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Swain v. Director of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 25, 2019

DARIUS SWAIN, Plaintiff,




         Darius Swain, an inmate at the California State Prison in Lancaster, commenced this pro se prisoner's civil action by filing a “writ of replevin complaint.” Docket No. 1. The complaint is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.


         Mr. Swain seeks a judgment against the Alameda County Superior Court and the County Courthouse in this action in which he has named the Director of Corrections as the “respondent.” Docket No. 1 at 1. He alleges that a “financial responsibility” was imposed during his arraignment and that he “was unaware of a fine in addition to imprisonment” imposed against him. Id. He further alleges that his “fiduciary acted as the plaintiff's trustee during (all) court proceedings and failed to honor its obligation as said trustee in good faith and candor.” Id. at 2. As a result of the foregoing, “plaintiff was placed under court imposed lien on real property being the plaintiff himself as ‘tangible property.' . . . Plaintiff was also placed under a ‘third party contract,' whereby said party came to the aid of the plaintiff as his ‘creditor beneficiary.'” Id. He further contends that he seeks “a permanent solution by filing a writ of replevin complaint. This would remedy the court's lien of real property, stored as collateral on the previously unsecured debt.” Id. at 3.


         A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Id. at § 1915A(b). For cases in which a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis has sued private parties, the court may review and dismiss the action if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Mr. Swain has filed a “writ of replevin complaint.” A writ of replevin is not available on the allegations made in the complaint. Although this Court has the authority to issue “all writs necessary or appropriate” in aid of its jurisdiction “and agreeable to the usages and principles of law, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1651, no facts are alleged to establish jurisdiction or to show that the requested writ is necessary or appropriate in aid of the court's jurisdiction.

         As relevant here, the Court only has jurisdiction to entertain an action if the parties have diverse citizenship, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, or if it raises a federal question, such as a civil rights claim asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (There are other federal statutes that grant other bases of federal court jurisdiction, but none are applicable to this action.) In simple terms, Mr. Swain's action can go forward in federal court only if there is diversity jurisdiction, or if a claim is stated under § 1983.

         Diversity jurisdiction requires an amount in controversy greater than $75, 000 and, more importantly for present purposes, that the action is between “citizens of different States.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). There does not appear to be diversity jurisdiction in this action. If Mr. Swain has facts showing otherwise, he may attempt to allege facts suggesting the existence of diversity jurisdiction if he wishes to proceed based on diversity jurisdiction.

         Federal question jurisdiction also is not alleged. A civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 would give the Court federal question jurisdiction over an action. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         The complaint is a rambling jumble of ideas that is largely incomprehensible. Mr. Swain mentions several legal concepts, but fails to allege an understandable set of facts to go with any of those legal concepts. The complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Leave to amend is granted so that Mr. Swain may file an amended complaint that cures the several deficiencies addressed in this order.

         First, Mr. Swain has to allege a claim showing that the Court has jurisdiction, e.g., diversity jurisdiction or a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as discussed above.

         Second, the complaint fails to allege “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). The conclusory allegations fail to satisfy some of the basic purposes of a complaint: framing the dispute and giving the defendants and Court notice of the claims upon which relief is sought. Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of [her] ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570; see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (“statement need only . . . give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests”). It is more important that a pro se litigant describe the facts ...

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