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Phanvongkham v. GSF Properties, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 1, 2017

GSF PROPERTIES, INC., et al ., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs Sisomphone Phanvongkham and Felicia Navarro, appearing pro se, filed a Complaint on January 12, 2017. (ECF No. 1.). After the Complaint was initially stricken from the record, Plaintiffs re-filed the Complaint on February 1, 2017. (ECF Nos. 4-5.) The Complaint alleges injuries stemming from an unlawful detainer eviction by Defendants GSF Properties, Inc., Fresno Housing Authorities, and Steve Richard Hrdlicka. Id. Plaintiffs also seek to proceed in forma pauperis in this action. The Court has screened the Complaint and Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and makes its recommendations herein, namely, that Plaintiffs' Motion be denied and the Complaint be dismissed.


         As a general rule, all parties instituting any civil action, suit, or proceeding in a district court must pay a filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However, the Court may authorize the commencement of an action “without prepayment of fees and costs of security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that . . . the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Therefore, an action may proceed despite a failure to prepay the filing fee only if leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted by the Court. See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999).

         The Ninth Circuit has held that “permission to proceed in forma pauperis is itself a matter of privilege and not right; denial of in forma pauperis status does not violate the applicant's right to due process.” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1231 (9th Cir. 1984). The Court has broad discretion to grant or deny a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. O'Laughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 616 (9th Cir. 1990) (a “district court may deny leave to proceed [in forma pauperis] at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit.”). Because, as explained below, Plaintiffs' Complaint is frivolous and without merit, the application to proceed in forma pauperis should be denied.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct a review of a pro se complaint to determine whether it “state[s] a claim on which relief may be granted, ” is “frivolous or malicious, ” or “seek[s] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, it must be dismissed. Id. Leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 678.

         In determining whether a complaint states an actionable claim, the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints should continue to be liberally construed after Iqbal).


         Plaintiffs allege that an unlawful detainer action was commenced in early 2014 in Fresno Superior Court seeking possession of a leased premises and back rent. (ECF No. 5, pp. 2-3.) The landlord was represented by Defendant Steve Richard Hrdlicka and his associated law firm. The state court awarded possession of the premises to the landlord and entered a judgment against Plaintiffs, the former tenants, for $2, 694.40. It is also alleged that Plaintiffs were ordered to pay $337 in back rent, $490 in court costs, and $1, 500 in legal fees to Hrdlicka. Plaintiffs allege that Hrdlicka “put up hurdles to prevent payment so they would default on the agreement.” Id. at 5. Plaintiffs attempted to appeal the judgment. Id. at 4. The appellate court summarily denied the Plaintiffs' petition for a writ of mandate.

         Based on this conduct, Plaintiffs allege four state-law causes of actions, as follows: 1) Wrongful eviction; 2) Negligence; 3) Breach of Contract; and 4) Legal Malpractice. They ask for damages in a sum of no less than $75, 0000, costs, and attorney fees.

         V. DISCUSSION

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and lack inherent or general subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts can adjudicate only those cases which the United States Constitution and Congress authorize them to adjudicate. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375 (1994). To proceed in federal court, a plaintiff's pleading must establish the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Generally, there are two ...

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