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Hatcher v. Monahan

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 5, 2018

ROBERT HATCHER, aka ROBERT L. JACKSON, Booking #17182375, Plaintiff,
v.
CASEY MONAHAN, Defendant.,

          ORDER: 1) GRANTING MOTIONS TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [ECF NOS. 5, 8] 2) DISMISSING CIVIL ACTION FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(E)(2) & § 1915A; AND 3) DENYING MOTIONS FOR EARLY NEUTRAL EVALUATION CONFERENCE AS MOOT [ECF NOS. 4, 11]

          HON. CATHY ANN BENCIVENGO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         ROBERT HATCHER (“Plaintiff”), currently detained at the San Diego Central Jail (“SDCJ”), identifying himself as a Blackfoot Indian, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has not prepaid the $400 filing fee required to commence civil action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a), instead has he filed two Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See ECF Nos. 5, 8. In addition, Plaintiff has filed two “Motions for Early Neutral Evaluation Conference.” See ECF Nos. 4, 11.

         I. Motion to Proceed IFP

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States must satisfy a filing fee requirement. 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). Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, if the plaintiff is a prisoner, even if he is granted leave to proceed IFP he remains obligated to pay the full 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).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP must submit a “certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the . . . six-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 percent 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 collects subsequent payments, assessed at 20 percent of the preceding month's income, in any month in which the prisoner's 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).

         In support of his IFP Motions, Plaintiff has submitted his inmate trust account statement and activity for the six-month period prior to the filing of his Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2. This certificate shows that Plaintiff has no available funds to his credit at the time of filing. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motions to Proceed IFP (ECF Nos. 5, 8), and assesses no initial partial filing fee per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). 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.”); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 850 (9th Cir. 2002) (finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) acts as a “safety-valve” preventing dismissal of a prisoner's IFP case based solely on a “failure to pay . . . due to the lack of funds available to him when payment is ordered.”) However, the entire $350 balance for this case must be forwarded to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         II. Screening of Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) & 1915A

         Because Plaintiff is a currently detained 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.

         1. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Long v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006).

         2. Rule 8 As an initial matter, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that in order to state a claim for relief in a pleading it must contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction” and “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1) & (2). In addition, “the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Plaintiff's Complaint is nearly devoid of any factual allegations.

         3. Excessive force claims

         As stated above, Plaintiff's Complaint contains virtually no specific factual allegations. However, based on the documents attached to his Complaint, it appears that Plaintiff is alleging that Defendant Monahan, purportedly a police officer for the City of Carlsbad, applied handcuffs to Plaintiff which he claims were “too tight.” (Compl. at 2.) It is ...


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