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Weston v. Kelso

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 13, 2017

JOHN F. WESTON, Plaintiff,
v.
J. CLARK KELSO, Defendant.

          ORDER & FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was originally filed in the Sacramento County Superior Court. Defendant Kelso removed it to federal court on February 21, 2017. See 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a).

         II. Screening Standard

         The 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. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

         A claim 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 where 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); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

         In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-557 (2007). In other words, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

         III. Discussion

         The sole named defendant in this action is J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed Receiver for the prison health care system in Plata v. Schwarzenegger, C01-1391 TEH (N.D. Cal.). Like numerous other prisoner actions in this district, plaintiff's complaint concerns a May 16, 2016 “Notice of Data Breach” which informed inmates that, on February 25, 2016, a password-protected state laptop, possibly containing inmates' personal information, was stolen from a prison staffer's vehicle. (ECF No. 1 at 21.) Plaintiff claims this incident has put him at risk of having his confidential information misused, and that prison officials responsible for the incident have violated his legal rights.

         Plaintiff is required to establish standing for each claim he asserts. DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 352 (2006). If a plaintiff has no standing, the court has no subject matter jurisdiction. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n v. Adams, 629 F.2d 587, 593 n. 11 (9th Cir. 1980) (“[B]efore reaching a decision on the merits, we [are required to] address the standing issue to determine if we have jurisdiction.”). There are three requirements that must be met for a plaintiff to have standing: (1) the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact”-an invasion of a legally protected interest which is both concrete and particularized and actual or imminent; (2) there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of; and (3) it must be likely that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992); Wash. Legal Found. v. Legal Found. of Wash., 271 F.3d 835, 847 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). Here, plaintiff has not shown he has standing to sue because the complaint demonstrates only that the theft of the state's laptop has the potential to injure plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges no actual misuse of his personal information stemming from the theft.

         Insofar as plaintiff alleges that prison officials were negligent, mere negligence does not amount to a cause of action under § 1983.

         For these reasons, the complaint fails to state a cognizable claim.

         IV. No Leave to Amend

         If the court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, the court has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (“A pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.”) (citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, ...


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