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Crago v. Internal Affairs

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 30, 2019

MARY J. CRAGO, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNAL AFFAIRS, SACRAMENTO SHERIFF, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was accordingly referred to the undersigned by E.D. Cal. 302(c)(21). Plaintiff has filed a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), and has submitted the affidavit required by that statute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The motion to proceed IFP will therefore be granted.

         I. SCREENING

         The federal IFP statute requires federal courts to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff must assist the court in determining whether or not the complaint is frivolous, by drafting the complaint so that it complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are available online at www.uscourts.gov/rules-policies/current-rules-practice-procedure/federal-rules-civil-procedure.

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint must contain (1) a “short and plain statement” of the basis for federal jurisdiction (that is, the reason the case is filed in this court, rather than in a state court), (2) a short and plain statement showing that plaintiff is entitled to relief (that is, who harmed the plaintiff, and in what way), and (3) a demand for the relief sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Plaintiff's claims must be set forth simply, concisely and directly. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). Forms are available to help pro se plaintiffs organize their complaint in the proper way. They are available at the Clerk's Office, 501 I Street, 4th Floor (Rm. 4-200), Sacramento, CA 95814, or online at www.uscourts.gov/forms/pro-se-forms.

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court will (1) accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, unless they are clearly baseless or fanciful, (2) construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and (3) resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 592 F.3d 954, 960 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 564 U.S. 1037 (2011).

         The court applies the same rules of construction in determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief can be granted. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (court must accept the allegations as true); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action does not suffice to state a claim. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987), superseded on other grounds by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir.2000)) (en banc).

         A. The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings suit against the Sacramento Sheriff's department of Internal Affairs. ECF No. 1 at 1. Plaintiff checks the box on the form complaint indicating that the basis for federal jurisdiction is federal question. Id. at 2. When asked to list the specific federal laws at issue, plaintiff writes “failure to respond to citizens complaint, illegal search and seizure, no probable cause.” Id. The body of plaintiff's complaint, however, addresses only an alleged failure to respond and not any illegal search and seizure without probable cause. Id. at 8-10. Plaintiff alleges that she filed a complaint with internal affairs on December 8, 2019, and that she has not received a call back, and there has been no investigation. Id. at 9. Plaintiff filed this complaint on December 16, 2019. Id.

         B. Analysis

         The court must reject plaintiff's complaint because it does not comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 and it fails to state a basis for jurisdiction. The complaint does not contain a “short and plain” statement setting forth the basis for federal jurisdiction, plaintiff's entitlement to relief, or the relief that is sought, even though those things are required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1)-(3). First, even though plaintiff alleges federal question jurisdiction and states she is alleging a claim that her constitutional rights were violated, she does not allege any facts related to that claim. The factual allegations of the complaint relate only to the alleged failure of the Sheriff's internal affairs department's failure to respond to plaintiff's complaint. Such a claim does not support federal question jurisdiction because it is unrelated to the violation of any federal law or constitutional right.

         Second, the exact nature of what happened to plaintiff is unclear from the complaint. The complaint contains few facts, and states only that the Sherriff's department failed to respond within the single week between plaintiff's filing an internal affairs complaint and her filing this case in federal court. The court cannot tell from examining the complaint and the minimal facts alleged what constitutional violation (if any) was inflicted on the plaintiff, by whom and when, or how any alleged harm amounts to a claim that would give rise to federal jurisdiction in this case.

         Accordingly, the complaint does not establish this court's jurisdiction and does not comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rather than recommending dismissal of the action, the undersigned will provide plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint to allege a proper ...


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