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Gaines v. Beaver

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 10, 2019




         Defendant Beavers moves the Court for an order requiring Plaintiff to post security pursuant to Local Rule 151(b). (Doc. 42.) Plaintiff has not filed an opposition or statement of non-opposition to Defendant's motion, and the time to do so has passed. Local Rule 230(1). The Court deems the motion submitted. For the reasons set forth below, the Court RECOMMENDS that Defendant's motion be DENIED.


         “The All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), provides district courts with the inherent power to enter pre-filing orders against vexatious litigants.” Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 500 F.3d 1047, 1057 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Such sanctions seek to restrain the “[f]lagrant abuse of the judicial process” that “enables one person to preempt the use of judicial time that properly could be used to consider … meritorious claims.” De Long v. Hennessey, 912 F.2d 1144, 1148 (9th Cir. 1990). “However, such pre-filing orders are an extreme remedy that should rarely be used.” Molski, 500 F.3d at 1057. Courts should not issue these orders “with undue haste” or before “cautious review of the pertinent circumstances, ” since “such sanctions can tread on a litigant's due process right of access to the courts.” Id.

         Per Local Rule 151(b), “[t]he provisions of Title 3A, part 2, of the California Code of Civil Procedure, relating to vexatious litigants, are … adopted as a procedural Rule of this Court.” Under Title 3a, in relevant part, “a defendant may move the court, upon notice and hearing, for an order requiring the plaintiff to furnish security…. The motion … shall be based upon the ground, and supported by a showing, that the plaintiff is a vexatious litigant and that there is not a reasonable probability that he or she will prevail in the litigation against the moving defendant.” Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 391.1.

         Under Local Rule 151(b), the Court looks to state law for the procedures to use when deciding whether to order a plaintiff to furnish “a security, bond, or undertaking.” The Court looks to federal substantive law to determine whether a litigant is “vexatious.” See, e.g., Smith v. Officer Sergent, No. 2:15-cv-0979-GEB-DBP, 2016 WL 6875892, at *2 (E.D. Cal. 2016) (“local rule and Ninth Circuit decisions demonstrate that the court looks to federal law, not state law, to define a vexatious litigant”); Cranford v. Crawford, No. 1:14-cv-00055-AWI-MJS, 2016 WL 4536199, at *3 (E.D. Cal. 2016) (“state statutory definition of vexatiousness is not enough to find a litigant vexatious in federal court”); Goolsby v. Gonzales, No. 1:11-cv-00394-LJO-GSA, 2014 WL 2330108, at *1 (E.D. Cal. 2014) (“While Local Rule 151(b) directs the Court to look to state law for the procedure in which a litigant may be ordered to furnish security, this Court looks to federal law for the definition of vexatiousness, and under federal law, the standard for declaring a litigant vexatious is more stringent.”)

         Under federal law, the Court must make specific findings of frivolousness or harassment to declare a litigant vexatious. See Molski, 500 F.3d at 1058. “To make such a finding, the district court needs to look at both the number and content of the filings as indicia of the frivolousness of the litigant's claims.” De Long, 912 F.2d at 1148 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, “[a]n injunction cannot issue merely upon a showing of litigiousness. The plaintiff's claims must not only be numerous, but also be patently without merit.” Moy v. United States, 906 F.2d 467, 470 (9th Cir. 1990).


         A. Plaintiff's Prior Lawsuits

         Per Defendant's request, (Doc. 42-2), the Court takes judicial notice of five of Plaintiff's prior lawsuits:[1] (1) Gaines v. Lewis, No. MCV074759 (Cal. Super. Ct., Madera Cty.); (2) Gaines v. Greenberg, No. 17-cv-05720-RS (N.D. Cal.); (3) Gaines v. Greenberg, No. RG17854239 (Cal. Super. Ct., Alameda Cty.); (4) Gaines v. Lwin, No. 1:16-cv-00168-LJO-MJS (E.D. Cal.); and, (5) Gaines v. Lwin, No. 17-15142 (9th Cir.).

         In Gaines v. Lewis, No. MCV074759, the court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice for her failure to file an amended complaint after the court sustained the defendants' demurrer. (Doc. 42-1 at 4; Doc. 42-2 at 5-6.) In Gaines v. Greenberg, No. 17-cv-05720-RS, the court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, in part, because it was barred by the “favorable termination rule” of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192901, at *4 (N.D. Cal. 2017). The Court stated that Plaintiff may refile some of her claims “if she can show that her convictions have been invalidated.” Id. at *4-5.

         In Gaines v. Greenberg, No. RG17854239, the court dismissed Plaintiff's case without prejudice after Plaintiff filed a request for dismissal. (Doc. 42-1 at 4; Doc. 42-2 at 24.) Finally, in Gaines v. Lwin, No. 1:16-cv-00168-LJO-MJS, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim of deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's safety. 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128356, at *5-6 (E.D. Cal. 2016). There, Plaintiff alleged that the defendant “pushed her along on a walker too quickly, ” causing her to fall and injure herself. Id. The Court concluded that the allegations may assert carelessness or negligence but not a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim. Id. at *6. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal in Gaines v. Lwin, No. 17-15142, 698 Fed.Appx. 352, 352 (9th Cir. 2017).

         B. Defendant's Motion

         As explained above, the Court must find that Plaintiff's prior claims were frivolous or harassing to declare her a vexatious litigant. See Molski, 500 F.3d at 1058. A complaint is frivolous “where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (defining “frivolous” under the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915); see also Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005) (same). But, a complaint that fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is not per se frivolous, id. at 331, nor ...

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