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Walters v. Sheriff, San Diego County

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 5, 2017

LEONARD WALTERS, aka JAMES C. WALTERS, CDCR #BC-6589, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF, San Diego County, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER: 1) DENYING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [ECF No. 2] AND 2) DISMISSING CIVIL ACTION AS FRIVOLOUS PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)

          Hon. Dana M. Sabraw United States District Judge

         LEONARD WALTERS, also known as James C. Walters (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at California Institution for Men (“CIM”) in Chino, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1).

         He has not prepaid the $400 civil filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a), but instead has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF No. 2).

         I. Motion to Proceed IFP 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).[1] An 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 Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, if the plaintiff is a prisoner at the time of filing, he may be granted leave to proceed IFP, but he nevertheless remains obligated to pay the entire fee in “increments, ” see Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), 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). A “prisoner” is defined as “any person” who at the time of filing is “incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 847.

         In order to comply with the PLRA, prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP must also submit a “certified copy of the[ir] 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). 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), (4); see Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850. Thereafter, the institution having custody of the prisoner collects subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which the prisoner's account exceeds $10, and forwards them to the Court until the entire filing fee is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         While Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), he has not attached a certified copy of his CIM trust account statements for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of his Complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2. Section 1915(a)(2) clearly requires that prisoners “seeking to bring a civil action ... without prepayment of fees ... shall 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) (emphasis added).

         Without Plaintiff's certified trust account statement, the Court is unable to assess the appropriate amount of the initial filing fee which is statutorily required to initiate the prosecution of this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). For this reason, Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP (ECF No. 2) is DENIED.

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

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, also obligates the Court to review complaints filed by anyone “incarcerated or detained in any facility who is 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” and regardless of whether the prisoner prepays filing fees or moves to proceed IFP. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (c). Pursuant to this provision of the PLRA, the Court is required to review prisoner complaints which “seek[] redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a government entity, ” and to dismiss those, or any portion of those, which are “frivolous, malicious, or fail[] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or which “seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446-47 (9th Cir. 2000); Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 892 n.3 (9th Cir. 2011). “The purpose of § 1915A 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)).

         Regardless of whether Plaintiff paid the filing fee, or filed a properly supported Motion to Proceed IFP, however, a preliminary review of his Complaint shows this case is subject to sua sponte dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) because it is duplicative of another civil action Plaintiff filed in the Southern District just three weeks before he filed this case. See Walters v. Sheriff, ., S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:17-cv-00902-GPC-JMA (“Walters I”) (ECF No. 1). A court “‘may take notice of proceedings in other courts, both within and without the federal judicial system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue.'” Bias v. Moynihan, 508 F.3d 1212, 1225 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bennett v. Medtronic, Inc., 285 F.3d 801, 803 n.2 (9th Cir. 2002)).

         A prisoner's complaint is considered frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) if it “merely repeats pending or previously litigated claims.” Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1105 n.2 (9th Cir. 1995) (construing former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)) (citations and internal quotations omitted). In Walters I, Plaintiff alleged, as he does in this case, that several unidentified San Diego County Sheriff's Department deputies, doctors, and “medical staff” provided him inadequate medical care and subjected him to a “demoralizing” strip search while he was in their custody in late April and early May 2016. Compare S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:17-cv-00902-GPC-JMA (ECF No. 1 at 2-7) with ECF No. 1 in S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:17-cv-1071-DMS-PCL (ECF No. 1 at 2-10).

         Because the allegations in Plaintiff's current Complaint are factually similar, arose during the same two-week period of time, and are based on the same legal grounds as those he alleged against a similar group of “unknown” Sheriff's Department officials in his previously filed Complaint in Walters I, the Court will dismiss this duplicative and subsequently filed civil case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). See Cato, 70 F.3d at 1105 n.2; Resnick, 213 F.3d at 446 n.1; see also Adams v. Cal. Dep't of Health Servs., 487 F.3d 684, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2007) (“[I]n assessing whether the second action is duplicative of the first, [the court must] examine whether the causes of action and relief sought, as well as the parties or privies to the action, are the same.”), overruled on other grounds by Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 904 (2008).

         III. ...


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