of all parties, and that the matter in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a);
Bautista v. Pan American World Airlines, Inc., 828
F.2d 546, 552 (9th Cir. 1987). A case presumably lies outside
the jurisdiction of the federal courts unless demonstrated
otherwise. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 376-78. Lack of
subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by
either party or by the court. Attorneys Trust v.
Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95
(9th Cir. 1996).
complaint alleges that in December 2006, defendant Cara
Beatty, who is currently a state court judge, declared
plaintiff a vexatious litigant. ECF No. 1. At the time that
decision was made, Judge Beatty was a commissioner.
Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff alleges that the order
declaring him vexatious was issued without first providing
him sufficient notice of a hearing. Id. He further
claims that he did not agree to allow defendant, as a
commissioner, to determine whether he was a vexatious
litigant. Id. at 2. He contends that due to being
declared a vexatious litigant, he has been unable to file
lawsuits concerning real property he previously owned in
Shasta County. Id. In addition to damages, plaintiff
seeks an order from this court directing defendant to
immediately withdraw the order declaring him a vexatious
litigant. Id. at 3.
complaint fails to state a claim against Judge Beatty. It is
clear from the allegations of the complaint that plaintiff is
suing Beatty because of the official act of entering an order
declaring plaintiff a vexatious litigant. Indeed, the relief
sought is an order directing the withdrawal of the vexatious
litigant order. "Judges are absolutely immune from
damages actions for judicial acts taken within the
jurisdiction of their courts . . . . A judge loses absolute
immunity only when [the judge] acts in the clear absence of
all jurisdiction or performs an act that is not judicial in
nature." Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202,
1204 (9th Cir. 1988) (per curiam). Judicial immunity extends
to municipal court commissioners performing judicial
functions. Franceschi v. Schwartz, 57 F.3d 828, 830
(9th Cir. 1995). As plaintiff's claims against Judge
Beatty relate to judicial actions he performed as a
commissioner, the claims are barred by judicial immunity.
plaintiff's claims are barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. This action seeks to
challenge the state court ruling declaring plaintiff a
vexatious litigant. This court is not the appropriate
tribunal to review or modify state court judgments. See
Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Company, 263 U.S. 413
(1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983). "[L]ower federal
courts do not have jurisdiction to review a case litigated
and decided in state court; only the United States Supreme
Court has jurisdiction to correct state court
judgments." Gottfried v. Medical Planning
Services, 142 F.3d 326, 330 (6th Cir.), cert.
denied, 525 U.S. 1041, 119 S.Ct. 592 (1998); see
also Bianchi v. Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d 895, 901 (9th Cir.
2003) ("Stated plainly, Rooker-Feldman bars any
suit that seeks to disrupt or ‘undo' a prior
state-court judgment, regardless of whether the state-court
proceeding afforded the federal-court plaintiff a full and
fair opportunity to litigate her claims."). Thus,
plaintiff may not challenge the vexatious litigant order in
reasons stated above, plaintiffs complaint must be dismissed.
Further, it is clear from the face of the complaint that its
deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Therefore, the
dismissal should be without leave to amend. See Noll v.
Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987) (while the
court ordinarily would permit a pro se plaintiff to amend,
leave to amend should not be granted where it appears
amendment would be futile).
it is hereby ORDERED that plaintiffs application to proceed
in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) is
it is RECOMMENDED that plaintiffs complaint be dismissed
without leave to amend and the Clerk be directed to close the
findings and recommendations are submitted to the United
States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within fourteen
days after being served with these findings and
recommendations, any party may file written objections with
the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document
should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate
Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Failure to
file objections within the specified time may waive the right
to appeal ...