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Mehmood v. Delaney

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 23, 2017

CAROLYN K. DELANEY, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)[1], and the Federal Tort Claim Act (FTCA). In addition to filing a complaint (ECF No. 1), he has also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No.2).

         I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         The court has reviewed the second of plaintiff's applications (ECF No. 2) and finds that it makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).

         II. Screening Requirements

         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 where 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). “[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Id.

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (citations omitted). “[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004)).

         “[A] complaint must 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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 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.” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

         III. Screening Order

         A. Background

         Plaintiff brings this action on theories of: (1) false arrest; (2) false imprisonment and unlawful confinement; and (3) breach of contract. ECF No. 1 at 5. He names no fewer than 206 separate defendants, [2] among whom are Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Jerry Brown[3], and eleven federal judges - including the undersigned. Id. at 6-9. The complaint - which is divided into several “attachments” - runs to 145 pages.

         As a preliminary matter, the court must consider whether the undersigned should be disqualified from these proceedings. A judge should disqualify herself from proceedings to which she is a party. 28 U.S.C. 455(b)(5)(i). The Ninth Circuit has, however, upheld district judges' decisions not to disqualify themselves “unless there is a legitimate basis for suing the judge.” Glick v. Edwards, 803 F.3d 505, 508 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Andersen v. Roszkowski, 681 F.Supp. 1284, 1289 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 22, 1988)). Plaintiff alleges that the undersigned unlawfully detained plaintiff on March 11, 2013 despite his objections that the court had no jurisdiction over him and that the warrant for his arrest was defective. ECF No. 1 at 56. He also claims that the undersigned violated his rights by “failing to intercede and prevent” unspecified constitutional and civil rights violations. Id. Judges are absolutely immune “from damage liability for acts performed in their official capacities.” See Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986) (en banc). Additionally, section 1983 “contemplates judicial immunity from suit for injunctive relief for acts taken in a judicial capacity.” Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 366 (9th Cir. 2004). The allegations against the undersigned involve actions taken in judicial capacity and, accordingly, there is no legitimate basis on which plaintiff's claims might proceed. Accordingly, the court finds that disqualification is unnecessary.

         Turning to the substance of plaintiff's complaint, the court finds it deficient. Plaintiff alleges that, on the morning of March 9, 2013, he was preparing to drop a friend off at the train station. ECF No. 1 at 10. He was standing near his van when Deputy McGuire of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department approached and asked about plaintiff's ownership of the vehicle. Id. at 10-11. Plaintiff claims that McGuire asked him numerous questions about the van, his clothing, where he was from, his immigration status, and what language (other than English) he spoke. Id. at 11. After answering McGuire's questions and providing him with documentation showing ownership and insurance for the vehicle, plaintiff was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car. Id. Shortly thereafter, more deputies arrived at the scene along with three United States postal inspectors. Id. at 12. The items in plaintiff's van were seized and the inspectors counted out more than fifty-thousand dollars in cash which plaintiff contends were his life savings. Id. Plaintiff was taken to the Sacramento County Jail. Id.

         The complaint then makes several chronological leaps. Id. at 13. The following claims are presented in the order stated by the complaint. Plaintiff claims that, on January 17, 2015, United States District Judge John Mendez denied his request for recovery and production of his van. Id. He claims that, on October 14, 2014 and also before Judge Mendez, his objections to his detention, the court's jurisdiction, and adequacy of the arrest warrant were denied. Id. These same objections were raised and denied on: (1) October 17 2014, during arraignment before United States Magistrate Judge Carolyn Delaney; (2) ...

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