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Luna v. Caracas

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 25, 2017

OSCAR LUNA, Plaintiff,


         On April 24, 2017, Plaintiff Oscar Luna, appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.



         The district court must perform a preliminary screening and must dismiss a case if at any time the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints, not just those filed by prisoners). In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). A 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 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         In reviewing the pro se complaint, the Court is to liberally construe the pleadings and accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Therefore, the complaint must contain sufficient factual content for the court to draw the reasonable conclusion that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Similarly, the court may dismiss a claim as factually frivolous when the facts alleged lack an arguable basis in law or in fact or embraces fanciful factual allegations. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Further, a claim can be dismissed where a complete defense is obvious on the face of the complaint. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228 (9th Cir. 1984).



         Plaintiff brings this action against Charmae Caracas who, acting in her official capacity as Clerk Supervisor of the Fresno County Superior Court, refused to file legal documents in Case No. 14CEG02921, using the excuse that the Superior Court had dismissed the action without prejudice. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 5.) Plaintiff alleges that dismissal of the action was impossible because the case was on appeal from January 19, 2016 through February 24, 2017 in case no. F073104. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff brings this action alleging denial of access to the court seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         A.Quasi-Judicial Immunity from Damages

         “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. Court for Dist. of Nevada, 828 F.2d 1385, 1390 (9th Cir. 1987); Fixel v. United States, 737 F.Supp. 593, 597 (D. Nev. 1990), aff'd sub nom. Fixel v. U.S. Dist. Court of Nevada, 930 F.2d 27 (9th Cir. 1991). Clerk action that is “a mistake or an act in excess of jurisdiction does not abrogate judicial immunity, even if it results in ‘grave procedural errors.' ” Mullis, 828 F.2d at 1390 (quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978)). In Mullis, a bankruptcy debtor filed an action against the bankruptcy court clerks. Mullis, 828 F.2d at 1390. The plaintiff alleged denial to access of the court after the court clerks refused to accept and file an amended petition in his bankruptcy action. Mullis, 828 F.2d at 1390. The court found that the clerk of court and deputy clerks are the court officials through whom filing in cases is done. Id. “Consequently, the clerks qualify for quasi-judicial immunity unless these acts were done in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Id.

         Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Caracas refused to accept filings in Plaintiff's action because it had been dismissed. Defendant Caracas's actions regarding the filing of legal papers are integral to the judicial process. Since Defendant Caracas was performing tasks integral to the judicial process she is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity from damages for her actions in refusing to file Plaintiff's legal papers. Coulter v. Roddy, 463 F. App'x 610, 611 (9th Cir. 2011);[1] In re Harris, No. C 94-0212 VRW, 1995 WL 390625, at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 19, 1995); Sermeno v. Lewis, No. 116CV01582LJOBAMPC, 2017 WL 117879, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 11, 2017). Plaintiff's claim for damages against Defendant Caracas should be dismissed without leave to amend.

         B. Injunctive Relief

         Plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief in this action requiring Defendant Caracas to accept filings in the state court action. Immunity is not a defense against injunctive relief. Fixel, 737 F.Supp. at 597. “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citation omitted). “A court may grant a preliminary injunction only if the plaintiff establishes four elements: (1) likelihood of success on the merits; (2) likelihood of suffering irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction; (3) the balance of equities tips in plaintiff's favor; and (4) injunctive relief is in the public interest.” Leigh v. Salazar, 677 F.3d 892, 896 (2012); Alliance for Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 6 ...

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