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Bonilla v. Durant

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 25, 2018

STEVEN WAYNE BONILLA, Plaintiff,
v.
YVETTE DURANT, Superior Court Judge, Defendant.

          ORDER and FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has neither paid the filing fee nor submitted a request to proceed in forma pauperis. This action is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302(c). For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that this action be dismissed without leave to amend.

         II. Screening of Plaintiff's Complaint Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         A. Legal Standards for Screening Prisoner Complaints

         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).

         “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed, ' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (internal quotation marks omitted)). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e) (“Pleadings shall be so construed as to do justice.”). Additionally, a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

         B. Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff alleges that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when defendant Durant, a superior court judge, admitted inadmissible evidence. ECF No. 1 at 3-13. Plaintiff seeks the recusal or disqualification of defendant from any matters in which plaintiff appears, an order “vacat[ing] the void judgment, ” and directing his immediate release from prison. Id. at 3, 13.

         C. Analysis

         i. Defendant Is Immune

         “[I]n any action brought against a judicial officer [under Section 1983] for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant's putative ruling on the admissibility of evidence falls squarely within the scope of activity performed in his judicial capacity, and there is no indication that this action falls within Section 1983's narrow exception to judicial immunity. Defendant Durant is therefore immune from liability and the claims against him should be dismissed.

         ii. Failure to State Section 1983 Claim

         State prisoners may not attack the fact or length of their confinement in a Section 1983 action and “habeas corpus is the appropriate remedy” for such claims. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 490 (1973); Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 930 (9th Cir. 2016) (holding that habeas corpus is “available only for state prisoner claims that lie at the core of habeas (and is the exclusive remedy for such claims), while Section 1983 is the exclusive remedy for state prisoner claims that do not lie at the core of habeas”). Here, plaintiff's claims lie directly within the core of habeas corpus because he is challenging the validity of his continued confinement ...


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