United States District Court, E.D. California
DANIEL S. WHALEN, Plaintiff,
DANIEL FLYNN, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
is a county inmate proceeding without counsel in an action
brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has filed a complaint
(ECF No. 1) and an application to proceed in forma pauperis
(ECF No. 2). Plaintiff's application will be granted but
his complaint must be dismissed without leave to amend.
Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
application 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).
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).
In doing so 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).
“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and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute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
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)).
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).
alleges that each of the named defendants violated his rights
in connection with an ongoing criminal prosecution of him in
Shasta County. ECF No. 1 at 3-6. This action fails for
this reason alone. Claims challenging aspects of the
proceedings and rulings in this ongoing case must be raised
in those proceedings or on appeal afterwards. This court must
abstain from hearing those challenges based on the
Younger Abstention Doctrine. See Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45, 46 (1971). Younger
requires a district court to dismiss a federal action if the
relevant state proceedings are: (1) ongoing, (2) implicate
important state interests, and (3) provide plaintiff an
adequate opportunity to raise the federal issue. Columbia
Basin Apartment Ass'n v. City of Pasco, 268 F.3d
791, 799 (9th Cir. 2001). All of these elements appear
satisfied here - the criminal proceedings are ongoing,
important state interests are implicated in the criminal
prosecution, and there is no indication that plaintiff could
not raise his claims in that criminal case. Further, there is
no allegation of extraordinary circumstances which would
warrant federal intervention. See Younger, 401 U.S.
at 45 (federal courts may not intervene in state criminal
actions “except under extraordinary circumstances where
the danger of irreparable loss is both great and
claims would fail even if this court were not required to
abstain under Younger. Plaintiff has sued the judge
presiding over his case and three members of the Shasta
County Public Defender's Office. ECF No. 1 at 2. As a
general rule, judicial immunity bars claims for monetary
relief - like the ones here - against a state court judge for
actions related to the judicial process. See In re
Castillo, 297 F.3d 940, 947 (9th Cir. 2002).
Additionally, a public defender does not act under color of
state law when representing an indigent defendant and,
consequently, is not an appropriate defendant in a section
1983 action. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S.
312, 325 (1981). The court notes that one of the defendants -
Ashley Jones - is asserted to be a supervisor at the Shasta
County Public Defender's Office and does not appear to
directly represent plaintiff. ECF No. 1 at 5. Nevertheless,
the only claims against her relate to her supervisory
authority over the other attorney defendants. There is no
respondeat superior liability under section 1983. Polk
County, 454 U.S. at 325.
Leave to Amend
court finds that granting plaintiff leave to amend his
complaint would be futile. It is therefore recommend that it
be dismissed with prejudice. See Hartmann v. CDCR,
707 F.3d 1114, 1130 (9th Cir. 2013) (“A district court