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Howell v. Cook

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 10, 2019

KAREEM J. HOWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN COOK, Kings County Deputy District Attorney, STEVEN NGUYEN, Kings County Deputy District Attorney, and KEITH FAGUNDES, Kings County District Attorney, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS AND DIRECTING PAYMENT OF INMATE FILING FEE BY CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DOCS. 1, 2)

          SHEILA K. OBERTO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (Docs. 1, 2.) Plaintiff's prison trust account statement was filed on November 22, 2019. (Doc. 7.) For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED, and Plaintiff is granted leave to file a first amended complaint.

         I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff has made the showing required by § 1915(a) and accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff is obligated to make monthly payments in the amount of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to Plaintiff's trust account. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is required to send to the Clerk of Court payments from Plaintiff's account each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00, until the statutory filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         II. Screening Requirement

         A. Legal Standard

         The 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). Plaintiff's Complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Persons proceeding pro se are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants for violations of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. (Doc. 1 at 7-8.) Defendant Keith Fagundes is the District Attorney of Kings County, California and Defendants Kevin Cook and Steven Nguyen are Deputy District Attorneys. (Id. at 6-7.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on April 25, 2018, correctional officers at California State Prison-Corcoran, where Plaintiff is incarcerated, assaulted him. (Id. at 7.) On May 22, 2018, one of the correctional officers allegedly filed a false complaint with Defendants claiming Plaintiff threatened him. (Id. at 8.) On June 4, 2018, Plaintiff demanded that Defendants prosecute him and “give him his right in court” in response to the correctional officer's complaint, but Defendants responded that “a review of their records [did] not reveal any outstanding cases on Plaintiff” that would cause Defendants to prosecute him. (Id.)

         Believing he would not be prosecuted for his altercation with the correctional officers, Plaintiff then filed civil actions against the correctional officers for assaulting him. (Id. at 9.) The civil cases later settled, and with the civil cases resolved, Defendants charged Plaintiff criminally in February 2019 with battery on the correctional officers. (Id.) In July 2019, Defendants filed another criminal complaint charging Plaintiff with battery on another correctional officer. (Id.) Defendants filed a third criminal complaint charging Plaintiff with threatening the correctional officer who submitted the allegedly false complaint against Plaintiff back in May 2018. (Id.)

         In the first claim for relief, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants charged and “maliciously prosecuted” him in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights by complaining about the correctional officers assaulting Plaintiff and other prisoners, and for filing civil actions against the correctional officers. (Id. at 7, 11-12.) In the second claim for relief, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his due process rights by not charging him immediately after he demanded to be charged in June 2018, and instead charging him only after his civil actions against the correctional officers were resolved. (Id. at 8, 13.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages in the amount of $250, 000 and punitive damages in the amount of $250, 000. (Id. at 14.) ...


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