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Payton v. Turner

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 21, 2017

ARTHUR GENE PAYTON, Plaintiff,
v.
TERRI TURNER, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          ALLISON CLAIRE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 2. Plaintiff's declaration makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). However, the court will not assess a filing fee at this time. Instead, the undersigned will recommend that the complaint be summarily dismissed.

         II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         The 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). 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).

         A claim “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 Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.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 basis. Id.

         “Federal 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)).

         “[A] 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).

         III. Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that in October 2011, defendants Turner, Alvord, Bailey, Nystrom, Collins, and Hanisee violated state law and plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when they denied him parole because of his past criminal record. ECF No. 1 at 5. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned will recommend that the complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.

         A. Defendants Are Entitled to Absolute Immunity

         In Sellars v. Procunier, 641 F.2d 1295 (9th Cir. 1981), the Ninth Circuit addressed the question of whether parole board officials are entitled to qualified or absolute immunity from civil rights suits. In holding that parole board officials were entitled to absolute immunity, the court observed that “[t]o be sure, absolute immunity for parole board officials does leave the genuinely wronged prisoner without civil redress against the official whose malicious or dishonest actions deprive the prisoner of liberty. But qualifying that immunity would disserve the broader public interest.” Id. at 1303. Specifically, the court found that because “parole board officials perform functionally comparable tasks to judges when they decide to grant, deny, or revoke parole” the broader public interest would best be served by granting parole board officials the absolute immunity given to judges in order to keep them free from fear of litigation. Id.

         Plaintiff has identified all of the defendants as parole board officials and they are therefore immune from suit and ...


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