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Humes v. Spence

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 4, 2018

JON HUMES, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE S. SPENCE, Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a jail inmate, proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff 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. This proceeding was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 302.

         Plaintiff submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.

         Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's jail trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         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. 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 Corp., 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, id., 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).

         Plaintiff alleges his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated by defendant Detective Spence's alleged defamation. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that in reports and felony warrant requests, defendant Detective Spence used false accusations and claimed that plaintiff is a registered sex offender and had convictions plaintiff has not sustained. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff claims he was jailed and lost everything he owns. Plaintiff seeks money damages.

         Section 1983 “is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (internal citations omitted); Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). “In § 1983 cases, it is the constitutional right itself that forms the basis of the claim.” Crater v. Galaza, 508 F.3d 1261, 1269 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Plaintiff's claims of defamation do not rise to the level of a federal constitutional violation. Allegations of harassment, embarrassment, and defamation are not cognizable under section 1983. Rutledge v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 660 F.2d 1345, 1353 (9th Cir. 1981), aff'd sub nom. Kush v. Rutledge, 460 U.S. 719 (1983); see also Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1982) (allegations of harassment with regards to medical problems not cognizable); Ellingburg v. Lucas, 518 F.2d 1196, 1197 (8th Cir. 1975) (Arkansas state prisoner does not have cause of action under § 1983 for being called obscene name by prison employee); Batton v. North Carolina, 501 F.Supp. 1173, 1180 (E.D. N.C. 1980) (mere verbal abuse by prison officials does not state claim under § 1983). Because plaintiff cannot state a federal claim based on alleged defamation, his complaint is dismissed without leave to amend.

         Finally, plaintiff has filed two motions regarding filing fees and funds.

         On March 29, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion to waive the filing fees in this case so that plaintiff can use his pro se funds for discovery. (ECF No. 9.) However, plaintiff is advised that under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), pro se litigants are now required to pay the court's filings fees. The undersigned has no authority to waive filings fees in this action. Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         On April 9, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion requesting that he be provided $500.00 per month in “pro se money to facilitate discovery and other advances” in this case. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff is advised that the court has no fund of “pro se money” to assist ...


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