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Knox v. Acosta

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 29, 2018

PEGGY KNOX, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTINA ACOSTA, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE IFP AND DISMISSING THE CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE (DOC. NOS. 1, 9, 11.)

          Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia United States District Judge

         The Court reviews pro se plaintiff Peggy Ruth Knox's second amended complaint (“SAC”), (Doc. Nos. 9, 11), under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), as required when a plaintiff files a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, (Doc. No. 1). Under this mandatory screening, the Court finds that Knox's SAC does not sufficiently state a claim for relief. Thus, the Court DENIES as moot Knox's IFP motion, (Doc. No. 2), and DISMISSES her SAC (Doc. Nos. 9, 11), with leave to amend.

         I. MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

         Knox moves to proceed IFP under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if the plaintiff is granted leave to proceed IFP under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). All actions sought to be filed IFP under § 1915 must be accompanied by an affidavit, signed by the applicant under penalty of perjury, that includes a statement of all assets which shows inability to pay initial fees or give security. CivLR 3.2.a.

         The Court notes that Knox did not file a renewed IFP motion. However, the Court liberally construes Knox's pro se pleadings; since Knox declared on her application that she is on a fixed income from social security disability, (Doc. No. 2 at 4), the Court finds that it is unlikely that Knox's financial situation has changed from January 4, 2018 (IFP filed) to March 8, 2018 (SAC filed). Thus, the Court reiterates its previous findings regarding Knox's IFP motion:

Here, Knox indicates in her declaration that she is on a fixed social security disability income of approximately $900 per month, (Doc. No. 2), and has provided further supplemental documentation that her precise income amount is $915.72 per month (Doc. No. 6 at 31). However, Knox's approximate monthly expenses of $1, 129 for rent, utilities, food, clothing, laundry, insurance, and credit card installment payments exceed her income. (Doc. Nos. 2, 6.)

(Doc. No. 7 at 1-2.) In light of the above, the Court finds that Knox meets the § 1915(a) requirements and therefore GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP. See CivLR 3.2.

         II. SCREENING UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), when reviewing an IFP motion, the Court must rule on its own motion to dismiss before the complaint is served. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (noting 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) is “not limited to prisoners”); Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1127 (“[§] 1915(e) not only permits but requires a district court to dismiss an [IFP] complaint that fails to state a claim”). Accordingly, the Court “may dismiss as frivolous complaints reciting bare legal conclusions with no suggestion of supporting facts . . . .” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228 (9th Cir. 1984) (internal quotation omitted). “[A] complaint must 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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). A complaint is facially plausible when the facts alleged allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         Also, pro se pleadings are held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” because pro se litigants are more prone to making errors in pleading than litigants represented by counsel. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (internal quotations omitted); see Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987), superseded by statute on other grounds, Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000). Thus, the Supreme Court has stated that federal courts should liberally construe the “‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.” Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982)).

         Therefore, when considering whether the complaint should be dismissed, the Court should liberally construe Knox's legal claims. However, pro se plaintiffs are expected to follow “the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.” King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987); see Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 109 (6th Cir. 1991) (“[W]hile pro se litigants may be entitled to some latitude when dealing with sophisticated legal issues, acknowledging their lack of formal training, there is no cause for extending this margin to straightforward procedural requirements that a layperson can comprehend as easily as a lawyer.”). Thus, failure to meet procedural requirements will not receive as much latitude.

         III. BACKGROUND

         Knox filed her first amended complaint, (Doc. No. 4), within one month of her initial complaint, (Doc. No. 1), alleging tort claims against defendants U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“USCBP”) and Micah Bennett. The Court subsequently dismissed the first amended complaint with leave to amend, deeming that Knox did not sufficiently state a claim. (Doc. No. 7.) Knox timely filed her second amended complaint on March 8, 2018. (Doc. No. 9.) In addition to factual additions, in the SAC, Knox included USCBP, Bennett, Jeffrey Bloxsome, Christina Acosta, and Andrea Rodriquez as defendants. (Id.) On March 15, 2018, Knox filed another amended complaint, (Doc. No. 11), which solely included an amended cover page. The cover page listed Acosta as the lone defendant. (Id. at 1.) Knox orally represented to the Court that the first page of her March 15, 2018 filing, (Doc. No. 11), was meant to replace the first page of her March 8, 2018 filing, (Doc. No. 9). Knox also orally represented to the Court that, though USCBP and its address is listed underneath Acosta's name, Acosta was intended to be the only defendant. Since Knox is a pro se litigant, the Court liberally construes both pleadings together as one, and Acosta as the sole defendant in this action. See, e.g., Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988) (reasoning that pro se pleadings are liberally construed).

         IV. ...


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