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Harris v. County of Kern

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 8, 2018

DEVON DANTE HARRIS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DISMISSING THE ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on May 4, 2018. (Doc. 1) The Court finds Plaintiff is unable to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, as his claims are intertwined with ongoing state criminal proceedings and barred by the Younger abstention doctrine. Therefore, the Court recommends Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis be DENIED and the complaint DISMISSED without prejudice as the Court lacks jurisdiction.

         I. Background and Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that he was placed under arrest on January 23, 2018 and is currently incarcerated in the Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility. (Doc. 1 at 1, 4) He asserts the defendants-which include the County, defense counsel, the Indigent Defense Program, and other individuals-conspired together and “orchestrated and fabricated a fictitious home invasion robbery, ” for which Plaintiff was arrested. (Id. at 5) Plaintiff contends officers arrested him “without warrant or probable cause…then searched and seized all his personal affects without reason” when he was taken into custody. (See id.)

         The docket of the Kern County Superior Court indicates that in Case No. BF171027C, Plaintiff was charged with robbery in the first degree in violation of California Penal Code § 212(A) and burglary in the first degree in violation of California Penal Code § 460(A).[1] The docket also indicates that a jury trial is set to begin in this action on June 4, 2018.

         II. Proceeding in forma pauperis

         As a general rule, all parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a United States District Court must pay a filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However, the Court may authorize the commencement of an action “without prepayment of fees and costs of security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that . . . the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Therefore, an action may proceed despite a failure to prepay the filing fee only if leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) is granted by the Court. See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1178, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999).

         The Ninth Circuit has held “permission to proceed in forma pauperis is itself a matter of privilege and not a right; denial of an in forma pauperis status does not violate the applicant's right to due process.” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1231 (9th Cir. 1984) (citing Weller v. Dickson, 314 F.2d 598, 600 (9th Cir. 1963)). In addition, the Court has broad discretion to grant or deny a motion to proceed IFP. O'Loughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 616 (9th Cir. 1990); Weller, 314 F.2d at 600-01. In making a determination, the court “must be careful to avoid construing the statute so narrowly that a litigant is presented with a Hobson's choice between eschewing a potentially meritorious claim or foregoing life's plain necessities.” Temple v. Ellerthorpe, 586 F.Supp. 848, 850 (D.R.I. 1984).

         The Court recommends Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis be denied because, as discussed below, the complaint fails to state a meritorious claim upon which relief may be granted. See, e.g., Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (“A district court may deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit”); Tripati v. First Nat'l Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1369 (9th Cir. 1987) (same).

         III. Screening Requirement

         When an individual seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is required to review the complaint and shall dismiss a complaint, or portion of the complaint, if it is “frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         IV. Pleading Standards

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure set forth the applicable standards for pleading complaints. A pleading stating a claim for relief must include a statement affirming the court's jurisdiction, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief; and . . . a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, and pro se pleadings are held to “less stringent standards” than pleadings by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521-21 (1972).

         A complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the plaintiff's claim in a plain and succinct manner. Jones v. Cmty Redevelopment Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Further, a plaintiff must identify the grounds upon which the complaint stands. Swierk ...


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