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Schwartzmiller v. K. Rodriguez

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 22, 2017

DEAN A. SCHWARTZMILLER, et al., Booking # 15746082, Plaintiff,
v.
K. RODRIGUEZ, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER: 1) GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [ECF No. 2] AND 2) DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) AND § 1915A(b)

          Hon. John A. Houston United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Dean Schwartzmiller, an inmate currently incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) located in San Diego, California has filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1) and a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF No. 2). Because Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP complies with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), the Court grants him leave to proceed without full prepayment of the civil filing fees, but dismisses his Complaint for failing to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b).

         A. Plaintiff's IFP Motion

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $400.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if he is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2007); Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, a prisoner who is granted leave to proceed IFP remains obligated to pay the entire fee in “increments” or “installments, ” Bruce v. Samuels, __ S.Ct. __, 136 S.Ct. 627, 629 (U.S. 2016); Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), and regardless of whether his action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Section 1915(a)(2) requires prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP to submit a “certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for . . . the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1119 (9th Cir. 2005). From the certified trust account statement, the Court assesses an initial payment of 20% of (a) the average monthly deposits in the account for the past six months, or (b) the average monthly balance in the account for the past six months, whichever is greater, unless the prisoner has no assets. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). The institution having custody of the prisoner then collects subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which his account exceeds $10, and forwards those payments to the Court until the entire filing fee is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         In support of his IFP Motion, Plaintiff has submitted a certified copy of his inmate trust account statement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2. His trust account statement indicates he has insufficient funds from which to pay a partial initial filing fee at this time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) (providing that “[i]n no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil action or criminal judgment for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee.”); Bruce, 136 S.Ct. at 630; Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850 (finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) acts as a “safety-valve” preventing dismissal of a prisoner's IFP case based solely on a “failure to pay . . . due to the lack of funds available to him when payment is ordered.”).

         Therefore, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to proceed IFP and directs the Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) to collect the entire $350 balance of the filing fees required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914 and forward them to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). See id.

         B. Legal Standards for Screening Complaint Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.

         §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner and is proceeding IFP, his Complaint requires a pre-Answer screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b). Under these statutes, the Court must sua sponte dismiss a prisoner's IFP complaint, or any portion of it, which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks damages from defendants who are immune. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). “The purpose of [screening] is ‘to ensure that the targets of frivolous or malicious suits need not bear the expense of responding.'” Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 920 n.1 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 681 (7th Cir. 2012)).

         “The standard for determining whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard for failure to state a claim.” Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); see also Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (noting that screening pursuant to § 1915A “incorporates the familiar standard applied in the context of failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)”). Rule 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1121.

         1. Plaintiff's allegations

         Plaintiff has filed a forty eight (48) page Complaint in which he names thirty-seven (37) defendants and attaches nearly twenty (20) pages of exhibits. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges constitutional violations by RJD prison officials, as well as several news agencies, dating back to 2006.

         2. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Long v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006).

         3. Representation of other parties

         Plaintiff purports to bring this action on behalf of Plaintiff Harmon whom he describes as his “heir apparent.” See Compl. at 6. However, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, he has no authority to represent the legal interest of any other party. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1105 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995); C.E. Pope Equity Trust v. United States, 818 F.2d 696, 697 (9th Cir. 1987); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(a) (“Every pleading, written motion, and other paper shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in the attorney's original name, or if the party is not represented by an attorney, shall be signed by the party.”). Therefore, Plaintiff Harmon is DISMISSED from this action.

         4. ...


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