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Doty v. Keefe Supply Co.

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

June 28, 2017

HAROLD LEE DOTY, JR., Plaintiff,
KEEFE SUPPLY CO., Defendant.


          Honorable Beverly R. O'Connell United States District Court Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 5, 2017, Harold Lee Doty (“Plaintiff”), who is currently incarcerated at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, California, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. 1 (“Complaint”); Dkt. 2.[1] The Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiff's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and on May 12, 2017, he found that the Complaint suffered from several deficiencies and dismissed it with leave to amend. Dkts. 4, 5.

         Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on June 12, 2017. Dkt. 6 (“FAC”).[2] Plaintiff alleges that that in January 2017, he ordered items from Keefe Supply Company and approximately $70 was deducted from his prisoner trust account, but he never received what he had ordered.[3] FAC at 1, 7. Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances but the money was never returned to him, and that he received “verbal threats of disciplinary action by custody assistan[ts].” Id. at 1, 5. Plaintiff sues only the Keefe Supply Company in its official capacity.[4] Id. at 3-6.

         Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court must screen the FAC to determine whether it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief might be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. As discussed below, the FAC must be dismissed because it fails to state a claim. Because Plaintiff was previously advised of his claims' deficiencies and failed to correct them, and because some of those deficiencies simply cannot be cured, dismissal will be without leave to amend.


         A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Because Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and afford him the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). But “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

         A “plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and alteration omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (holding that “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' 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.” (citation omitted)).

         If the Court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, it has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that “[a] pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment”) (citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987)). But if after careful consideration it is clear that a complaint cannot be cured by amendment, the Court may dismiss it without leave to amend. Id. at 1105-06; see, e.g., Chaset v. Fleer/Skybox Int'l, 300 F.3d 1083, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that “there is no need to prolong the litigation by permitting further amendment” when plaintiffs could not cure the “basic flaw” in the pleading); Lipton v. Pathogenesis Corp., 284 F.3d 1027, 1039 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that “[b]ecause any amendment would be futile, there was no need to prolong the litigation by permitting further amendment.”).


         A. The FAC Fails to State a § 1983 Claim Based on the Trust-Account Withdrawal

         Plaintiff alleges that about $70 was deducted from his trust account, but he never received the services or items that he ordered. FAC at 1, 7, 9-11. As in the original Complaint, Plaintiff does not explain which of his constitutional rights were violated by Defendant's alleged actions. See id. To the extent Plaintiff is raising a due process claim under § 1983, it fails for the reasons discussed below.

         As the Magistrate Judge explained in his May 2017 dismissal order, a negligent or intentional unauthorized deprivation of property under color of state law does not violate the Due Process Clause if state law affords a meaningful postdeprivation remedy. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 543-44 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816 (9th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). The Ninth Circuit has held that California law provides an adequate postdeprivation remedy for property deprivations caused by public officials. Barnett, 31 F.3d at 816-17; see Cal. Gov't Code §§ 810-895. Whether Plaintiff succeeds in redressing his alleged loss through the available state remedies is immaterial; it is the existence of those alternative remedies that bars him from pursuing a § 1983 procedural due process claim. See Parratt, 451 U.S. at 544 (“Although the state remedies may not provide the respondent with all the relief which may have been available if he could have proceeded under § 1983, that does not mean that the state remedies are not adequate to satisfy the requirements of due process.”); accord Dennison v. Ryan, 552 F. App'x 414, 418 (9th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff's due process claim therefore cannot succeed. See Arellano v. Self, No. 15-02300, 2016 WL 4430923, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 22, 2016) (dismissing plaintiff's claim that prison officials deprived him of due process by charging trust account for certain debts because California provides adequate postdeprivation remedy); Magallon v. Ventura Cty. Sheriff's Dept., No. 11-07053, 2011 WL 4481288, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 27, 2011) (dismissing plaintiff's claim that jail officials deprived him of due process by failing to return property that was confiscated during booking because California law provides adequate postdeprivation remedy); Bettis v. Blackstone, No. 08-01561, 2009 WL 2971364, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 11, 2009) (finding that plaintiff could not state cognizable claim based on prison's alleged failure to deposit money into trust account because California law provides adequate postdeprivation remedy). Because allowing further amendment of this claim would be futile, it will be dismissed without leave to amend.

         B. Any Remaining Claim Fails to Comply with Federal Rule ...

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