United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a former county jail inmate and now a state prisoner,
proceeds without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. He has filed an application to proceed in forma
pauperis (ECF No. 18, 19).
to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the
agency having custody of plaintiff shall collect and forward
the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set
forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).
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. §
“is [legally] frivolous where 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] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which
are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose
factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Jackson
v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation
and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute
on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d
1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at
327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim,
however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) 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 Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in
original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
(1957)). However, 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. (citations omitted). “[T]he
pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a
statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a
legally cognizable right of action.” Id.
(alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright &
Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure
§ 1216 (3d ed. 2004)).
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 Atl. Corp., 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a
complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true
the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital
Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976),
as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the
plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395
U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
brings this lawsuit against Sacramento County alleging that
he was wrongfully arrested for failing to register as a sex
offender. He asserts that he was not required to register
because his underlying conviction had been expunged, and
because he was then beaten by police. ECF No. 1 at 4.
Plaintiff also claims that the county has deprived him of due
process and defamed him because police officers have informed
“law enforcement agencies, courts, the public, thugs
and neighbors” that he was arrested for failing to
register by posting about it on a website at the URL
“SacJustice.com” (the court could locate no such
websites). Id. at 5, 11, 12. Plaintiff alleges that
the county is “still prosecuting me for failing to
register.” Id.at 5. The court can discern four
possible claims from plaintiff's allegations: (1) that he
was wrongfully arrested; (2) that arresting officers
subjected him to excessive force; (3) that county authorities
violated his due process rights by publishing a webpage
listing him as a sex offender who has not registered; and (4)
that county authorities defamed him by publishing the
complaint presents a number of problems. First, it appears
that plaintiff wishes to contest an ongoing state criminal
prosecution against him. Under the Younger
abstention doctrine federal courts are required to abstain
from hearing cases that would interfere with pending state
proceedings that implicate important state interests.
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971); Potrero
Hills Landfill, Inc. v. Cnty. of Solano, 657 F.3d 876,
881 (9th Cir. 2011). Plaintiff alleges here that state
authorities are currently prosecuting him for failing to
register as a sex offender. ECF No. 1 at 5. But under
Younger, the court must abstain from interfering
with this pending criminal prosecution. Thus, the court must
abstain from hearing plaintiff's claims that (1) he was
wrongfully arrested because he is not legally required to
register as a sex offender and (2) county authorities are
violating his constitutional and state-law rights by labeling
him a sex offender who must register. These claims are
premised on plaintiff's allegation that he is not
required to register as a sex offender, which is the subject
of the pending criminal case. Accordingly, they must be
dismissed without prejudice. Further, leave to amend could
not alter the fact that plaintiff may not pursue these claims
while the criminal matter is proceeding. Accordingly, the
district judge should dismiss the claim without leave to
remaining claim - that he was subjected to excessive force
during his arrest - does not implicate his ongoing
prosecution and thus the court need not abstain from hearing
it under Younger. However, plaintiff has not alleged
any facts against the sole defendant, Sacramento County, from
which the court could subject it to liability for the alleged
excessive force. To hold the municipality liable for the
conduct of its police officers, plaintiff must allege that
the county, through its deliberate conduct, was the moving
force behind the excessive force. Castro v. Cnty. of
L.A., 833 F.3d 1060, 1078-79 (9th Cir. 2016). Such
deliberate conduct may be shown by a failure to train police
officers that amounts to deliberate indifference to the
rights of the persons with whom the police come into contact
or a deliberate choice to implement a policy or practice that
caused the alleged use of excessive force. Because
plaintiff's complaint lacks any allegations that the
county failed to train ...