United States District Court, E.D. California
PAUL J. BURNETTE, Plaintiff,
KIMBERLY MERRIFIELD, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is confined at Napa State Hospital pursuant to a
determination of incompetency under California Penal Code
§ 1370. Plaintiff, acting in pro per, has filed an
action in this court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Upon
screening, and for the reasons set forth below, this court
finds plaintiff fails to state claims cognizable under §
1983 and recommends this action be dismissed.
court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).
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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a
claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are
clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The
critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however
inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis.
See Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227. Rule 8(a)(2) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).
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.” Bell
Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. 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 Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976),
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
Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides
Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects,
or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States .
. . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable
to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or
other proper proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an
actual connection or link between the actions of the
defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered
by plaintiff. See Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs.,
436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362
(1976). “A person ‘subjects' another to the
deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of
§ 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in
another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act
which he is legally required to do that causes the
deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v.
Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).
Allegations of the Complaint
identifies two defendants: Kimberly Merrifield, who plaintiff
identifies as a “judicial officer and magistrate”
but who is, in fact, a superior court judge on the Butte
County Superior Court and Brennen Blake, a public defender.
(ECF No. 1 at 2.) As best this court can discern, plaintiff
appears to be complaining that the following occurred during
his April and May 2019 appearances in Butte County Superior
Court: (1) Judge Merrifield refused to rule on
plaintiff's motion to dismiss; (2) Judge Merrifield
ordered two sheriff's deputies to drag plaintiff from the
courtroom by chains; and (3) attorney Blake violated
plaintiff's right to represent himself and retaliated
against him when Blake assisted the court in denying
plaintiff his right to a speedy trial. Plaintiff states that
he seeks, among other things, dismissal of the charges
against him, return of his property, and damages.
Does Plaintiff State Cognizable Claims for Relief ...