United States District Court, E.D. California
KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner, proceeding pro se. Plaintiff seeks
relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested
leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court by
Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in
forma pauperis will be granted.
is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for
this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By
this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial
filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct
the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing
fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the
Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated
to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding
month's income credited to plaintiff's trust account.
These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to
the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in
plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee
is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the
prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221,
1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a
claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The
critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however
inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis.
See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir.
1989), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez
v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000)
(“[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims
which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or
whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”);
Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.
8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
“requires only ‘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.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In order to survive dismissal for
failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than
“a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient
“to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. at 555. However, “[s]pecific
facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only
‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim
is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)
(quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555, citations
and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a
complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true
the allegations of the complaint in question,
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93, and construe the pleading
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other
grounds, Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).
as defendants are three Butte County Superior Court Deputy
Clerks, M. Irmer, A. Irmer and K. Flener. Plaintiff alleges
that in March 2016 and July 2016, defendants M. Irmer and A.
Irmer refused to file documents he submitted to the court for
filing, and instead returned them to plaintiff. Plaintiff
alleges that this conduct violated his constitutional right
to access the courts. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Flener
failed to properly train defendants M. Irmer and A. Irmer.
Plaintiff also alleges that in September 2016, legal
documents he sought to file in support of a habeas corpus
petition to initiate parentage/paternity proceedings in the
Butte County Superior Court were wrongly returned to him.
Plaintiff seeks money damages and injunctive relief.
have a fundamental constitutional right of access to the
courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996).
However, the right is limited to direct criminal appeals,
habeas petitions challenging the validity of convictions, and
civil rights actions. Id., at 354. Further, in order
to state a claim for the denial of court access, a prisoner
must establish that he suffered an actual injury.
Id. at 349. “[A]ctual injury [is] actual
prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing
litigation, such as the ability to meet a filing deadline or
to present a claim.” Id. at 348. The prisoner
“must identify a ‘nonfrivolous, '
‘arguable' underlying claim” and the specific
remedy he lost, in order to give the defendant fair notice of
his allegations. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415
(2002) (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353 & n.3).
plaintiff alleges that defendants A. Irmer and M. Irmer
refused to file his legal documents, plaintiff does not
describe these documents. The complaint does not establish
the nature of those documents or demonstrate whether they
were “direct criminal appeals, habeas petitions, or
civil rights actions, ” if at all. Nor does
plaintiff's complaint establish how the defendants'
actions rendered the state court remedies ineffective.
Instead, the complaint merely makes conclusory statements
outlining defendants alleged culpable behavior, namely that
defendants failed to file documents and returned them to
plaintiff. These allegations are not sufficient to state a
also alleges that documents regarding a paternity action were
wrongly returned to him. While plaintiff does not allege that
any defendant was involved in this alleged deprivation, the
right to access the courts does not include the right to file
undersigned also observes that court clerks have absolute
quasi-judicial immunity from damages for civil rights
violations when they perform tasks that are an integral part
of the judicial process. Mullis v. U.S. Bankr. Ct. For
the D. Of Nev., 828 F.2d 1385, 1390 (9th Cir. 1987);
see also Morrison v. Jones, 607 F.2d 1269, 1273 (9th
Cir. 1979). Clerks qualify for quasi-judicial immunity unless
they acted in the clear absence of jurisdiction.
Mullis, 828 F.2d 1385. In Mullis, a debtor
brought a civil rights action against bankruptcy court
clerks. The debtor alleged that the bankruptcy court clerks
accepted and filed his bankruptcy petition, but then refused
to accept and file an amended petition in violation of his
constitutional rights. The Ninth Circuit held that the court
clerks' refusal to accept and file an amended petition
was a basic and integral part of the judicial process, and as
such, the clerks were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity
from damages. Id.
while plaintiff claims that defendants refused to file his
documents, plaintiff fails to explain the details surrounding
the refusal. Nonetheless, the defendants' decisions
regarding whether to accept and file documents is a basic and
integral part of the judicial process. Plaintiff's
complaint therefore makes no allegations that would suggest
that the defendants acted outside of their role as court
clerks. They are therefore entitled to immunity from
plaintiff's claim for damages. Mullis, 828 F.2d
at 1390; see also Juarez v. Clerk, 2009 WL 385796 at
*1 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 13, 2009) (district court clerk was
entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity for allegedly
failing to send plaintiff court opinion denying his
previously filed federal case); White v. ...