United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF DISMISSAL DOCKET NO. 10-1
CHEN-UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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 Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend
because the complaint (a) failed to allege facts establishing
jurisdiction (e.g., diversity jurisdiction or federal
question jurisdiction); (b) had too many conclusory
allegations and failed to allege a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that Mr. Swain was entitled to relief;
(c) failed to link defendants to the claims; and (d) could
not assert claims that would call into question his
conviction or sentence.
Swain then filed an “writ of replevin first amended
complaint.” Docket No. 10-1. That first amended
complaint is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C.
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). Pro se pleadings must
be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police
Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
the original complaint, the first amended complaint borrows
concepts from the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) in an
attempt to secure Mr. Swain's release from prison. The
first amended complaint makes little sense, but alleges the
following: Mr. Swain is the secured party creditor, the
authorized representative of the debtor, and the debt itself,
as he holds a secured interest in himself in the amount of
$100, 000. Docket No. 10-1 at 3. He incurred a “debt to
the State of California” (apparently referring to his
conviction and prison sentence) that he “did not have
the opportunity to accept the charges and return them for
full value.” Id. As a result, “an
unlawful lien” (apparently, his prison sentence) was
placed against his “property” (i.e., Mr. Swain)
that is now in the possession of the California Department of
Corrections. Id. His first amended complaint is
“presentment acceptance for value” which, in
turn, should secure the lien on his “property”
(i.e., himself) and result in “closure of case number
H26381 and release of lien [on his] personal property”
(i.e., himself) from state prison. Id. at 5-6. He
alleges that the failure to grant him relief on his
“presentment acceptance for value” violates due
process. Id. at 5. Among the exhibits attach to the
first amended complaint are a U.C.C. Financing
Statement signed by Mr. Swain that purports to
cover, among other things, his birth certificate and
variations on his name, id. at 8; a
“non-negotiable bill of exchange” regarding a
“‘chargeback' of personal U.C.C. contract
trust account” signed by Mr. Swain, id. at 11;
and a “conditional acceptance - request for proof of
claim as to the status of monetary conditions within the
state of California to pay debts at law” signed by Mr.
Swain, id. at 14-19.
allegation of a due process violation gives the Court
jurisdiction over the action, as it raises a federal question
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, Mr. Swain's due
process claim, like the rest of his first amended complaint,
is legally meritless.
appear to be several sorts of abuses of the U.C.C. favored by
prisoners, who try to take advantage of the fact that the
U.C.C. “grants little authority to filing offices to
refuse to accept fraudulent or invalid filings.”
United States v. Neal, 776 F.3d 645, 653 (9th Cir.
2015). One sort of abuse is the use of liens and
encumbrances against the real or personal property of
government officials to harass them. Such efforts can lead to
criminal convictions. See, e.g., Neal, 776 F.3d at
655 (upholding conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1521, which
prohibits the filing, attempt to file, or conspiracy to file
a false document of the sort regularly used to create liens
or encumbrances against the real or personal property of a
federal officer or employee)). Another sort of abuse is the
use of U.C.C. documents to pursue the
“Redemptionist” theory (or other similar theory)
to try to obtain release from custody.
[T]he “Redemptionist” theory . . . propounds that
a person has a split personality: a real person and a
fictional person called the “strawman.” The
“strawman” purportedly came into being when the
United States went off the gold standard in 1993, and,
instead, pledged the strawman of its citizens as collateral
for the country's national debt. Redemptionists claim
that government has power only over the strawman and not over
the live person, who remains free. Individuals can free
themselves by filing UCC financing statements, thereby
acquiring an interest in their strawman. Thereafter, the real
person can demand that government officials pay enormous sums
of money to use the strawman's name or, in the case of
prisoners, to keep him in custody. If government officials
refuse, inmates are encouraged to file liens against
correctional officers and other prison officials in order to
extort their release from prison. Adherents of this scheme
also advocate that inmates copyright their names to justify
filing liens against officials using their names in public
records such as indictments or court papers.
Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d 198, 203 n.4 (3d Cir.
Swain's first amended complaint and attachments thereto
appear to be an effort to pursue the Redemptionist theory to
support his release from custody. The theory that he has a
right to release as a result of the U.C.C. documents he
prepared and filed is legally meritless. Cf. Carter v.
Wands, 431 Fed.Appx. 628, 629 (10th Cir. 2011) (the
U.C.C. does not “provide a basis to challenge the
conditions of [plaintiff's] imprisonment under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241”); United States v. Nero, 2013 WL
12156673, *2 n.1 (D. Ariz. 2013) (defendant's arguments
that his criminal judgment is void due to his U.C.C. filings
as a “secured party creditor” are among the
“claims in his various filings [that] have no basis in
law and are patently frivolous and/or malicious”);
id. (collecting cases that have rejected inmate
efforts to file unsubstantiated liens and U.C.C. financing
statements in connection with their incarceration). The
U.C.C. does not apply to the facts alleged in the first
amended complaint. Mr. Swain offers no legal authority for
his outlandish idea that a prison sentence or a conviction is
a secured or unsecured debt under the U.C.C. And he offers no
legal authority for his equally absurd proposition that a
prisoner or the state gains a secured interest under the
U.C.C. in the prisoner by virtue of the prisoner's
conviction or prison sentence. In a nutshell, nothing in the
U.C.C. will unlock the prison gate for Mr. Swain.
a due process label to the minimal facts alleged in the first
amended complaint does not help Mr. Swain because the due
process theory, like the underlying U.C.C. theory, is legally
meritless. Mr. Swain had no due process right to release from
custody upon his presentation of his “presentment
acceptance for value, ” Docket No. 10-1 at 5, to this
Court or to prison officials.
as the Court previously explained, a plaintiff cannot bring a
civil rights action for damages or equitable relief for a
wrongful conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused
by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, unless that conviction or sentence already
has been determined to be wrongful. Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). A conviction or
sentence may be determined to be wrongful by, for example,
being reversed on appeal or being set aside when a state or
federal court issues a writ of habeas corpus. See
Id. The Heck rule also prevents a person from
bringing an action that -- even if it does not directly
challenge the conviction or sentence -- would imply that the
conviction or sentence was invalid. The practical importance
of this rule is that a plaintiff ...