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Johnson v. Lee

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 15, 2017

TONEY ALFONSO JOHNSON, CDCR #G-53444, Plaintiff,
v.
DOCTOR LEE; S. RASCON, Registered Dental Assistant, 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. Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge.

         TONEY ALFONSO JOHNSON (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, is currently incarcerated at California State Prison-Los Angeles (CSP-LAC) in Lancaster, California, and has filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1).

         Plaintiff claims a dentist and dental assistant acting “under contrac[t] with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation” (CDCR) violated his constitutional rights on December 29, 2015, while he was incarcerated at Centinela State Prison, by extracting one of his molars using an unsterilized surgical instrument. (ECF No. 1 at 2-4.) He seeks $3 million in compensatory damages. (Id. at 7.)

         Plaintiff did not prepay the civil filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) at the time of filing, but instead has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF No. 2).

         I. 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, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 627, 629 (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); Bruce, 136 S.Ct. at 629.

         In support of his IFP Motion, Plaintiff has submitted certified copies of his CDCR Inmate Statement Report showing his trust account activity at the time of filing. See ECF No. 2 at 4-5; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2; Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. These statements show Plaintiff owes more than $10, 000 in restitution fines, has had no monthly deposits to his account, carried no balance over the six month period preceding the filing of his Complaint, and had an available balance of zero at CSP-LAC as of March 27, 2017 (ECF No. 2 at 2, 5). 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's Motion to Proceed IFP, declines to exact any initial filing fee because his trust account statement shows he “has no means to pay it, ” Bruce, 136 S.Ct. at 629, and directs the Secretary of the 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.

         II. Initial Screening per 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)

         A. Standard of Review

         Notwithstanding Plaintiff's IFP status or the payment of any partial filing fees, the PLRA also obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are “incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program, ” “as soon as practicable after docketing.” See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these statutes, the Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).

         All complaints 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)). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. The “mere possibility of misconduct” falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity, and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000) (“[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d ...


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