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Giannini v. Landry

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 30, 2017

ERIC GIANNINI and JIHAD BENSEBAHIA, Plaintiffs,
v.
LANDRY, SHAWN, individually and in his/her official capacity as Chief Executive Officer of the Superior Court of Yolo County, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          EBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiffs, Eric Giannini and Jihad Bensebahia, are proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the court is plaintiffs' complaint and plaintiff Eric Giannini's motion to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Therein, plaintiffs allege that the defendant “refused and still refused to convert the limited civil action” plaintiffs filed in the Yolo County Superior Court “into an unlimited action . . . .” (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 2.)

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by parties proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Here, plaintiffs' complaint is deficient. Accordingly, for the reasons stated below, the undersigned will recommend that plaintiff Eric Giannini's application to proceed in forma pauperis be denied and plaintiffs' complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.

         I. Plaintiffs' Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Filing fees must be paid unless each plaintiff applies for and is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Here, plaintiff Jihad Bensebahia has not submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis.

         Plaintiff Eric Giannini's in forma pauperis application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, a determination that a plaintiff qualifies financially for in forma pauperis status does not complete the inquiry required by the statute. “‘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.'” Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat. Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th Cir. 1987)); see also McGee v. Department of Child Support Services, 584 Fed.Appx. 638 (9th Cir. 2014) (“the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying McGee's request to proceed IFP because it appears from the face of the amended complaint that McGee's action is frivolous or without merit”); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir. 1965) (“It is the duty of the District Court to examine any application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis to determine whether the proposed proceeding has merit and if it appears that the proceeding is without merit, the court is bound to deny a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis.”).

         Moreover, the court must dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the allegation of poverty is found to be untrue or if it is determined that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis 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). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a complaint as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

         The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows:

A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . ., (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

         II. Plaintiffs' Complaint

         Plaintiffs' “bring this suit pursuant to” 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendant “in his capacity as a judge in the Superior Court of Yolo County.” (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 1.) The complaint alleges that on December 19, 2016, plaintiff Giannini filed “documents at the Superior Court of California, County of Yolo, for YOSU CVUD 2016 1275-1 . . . .” (Id. at 2.) Defendant Landry “refused and still refuses to convert the limited civil action . . . into an unlimited action, ” in violation of plaintiffs' rights. (Id.)

         It is not clear from plaintiffs' complaint if the defendant is in fact a judge or a nonjudicial officer. Nonetheless, judges are generally absolutely immune from civil liability for actions taken in their judicial capacity. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). Moreover, “[a]bsolute judicial immunity is not reserved solely for judges, but extends to nonjudicial officers for ‘all claims relating to the exercise of judicial functions.'” In re Castillo, 297 F.3d 940, 947 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 499 (1991) (Scalia, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)). In this regard, judicial personnel “have absolute quasi-judicial immunity from damages for ...


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