United States District Court, E.D. California
LARRY A. SERMENO, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY E. LEWIS, et al., Defendants.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSIAL
OF PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
Barbara A. McAuliffe UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Larry A. Sermeno (“Plaintiff”) is a state
prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in
this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, filed on March 2,
2017, is currently before the Court for screening.
Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against
an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion
thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or
malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(A)(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . .
.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations
are not required, but “[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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)
(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). While a
plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts
“are not required to indulge unwarranted
inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially
plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow
the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss
v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th
Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted
unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with
liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility
standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949
(quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.
Courts are required to liberally construe pro se prisoner
complaints. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97
S.Ct. 285, 292 (1976).
Plaintiff's Allegations in the First Amended
is currently housed at the California Substance Abuse
Treatment Facility in Corcoran, CA. In his First Amended
Complaint (“FAC”), Plaintiff names four Kings
County Superior Court clerks as defendants including: (1)
Jeffrey E Lewis, the Clerk of the Court; (2) Kings County
Superior Court Clerk 1160; (3) Kings County Superior Court
Clerk 1223; and (4) Kings County Superior Court Clerk 1136.
Plaintiff alleges that on February 19, 2016, he was notified
by his former facility that he was recommended for transfer
to the “CSATF ‘F' Facility.” In an
effort to stop the transfer, on February 21, 2016, Plaintiff
mailed a fee waiver, a civil rights complaint, and a request
for a temporary restraining order to the Kings County
Superior Court. Plaintiff alleged in that complaint that a
transfer to CSATF would expose him to a “heightened
risk of contracting Valley Fever as an
African-American.” Accompanying Plaintiff's
complaint was a fee waiver with a written declaration where
Plaintiff explained that he was momentarily unable to obtain
a “certified trust statement due to a procedural morass
that he had to continuously go through with his correctional
Counselor Shannon Dunaven and other staff at CTF to obtain a
certified trust account statement.” The attached
declaration further requested that Defendants process his fee
waiver, despite the missing trust account statement,
“and in the interim, Plaintiff would attempt to have
prison officials send a certified trust account statement
immediately to the Clerk's office.”
February 29, 2016, Defendants declined to process
Plaintiff's “fee-waiver, ” which Plaintiff
alleges denied him access to the courts. Plaintiff further
alleges that Defendant Jeffrey Lewis, the Clerk of the Court,
failed to properly train his clerks and that he implemented
an unconstitutional policy that violated Plaintiff's
constitutional rights. Plaintiff additionally alleges that
Defendants' conduct violated the Americans with
Disabilities Act. In Plaintiff's view, Defendants'
failure to file his fee waiver denied him, a disabled person,
access “to the benefits of local and state
programs.” Plaintiff seeks monetary damages as well as
declaratory and injunctive relief.
Absolute Quasi-Judicial Immunity
Supreme Court has recognized that some officials perform
special functions which, because of their similarity to
functions that would have been immune when Congress enacted
§ 1983, deserve absolute protection from damages
liability. Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259,
268-69 (1993). This immunity extends to individuals
performing functions necessary to the judicial process.
Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889, 895-96 (9th Cir.
2003). Under the common law, judges, prosecutors, trial
witnesses, and jurors were absolutely immune for such
critical functions. Id. at 896. The Court has taken
a “functional approach” to the question of
whether absolute immunity applies in a given situation,
meaning that it looks to “the nature of the function
performed, not the identity of the actor who performed
it.” Buckley, 509 U.S. at 269 (1993)
(quoting Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 229
(1988)). Accordingly, state actors are granted absolute
immunity from damages liability in suits under § 1983
for actions taken while performing a duty functionally
comparable to one for which officials were immune at common
law. Miller, 335 F.3d at 897.
the Defendants' collective action in refusing to file
Plaintiff's fee waiver on the grounds that it did not
comply with a particular local rule or procedure is
functionally comparable to one for which officials were
immune at common law-it is functionally comparable to a
judge's determination whether a litigant has complied
with local rules and procedures. Defendants are therefore
entitled to absolute immunity from their enforcement of the
court's local rules and procedures. See id.;
see also Moore v. Brewster, 96 F.3d 1240, 1244 (9th
Cir. 1996) (clerks of court had absolute quasi-judicial
immunity from damages for civil rights violations when they
performed tasks that were an integral part of the judicial
process); Sharma v. Stevas, 790 F.2d 1486, 1486 (9th
Cir. 1986) (clerk of court had absolute quasi-judicial
immunity under FTCA where his acts were integral part of
judicial process). Consequently, Plaintiff is not entitled to
relief because Defendants are entitled to immunity for these
acts performed as a necessary part of the judicial process.
See Burton v. Infinity Capital Management, 753 F.3d
954, 959 (9th Cir. 2014) (Absolute immunity “is not
reserved solely for judges, but extends to nonjudicial
officers for all claims relating to the exercise of judicial
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint “seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief”