United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; ADDRESSING
PENDING MOTIONS RE: DKT. NOS. 4, 6
MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge
an inmate at the Santa Clara County Jail, has filed a pro se
civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He is
granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis by separate order.
His complaint is now before the Court for review under 28
U.S.C. § 1915A.
Standard of Review
federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any
case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental
entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the
court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any
claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from
a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must,
however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v.
Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not
necessary; the statement need only "‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v.
Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted).
Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not
need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the grounds of his ‘entitle[ment]
to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level."
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955,
1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer
"enough facts to state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face." Id. at 1974.
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated,
and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person
acting under the color of state law. See West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
plaintiff's complaint currently reads, the Court cannot
determine what the contours of plaintiff's claims are. He
appears to allege that he was subject to discriminatory
charging by the Office of the Santa Clara County District
Attorney when arrested and charged for possession for sale
and transportation of heroine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
He does not dispute possessing the drugs but contends that
they were obviously in amounts that indicated personal use,
and that he was overcharged because of his race. He names as
defendants Santa Clara County district attorney Jeff Rosen,
the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and Does 1
allegations of the complaint suggest that the Heck
rule applies to this case, but plaintiff has not provided
sufficient information for the court to make that
determination. In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477
(1994), the Supreme Court held that in order to state a claim
for damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
term of imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions
whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence
invalid, a plaintiff asserting a violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 must prove that the conviction or sentence has
been reversed or declared invalid. See id. at
486-87. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a
conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is
not cognizable under Section 1983. Id. at 487. Such
a damages claim will not be barred under Heck if the
plaintiff has not yet been convicted, however. See
Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 395 (2007) (Heck
does not encompass the principle that "an action which
would impugn an anticipated future conviction cannot be
brought until that conviction occurs and is set aside.")
Nonetheless, the claim should not go forward if the
plaintiff's criminal proceedings are still pending;
rather, the court can "stay the civil action until the
criminal case or the likelihood of a criminal case is
ended." See at 394.
the complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend. In his
amended complaint, plaintiff must provide information as to
whether the criminal charges are still pending, resulted in a
conviction, or resulted in a dismissal. Without this
information, the Court cannot determine whether the complaint
states a claim for relief, whether it is barred by
Heck, and/or whether it must be stayed under
claims against Defendant Rosen are barred because the
district attorney is an officer of the court entitled to
absolute immunity for his conduct as an advocate during the
course of plaintiff's state criminal proceedings. See
Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 272-73 (1993).
Defendant Rosen is therefore DISMISSED with prejudice from
claim against the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is
also deficient. To impose liability under Section 1983
against a municipal entity such as Santa Clara County for a
violation of constitutional rights, a plaintiff must show:
(1) that the plaintiff possessed a constitutional right of
which he or she was deprived; (2) that the municipality had a
policy; (3) that this policy amounts to deliberate
indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional rights;
and (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the
constitutional violation. Plumeau v. School Dist. #40
County of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997);
see Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 690 (1978). Plaintiff does not allege any policy by
Santa Clara County that led to the alleged actions against
him. Plaintiff may correct this deficiency in his amended
complaint, if he can do so in good faith.
plaintiff has a Doe defendant problem. If plaintiff files an
amended complaint, he is advised that the use of "Jane
Doe" or "John Doe" to identify a defendant is
not favored in the Ninth Circuit. See Gillespie v.
Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). Although
the use of a Doe defendant designation is acceptable to
withstand dismissal of a complaint at the initial review
stage, using a Doe defendant designation creates its own
problem: that person cannot be served with process until he
or she is identified by his or her real name. If plaintiff
files an amended complaint, plaintiff must take steps
promptly to discover the full name (i.e., first and last
name) of each of the officers and provide that ...