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Spatcher v. Baird

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 24, 2019

GREGORY LEON SPATCHER, CDCR #BJ-9222, Plaintiff,
v.
NORI BAIRD; TRI CITY MEDICAL CENTER; OCEANSIDE POLICE DEP'T, Defendants.

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

          CYNTHIA BASHANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Gregory Leon Spatcher (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at the California Institution for Men (“CIM”) in Chino, California and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff did not prepay the civil filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) when he filed his Complaint; instead, he filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (ECF No. 2.)

         I. MOTION TO PROCEED IFP

         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). However, prisoners who are granted leave to proceed IFP remain obligated to pay the entire fee in “increments” or “installments, ” Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), and regardless of whether their 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) also 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 v. Samuels, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 627, 629 (2016).

         In support of his IFP Motion, Plaintiff has submitted a copy of his CDCR Inmate Statement Report. See ECF No. 2 at 3; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); S.D. Cal. CivLR 3.2; Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. This statement shows that Plaintiff only had $0.07 in his account at the time he filed this action. Because Plaintiff's available balance was insufficient to impose an initial partial filing fee at the time of filing, the Court will not direct the Secretary of the CDCR, or his designee, to collect an initial partial filing fee at this time. 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.”). However, the balance of the $350 total fee owed in this case must be collected by the agency having custody of the prisoner and forwarded to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         II. SCREENING PURUSANT TO 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 also 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 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)); 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) (citation omitted).

         “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 that a complaint “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); Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1121.

         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 Factual Allegations

         While his allegations are not altogether clear, Plaintiff claims Defendant Baird made “all false statements slandering [his] name” which purportedly led to his arrest. (Compl. at 2.) It appears there was an interaction between Plaintiff and Baird which led to Plaintiff being “sentenced to 4 years” in prison for “corporal injury to a spouse/roommate.” (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff claims he “never put hands on [Baird] and her whole police report is made up.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff was arrested on May 7, 2019 “where cops came and wouldn't let [him] know why.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff was taken to the “Oceanside Police Department where a female officer did a report and after the report” took him to the Vista Detention Facility (“VDF”). (Id.) It appears that Plaintiff was, at some point on May 7, 2019, transported to Defendant Tri City Medical Center but ...


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