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Dragasits v. T. Rucker

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 10, 2018

STEPHEN DRAGASITS, CDCR #AR-2176, Plaintiff,
v.
T. RUCKER; FIGUEROS; L. MARSHALL; K MITCHELL; DANIEL PARAMO; S. STRATTON; C. ROJAS; M. STOUT; C. FROST; A. AGUIRRE; M. VOONG; H. LIU, Defendants.

          ORDER: 1) GRANTING REQUEST TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS [ECF NO. 2]; 2) DISMISSING CLAIMS FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(E)(2) AND § 1915A(B)

          Hon. William Q. Hayes United States District Court

         Stephen Dragasits (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) located in San Diego, California, and proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action (ECF No. 1), together with a Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF No. 2). On March 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed exhibits to his Complaint. (ECF No. 6.)

         I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $400.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The 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). See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2007); Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, a prisoner granted leave to proceed IFP remains obligated to pay the entire fee in “increments” or “installments, ” Bruce v. Samuels, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 627, 629 (2016); Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), and regardless of whether his action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Section 1915(a)(2) requires prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP to submit a “certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for ... the 6-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% 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 then collects subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which his 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); Bruce, 136 S.Ct. at 629.

         In support of his request to proceed IFP, Plaintiff has submitted a prison certificate authorized by a RJD accounting official and a copy of his CDCR Inmate Statement Report. See ECF No. 4; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2; Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. These documents shows that Plaintiff had an available balance of zero at the time of filing. See ECF No. 4 at 1, 3. Based on this accounting, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's request to proceed IFP, and will assess no initial partial filing fee pursuant to 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.”); Bruce, 136 S.Ct. at 630; Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850 (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.”). The Court will further direct the Secretary of the CDCR, or his designee, to instead collect the entire $350 balance of the filing fees required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914 and forward them to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). See id.

         II. Initial Screening per 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)

         A. Standard of Review

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner 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 Williams v. King, 875 F.3d 500, 502 (9th Cir. 2017) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)) (citing Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc)); 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)). A complaint is “frivolous” if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

         “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).

         Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. The “mere possibility of misconduct” or “unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation[s]” fall short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         On February 9, 2015, Defendants Rucker and Figueroa “intentionally searched” Plaintiff's cell twice. (ECF No. 1 at 21). During the first search, Rucker and Figueroa “took possession” of two “hot pots” and one CD player. Id. They “made a search slip” which they asked Plaintiff to sign. Id. at 22. However, Plaintiff told Rucker and Figueroa that he “had receipts for the items in question” and refused to sign the search slip. Id. As a result of this “argument, ” Plaintiff claims that Rucker and Figueroa “carried out a second search as an adverse action and used the cell search as retaliation by withholding personal property.” Id. Plaintiff further claims that Defendants “left the cell in shambles” and “intentionally did not give Plaintiff a cell search slip of all the personal property” taken during the second cell search. Id.

         Plaintiff “discuss[ed] the matter regarding the second cell search with Officer S. Corona.[2]Id. at 23. Plaintiff gave Corona a “list of items that were taken in the second search” by Rucker and Figueroa. Id. Officer Corona “presented Sergeant Whitting[3] with the list of items taken in the second search” and Whitting “looked at the list, read it and . . . . walked away.” Id. Corona then “wrote out a cell search receipt of all the items taken.” Id. The cell search “slip” was “turned into R&R attached to Plaintiff's property card.” Id.

         Plaintiff submitted an administrative grievance against Whitting, as well as Rucker and Figueroa. Id. at 23-24. Plaintiff accused Rucker and Figueroa of taking his personal property “unlawfully.” Id. at 24. Plaintiff claims that both of his administrative grievances ...


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