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Rodriguez v. Carter

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 6, 2017

ISAAC JOSE RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DERRICK CARTER, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          ALEXANDER F. MacKINNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On June 22, 2016, plaintiff filed a Complaint in this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He subsequently was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The Complaint named as defendants Derrick Carter and Daniel Morris, both police officers with the City of Pasadena Police Department, Phillip Sanchez, the Chief of Police for the City of Pasadena Police Department, and the City of Pasadena. (ECF No. 1 at 2-3.)[1] Plaintiff's claims appeared to arise from an arrest that occurred on October 26, 2013. (Id. at 3.)

         In accordance with the terms of the “Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, ” the Court screened the Complaint prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see, e.g., Shirley v. Univ. of Idaho, 800 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and noting that a “district court shall screen and dismiss an action filed by a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis”); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (noting “section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints” and directing “district courts to dismiss a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted”) (en banc).

         Following careful review of the Complaint, the Court found that its allegations appeared insufficient to state any claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, on October 26, 2016, the Complaint was dismissed with leave to amend, and plaintiff was ordered, if he wished to pursue the action, to file a First Amended Complaint no later than November 30, 2016. Further, plaintiff was admonished that, if he failed to timely file a First Amended Complaint, or failed to remedy the deficiencies of his pleading, the Court would recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice. (ECF No. 9.)

         On November 30, 2016, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). The FAC named as defendants Officers Derrick Carter and Daniel Morris and the City of Pasadena. (ECF No. 11 at 2-3.) After careful review of the FAC, the Court once again found that plaintiff's allegations appeared insufficient to state any claim on which relief may be granted. Accordingly, the FAC was dismissed with leave to amend. Further, plaintiff was admonished that, if he failed to timely file a Second Amended Complaint, or failed to remedy the deficiencies of his pleading, the Court would recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice. (ECF No. 15.)

         On February 9, 2107, plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) (ECF No. 17) accompanied by plaintiff's supporting declaration (“Declaration”) (ECF No. 18). The Declaration appears to set forth the same or extremely similar facts concerning plaintiff's arrest on October 26, 2103, as those that are alleged in the SAC. The SAC seeks monetary damages and unspecified injunctive relief for “plaintiffs [sic] and others who are similarly situated.” (ECF No. 17 at 10-11.) The SAC names as defendants the City of Pasadena Police Department, and Officers Carter and Morris. (Id. at 2-3.)

         Once again, in accordance with the mandate of the PLRA, the Court has screened the SAC prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. The Court's screening of the pleading under the foregoing statute is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (when determining whether a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court applies the same standard as applied in a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)). In determining whether the pleading states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the “tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In addition, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the pleading liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, the Supreme Court has held that, “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 . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted, alteration in original); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' . . . A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” (internal citation omitted)); Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (“the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation”).

         After careful review and consideration of the SAC under the foregoing standards, the Court again finds that plaintiff's allegations appear insufficient to state any claim on which relief may be granted. Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this civil rights action, the Court will provide one final opportunity to allow plaintiff to attempt to cure the deficiencies set forth below by amendment. Accordingly, the SAC is dismissed with leave to amend. See Rosati, 791 F.3d at 1039 (“A district court should not dismiss a pro se complaint without leave to amend unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         If plaintiff still desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a Third Amended Complaint no later than May 8, 2017, remedying the deficiencies discussed below. Further, plaintiff is admonished that, if he fails to timely file a Second Amended Complaint, or fails to remedy the deficiencies of this pleading as discussed herein, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice.[2]

         DISCUSSION

         A. To the extent that plaintiff's claims implicate the validity of a prior conviction, the claims are barred by Heck.

         A petition for habeas corpus is a prisoner's sole judicial remedy when attacking “the validity of the fact or length of . . . confinement.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489-90 (1973); Young v. Kenny, 907 F.2d 874, 875 (9th Cir. 1990). Thus, plaintiff may not use a civil rights action to challenge the validity of a conviction or incarceration. Such relief only is available in a habeas corpus action. In addition, to the extent that a plaintiff is attempting to use a civil rights action to seek monetary damages for an allegedly unlawful conviction where success would necessarily implicate the fact or duration of his conviction, his claims are not cognizable under § 1983 unless and until plaintiff can show 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.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Under Heck, if a judgment in favor of a plaintiff on a civil rights action necessarily will imply the invalidity of his or her conviction or sentence, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence already has been invalidated. Id.; see also Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 525 (2011) (“Where the prisoner's claim would not ‘necessarily spell speedier release, ' however, suit may be brought under § 1983.”). Accordingly, “Heck prohibits the use of § 1983 to attack the validity of a conviction, because a recovery in the damages action would necessarily imply that the conviction was wrongfully obtained.” Furnace v. Giurbino, 838 F.3d 1019, 1027 (9th Cir. 2016).[3]

         Here, plaintiff continues to seek monetary damages arising, in part, from an “unlawful stop and detention” (ECF No. 17 at 4); an allegedly “unreasonable search and seizure” (id.); an arrest in “retaliation because he was exercising his rights to remain silent and asking why he is [sic] being stopped” (id. at 5); and “false imprisonment” (id. at 6). Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested by defendants Officer Carter and Officer Morris on October 26, 2013, and that he was subsequently charged with a violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a) for “delaying a police officer.” (Id. at 1, 3.) Plaintiff alleges that criminal proceedings took place on April 1, 2014, that plaintiff was represented by a public defender, and that he has “filed many motions and writ's [sic] to the Superior Court arguing that his public counsel who represented him was insufficient of counsel [sic] to the plaintiff.” (Id. at 4.) As in the FAC, plaintiff's SAC sets forth no factual allegations concerning the outcome of this criminal case. In the SAC, the only federal civil rights claims that plaintiff purports to raise against the individual ...


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