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Adams v. Garcia

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 23, 2017

EZRA JOHN ADAMS, CDCR #H-27409, Plaintiff,
v.
LEROY GARCIA, Ramona Sheriff's Department, Defendant.

          1) GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [DOC. NO. 9] AND DISMISSING CIVIL ACTION FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(E)(2) AND § 1915A(B)

          HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO United States District Judge

         EZRA JOHN ADAMS (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and currently incarcerated at the California Health Care Facility (“CHCF”) in Stockton, California, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Northern District of California in December 2016 (Doc. No. 1).

         Because Plaintiff's Complaint raises claims regarding to property that was seized during his 1988 arrest and subsequent criminal prosecution in San Diego Superior Court, and because the sole Defendant is alleged to have been employed by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, United States Magistrate Judge Nandor J. Vadas found the case was filed in the improper venue, and transferred it to the Southern District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and § 1406(a) (Doc. No. 11). Judge Vadas did not rule on Plaintiff's pending Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 9) prior to transfer; nor did he conduct a preliminary screening of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A.

         I. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         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 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 a copy of his CDCR Inmate Statement Report as well as a prison certificate certified by a trust account official at CHCF. See Doc. No. 9 at 5-8; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2; Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. These statements show that while Plaintiff sustained an average monthly balance of $11.67, he had no monthly deposits to his account over the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of his Complaint, he had an available balance of zero at the time of filing. See Doc. No. 9 at 5, 7. Thus, the Court assesses Plaintiff's initial partial filing fee to be $2.33 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), but acknowledges he may be unable to pay even that minimal initial 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's Motion to Proceed IFP (Doc No. 9), declines to exact any initial filing fee because his prison certificate indicates he may have “no means to pay it, ” Bruce, 136 S.Ct. at 629, and directs the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), or his designee, to instead 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. Sua Sponte Screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A

         A. Standard of Review

         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) (citations omitted.)

         “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 “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. 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “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” or “unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation[s]” fall short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff contends that Defendant Leroy Garcia, a Sheriff employed by the County of San Diego, conducted an “illegal” search and seizure of his personal property without a warrant, participated in his “false arrest, ” fabricated and/or “orchestrated” false, defamatory, and misleading evidence against him, and “vandalized” his property in Ramona, California, while acting “under color of authority” “on or about November 15, 1988.” (Doc. No. 1 at 3, 5-7.) Plaintiff seeks “five million dollars in new money, ...


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