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France v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. California

February 13, 2017



          Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia United States District Judge

         I. Procedural History

         On September 21, 2016, Michael Allen France (“Plaintiff”), a state inmate currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, filed a civil rights complaint (“Compl.”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) He sought an injunction from the Governor of California preventing “any further warrants of arrests to be issued on me, ” $55, 000 in compensatory damages, $14, 000, 000 in punitive damages and the termination of his parole agent, Defendant Joseph Singleton. (Compl. at 7.)

         Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (ECF No. 2.) The Court GRANTED Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP but simultaneously DISMISSED his Complaint for failing to state a claim, as frivolous and for seeking monetary damages against immune defendants. (ECF No. 8 at 7-9.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended pleading and on January 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). (ECF No. 12.) In addition, Plaintiff has filed a “Motion to Introduce Proof of Service” which is DENIED as moot in light of the Court's Order below dismissing the entire action. (ECF No. 14.)

         II. Sua Sponte Screening per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A

          “The Court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, ” complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP, and by those, like Plaintiff, who are “incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.” See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). The Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         “Section 1983 creates a private right of action against individuals who, acting under color of state law, violate federal constitutional or statutory rights.” Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1074 (9th Cir. 2001). Section 1983 “is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “To establish § 1983 liability, a plaintiff must show both (1) deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128, 1138 (9th Cir. 2012).

         A. Freedom of Religion [1] claims

         The Court finds that a majority of Plaintiff's allegations, while far from clear, are borderline frivolous under § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A. Plaintiff objects to a number of the parole conditions enforced by Defendants, including but not limited to, requiring Plaintiff to “live in a residential treatment facility for 90 days and then a sober living house for 180 days.” (FAC at 3.) Plaintiff claims he “attempted to go to a 90 day inpatient treatment center 4 or 5 times” but he “had enough of their attempted indoctrination that would leave a person to believe that loving God and using drugs are mutually exclusive.” (Id. at 4.) He further alleges that his religion of “Here and Nowism” believes that “spiritual beings were put into chemically dependent bodies and are required to figure out what chemicals they can use and remain kind.” (Id. at 5.)

         “[A] complaint, containing as it does both factual allegations and legal conclusions, is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact....[The] term ‘frivolous, ' when applied to a complaint, embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual allegation.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A pleading is “factual[ly] frivolous[ ]” under § 1915(e)(2) § 1915A(b)(1) if “the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). When determining whether a complaint is frivolous, the court need not accept the allegations as true, but must “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations, ” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327, to determine whether they are “ ‘fanciful, ' ‘fantastic, ' [or] ‘delusional, '” Denton, 504 U.S. at 33 (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325-28).

         Applying these standards to the allegations Plaintiff's FAC, the Court finds that Plaintiff's freedom of religion claims may be frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) § 1915A(b)(1). See Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 920 n.1 (9th Cir. 2014).

         B. Absolute Immunity

         Regardless of whether Plaintiff's religious beliefs are “sincerely held, ” to the extent that Plaintiff seeks money damages against his parole agent, or his agent's supervisor for alleged constitutional violations, the Court finds the constitutional claims against these Defendants must be dismissed for seeking damages against defendants who are immune pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) & (iii).

         Defendants Singleton and Garcia are entitled to absolute immunity for claims of money damages relating to allegations of imposing unconstitutional parole conditions. See Thornton v. Brown,757 F.3d 834, 840 (9th Cir. 2013). The Ninth Circuit has held “absolute immunity “extend[s] to parole officials for the ‘imposition of parole conditions' because that task is ‘integrally related to an official's decision to grant or revoke parole, ' which is a ‘quasi-judicial ...

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