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Guillen v. Martinez

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 5, 2017

JUAN GUILLEN, CDCR #T-57240, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER MARTINEZ, et al., Defendant.

          1) GRANTING MOTIONS TO PROCEED IFP PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A) [ECF NOS. 8, 13]; 2) DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AS MOOT; AND 3) 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

         Juan Guillen (“Plaintiff”), is a prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”) in Soledad, California. He initially filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1) in the Northern District of California. However, because the claims he raised in his Complaint arose while he was incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”), the matter was transferred to the Southern District of California on May 5, 2017. (ECF No. 4.)

         Initially, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's entire action because he had failed to file a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) or pay the initial civil filing fee. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff has now filed two Motions to Proceed IFP which has reopened this matter. (ECF Nos. 8, 13). In addition, Plaintiff has file a “Motion for Reconsideration and Reopening of Case File.” (ECF No. 10.) Because Plaintiff has filed the two IFP Motions, the Court has reopened the matter and thus, DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration as moot.

         I. Plaintiff's IFP Motions

         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). However, prisoners who are granted leave to proceed IFP remain 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 their 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) also 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 Motions, Plaintiff has submitted CDCR Inmate Statement Report dated June 3, 2017, together with a prison certificate completed by a SVSP accounting official attesting to his trust account activity and balances for the six-months preceding the filing of his Complaint. See ECF No. 8 at 6-8; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2; Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. These statements show that Plaintiff had an average monthly balance of $22.77, and average monthly deposits of $52.50 to his account over the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of his Complaint, as well as an available balance of $49.00 at the time of filing. See ECF No. 8 at 7. Based on this financial information, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motions to Proceed IFP (ECF No. 8, 13), and assesses his initial partial filing fee to be $10.50 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         However, the Court will direct the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), or his designee, to collect this initial fee only if sufficient funds are available in Plaintiff's account at the time this Order is executed. 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. The remaining balance of the $350 total fee owed in this case must be collected and forwarded to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         II. Sua Sponte Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)

         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) (quoting Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 681 (7th Cir. 2012)).

         “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 to “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).

         1. Plaintiff's Allegations

         When Plaintiff was previously housed at RJD, he was charged with a “Rules Violation Report” for the act of “battery on an inmate with a weapon resulting in serious bodily injury.” (Compl. at 3.) In August of 2015, Defendant Martinez, as the “Senior Hearing Officer, ” conducted a disciplinary hearing based on this charge. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant Martinez allowed the “inmate and alleged victim” to provide written testimony against the objections of Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff claims Defendant Martinez stated during the hearing that he reviewed Plaintiff's file and stated “you are a fighter, ” noted that Plaintiff is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, ” and concluded that “I ...


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