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Overton v. CMF

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 22, 2018

MICHAEL L. OVERTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CMF, Defendant.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding pro se. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and requests leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This action was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). As discussed below, the court recommends that this action and his motion be dismissed as frivolous; because amendment is futile, plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis should be denied.

         II. Screening Standards

         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 when 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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) (“[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). 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. at 555. However, “[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555, citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93, and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

         III. Discussion

         In his initial filing, plaintiff seeks to recover the sum of $10, 000, 005.88, plus interest, from checks drawn on the Bank of Houston in 2007, apparently alleging the checks were stolen from him. (ECF No. 1 at 1-2.) Shortly after such filing, plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction based on the same claim, alleging the first of four checks was in 2007, and he seeks interest in the amount of $16, 340.34. Plaintiff claims he was transferred with the checks being held at CMF in a drawer, and “is substantiated by the judges' truth machine.” (ECF No. 4 at 2.)

         The United States Supreme Court has held that “an unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state employee does not constitute a violation of the procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful postdeprivation remedy for the loss is available.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). Thus, where the state provides a meaningful postdeprivation remedy, only authorized, intentional deprivations constitute actionable violations of the Due Process Clause. An authorized deprivation is one carried out pursuant to established state procedures, regulations, or statutes. Piatt v. McDougall, 773 F.2d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Knudson v. City of Ellensburg, 832 F.2d 1142, 1149 (9th Cir. 1987).

         In the instant case, plaintiff has not alleged any facts which suggest that the deprivation was authorized. The California Legislature has provided a remedy for tort claims against public officials in the California Government Code, §§ 900, et seq. Because plaintiff has not attempted to seek redress in the state system, he cannot sue in federal court on the claim that the state deprived him of property without due process of the law. The court concludes that this claim must, therefore, be dismissed as frivolous. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Because the motion for injunctive relief is based on the same claim, plaintiff's motion should also be denied.

         Because plaintiff cannot state a cognizable civil rights claim based on allegations that checks were stolen or went missing, it would be futile to allow plaintiff to amend his pleading. In light of the futility of amendment in this action, the court declines to impose the filing fee associated with plaintiff's in forma pauperis application.

         IV. Conclusion

         In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court is directed to assign a district judge to ...


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