Holmes v. State of Washington et al

Filing 16

ORDER denying pltf's 13 Motion to amend and pltf's claims and this case are dismissed with prejudice by Hon. Mary Alice Theiler.(RS)cc Holmes

01 02 03 04 05 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 06 07 08 JOEL CHRISTOPHER HOLMES, 09 10 11 12 ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) STATE OF WASHINGTON, et al., ) ) Defendants. ) ____________________________________ ) CASE NO. C12-0729-MAT ORDER OF DISMISSAL 13 14 15 INTRODUCTION AND DISCUSSION Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis (IFP) in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 matter. 16 Plaintiff alleged violation of his constitutional rights through the forcible collection of 17 $4,429.63 in “so-called appellate recoupment costs[]” pursuant to RCW 10.73.160, and named 18 the State of Washington and King County Prosecutor Daniel T. Satterberg as defendants. 19 (Dkt. 3.) The parties consented to proceed before the undersigned and the Court reviewed the 20 proposed complaint. 21 As observed in an Order to Show Cause issued by the Court (Dkt. 11), any complaint 22 filed pursuant to the IFP provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) is subject to a mandatory and sua ORDER PAGE -1 01 sponte review by the Court, and a dismissal is warranted if the Court finds the complaint is 02 “frivolous, malicious, fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek[s] 03 monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 04 “[T]he provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners.” Calhoun v. Stahl, 05 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court identified deficiencies in the complaint and 06 directed plaintiff to show cause why his claims should not be dismissed. (Dkt. 11.) Plaintiff 07 subsequently submitted both a Motion to Amend Complaint and Add Defendants (Dkt. 13) and 08 a Response to the Order to Show Cause (Dkt. 15). 1 09 In order to sustain a § 1983 claim, plaintiff must show (1) that he suffered a violation of 10 rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) that the violation was 11 proximately caused by a person acting under color of state or federal law. West v. Atkins, 487 12 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Now, having 13 considered plaintiff’s submissions and the remainder of the record, the Court finds no basis for 14 the proposed amendment and concludes this matter should be dismissed. 15 A. Eleventh Amendment 16 “The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from hearing suits brought against 17 an unconsenting state.” Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Coop., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 18 (9th Cir. 1991) (cited sources omitted). Accord Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 19 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). This jurisdictional bar extends to state agencies and departments, and 20 1 Plaintiff did not submit a proposed amended complaint with his motion to amend. A motion to amend not accompanied by a proposed amended complaint is procedurally deficient and typically not 22 considered by the Court. However, in order to thoroughly address plaintiff’s case, the Court also herein considers the motion to amend. 21 ORDER PAGE -2 01 applies whether legal or equitable relief is sought. Brooks, 951 F.2d at 1053 (citing Pennhurst 02 State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)). See also California Franchise 03 Tax Bd. v. Jackson, 184 F.3d 1046, 1048 (9th Cir. 1999) (Eleventh Amendment immunity “can 04 be raised by a party at any time during judicial proceedings or by the court sua sponte.”) (cited 05 cases omitted). Further, a state is not “person” within the meaning of § 1983. Will, 491 U.S. 06 at 65-66; Doe v. Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Lab., 131 F.3d 836, 839 (9th Cir. 1997). 07 Plaintiff named the State of Washington as a defendant. He now appears to argue that 08 his claims against the State of Washington are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment in that he 09 seeks only prospective damages from the State. This argument fails. While the doctrine of 10 Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), allows for suits for prospective declaratory or injunctive 11 relief against state officials in their official capacity, Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Lab., 131 F.3d 12 at 839, plaintiff named no such defendant in this action. Outside of this narrow exception, the 13 Eleventh Amendment bars suits regardless of the relief sought. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 14 465 U.S. at 100-02. Here, because plaintiff named only the State itself, his claims are 15 prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment. See S. Pac. Transp. Co. v. City of L.A., 922 F.2d 498, 16 508 (9th Cir. 1990) (plaintiff did not name state officials and since defendant named 17 undisputedly a state agency, claims are “prohibited by the eleventh amendment even though 18 they sought prospective relief.”); accord Brooks, 951 F.2d at 1053, 1053 n.1. 2 19 2 Plaintiff also avers that the State of Washington does not enjoy Eleventh Amendment 20 immunity from “common law or equitable remedies[.]” (Dkt. 15 at 2.) To the extent plaintiff seeks to allege violation of state law, the Court notes that the Eleventh Amendment bars suits in federal court 21 against states on the basis of violations of state law. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 465 U.S. at 124-25; Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973-74 (9th Cir. 2004). Moreover, as stated 22 above and discussed further below, a § 1983 claim requires a showing of a violation of rights protected by the federal Constitution or created by federal statute. ORDER PAGE -3 01 The Court further observes that, even if plaintiff had named a proper defendant, he sets 02 forth no basis for prospective relief. Plaintiff’s submissions to the Court make plain that the 03 appellate recoupment costs at issue were long ago collected. (See, e.g., Dkt. 3 at 1-2 (plaintiff 04 concedes he paid the $4,429.63 in appellate recoupment costs “on or about January 19, 05 2009-April 30, 2009,” and Superior Court case summary attached reflects that accounts 06 receivable calling for payment of $4,429.63 in appellate costs was closed as of April 30, 2009 07 and that plaintiff’s judgment was satisfied).) 3 Plaintiff’s assertion that he seeks to avoid future 08 enforcement of the state statute does not suffice to set forth a viable claim for prospective relief. 09 Plaintiff also attempts to evade the application of the Eleventh Amendment by stating 10 that “the named Defendant Washington State Office of Public Defense, is not a mere 11 ‘dependent instrumentality of the state[.]’” (Dkt. 15 at 6.) However, contrary to plaintiff’s 12 contention, he did not name such an entity as a defendant in his complaint or seek to add such a 13 defendant in his motion to amend. (See Dkts. 3 & 13.) 14 Nor is there any basis for concluding the Eleventh Amendment would not also bar suit 15 against the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD). As stated above, the Eleventh 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 3 The documentation submitted by plaintiff also raises a potential statute of limitations defense. Federal courts apply the forum state’s personal injury statute of limitations to § 1983 claims. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985). A three year statute of limitations applies in Washington. RCW § 4.16.080; RK Ventures, Inc. v. City of Seattle, 307 F.3d 1045, 1058 (9th Cir. 2002). A § 1983 action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his or her action. Bagley v. CMC Real Estate Corp., 925 F.2d 758, 760 (9th Cir. 1991). Documentation submitted by plaintiff reveals that he was well aware of the appellate recoupment costs at least as early as August 8, 2008, more than three years prior to the filing of his complaint in this Court on April 26, 2012. (See Dkt. 15 at 14 (letter to plaintiff dated August 8, 2008 responding to plaintiff’s “voice mail messages inquiring into how to roll back the appellate costs that have been assessed against you[.]”)) (See also Dkt. 1 at 2 (Superior Court case summary indicating mandate issued for $4,429.63 in costs on August 20, 2008 and accounts receivable created on August 26, 2008).) ORDER PAGE -4 01 Amendment bars suit against any state agencies or departments, Brooks, 951 F.2d at 1053, as 02 well as claims against arms or “dependent instrumentalities of the state.” Cerrato v. San 03 Francisco Comty. Coll. Dist., 26 F.3d 968, 972 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & 04 Hosp., 465 U.S. 89). The OPD appears to be, on its face, an agency or department of the State 05 of Washington and, therefore, immune under the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., Greater Los 06 Angeles Council on Deafness v. Zolin, 812 F.2d 1103, 1110 (9th Cir. 1987) (suit against state 07 superior court barred by Eleventh Amendment: “The official name of the court is the Superior 08 Court of the State of California; its geographical location within any particular county cannot 09 change the fact that the court derives its power from the State and is ultimately regulated by the 10 State. Judges are appointed by California’s governor, and their salaries are established and 11 paid by the State.”) At the least, the OPD would be considered an arm or dependent 12 instrumentality of the State. See Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College Dist., 861 F.2d 13 198, 201 (9th Cir. 1988) (applying five-factor test to determine whether a governmental agency 14 is an arm of the state: “whether a money judgment would be satisfied out of state funds, whether 15 the entity performs central governmental functions, whether the entity may sue or be sued, 16 whether the entity has the power to take property in its own name or only the name of the state, 17 and the corporate status of the entity.”; finding California Community College District a 18 dependent instrumentality of the State protected by the Eleventh Amendment). Accordingly, 19 even if plaintiff had named OPD as a defendant, his claims against that entity would be barred 20 by the Eleventh Amendment. For this reason, and for the reasons stated above, the Eleventh 21 Amendment precludes plaintiff’s claims against State defendants. 22 / / / ORDER PAGE -5 01 B. Prosecutorial Immunity 02 Section 1983 claims for monetary damages against prosecutors are barred by absolute 03 prosecutorial immunity. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31 (1976). Prosecutorial 04 immunity applies to conduct “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal 05 process,” protecting prosecutors when performing traditional activities related to the initiation 06 and presentation of criminal prosecutions. Id. Prosecutorial immunity extends to actions 07 during both the pre-trial and post-trial phase of the case. Demery v. Kupperman, 735 F.2d 08 1139, 1144-45 (9th Cir. 1984). 09 Plaintiff named King County Prosecutor Satterberg in his complaint and seeks to amend 10 his complaint by adding King County Prosecutors John McCurdy and Ann Marie Summers as 11 defendants. As discussed below, plaintiff fails to provide support for the conclusion that these 12 individuals personally participated in causing the harm alleged in the complaint or that the harm 13 alleged constitutes harm of a constitutional dimension. Nor is there any basis for concluding 14 that any conduct on their part would fall outside the realm of traditional, prosecutorial conduct 15 protected by prosecutorial immunity. Therefore, plaintiff’s claims against the prosecutors are 16 subject to dismissal. 17 C. All Individual Defendants 18 In addition to Satterberg and the other prosecutors discussed above, plaintiff seeks to 19 amend by adding as defendants both Joanne Moore, Director of the Washington State OPD, and 20 Barbara Miner, Director & Superior Court Clerk of the King County Department of Judicial 21 Administration. (See Dkt. 13.) However, plaintiff fails to sufficiently state claims against 22 any of these individuals. ORDER PAGE -6 01 A plaintiff in a § 1983 action must allege facts showing how individually named 02 defendants caused or personally participated in causing the harm alleged in the complaint. 03 Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981). A plaintiff may not hold supervisory 04 personnel liable under § 1983 for constitutional deprivations under a theory of supervisory 05 liability. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Rather, a plaintiff must allege 06 that a defendant’s own conduct violated the plaintiff’s civil rights. Here, plaintiff fails to sufficiently explain how Satterberg or any of the proposed 07 08 individual defendants caused or personally participated in causing the harm alleged in the 09 complaint. His allegation of personal involvement remains conclusory and insufficient to 10 allow the Court to plausibly infer that the named and proposed individual defendants are liable 11 for the misconduct alleged. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Moreover, as 12 with the prosecutors, any potential claims against Moore and Miner face an additional hurdle, 13 as State officials are entitled to absolute immunity for their performance of quasi-prosecutorial 14 and quasi-judicial functions. Tamas v. DSHS, 630 F.3d 833, 841-42 (9th Cir. 2010). See also 15 Mullis v. U.S. Bankr. Court, 828 F.2d 1385, 1390 (9th Cir. 1987) (explaining that court clerks 16 have absolute quasi-judicial immunity from damages for civil rights violations when they 17 perform tasks that are an integral part of the judicial process). For these reasons, plaintiff’s 18 claims against Satterberg and the other proposed individual defendants are subject to dismissal. 19 D. Constitutional Claims 20 “[Section] 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,’ but merely provides ‘a 21 method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.’” Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 22 386, 393-94 (1989) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144, n. 3 (1979)). Therefore, ORDER PAGE -7 01 as stated above, a § 1983 claim requires a showing that a plaintiff suffered a violation of rights 02 protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute. West, 487 U.S. at 48; Crumpton, 03 947 F.2d at 1420. 04 Plaintiff here avers the collection of the appellate recoupment costs following his appeal 05 violated the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Fourth Amendments to the United 06 States Constitution. However, in addition to the fact that plaintiff fails to identify a viable 07 defendant, neither his complaint, his motion to amend, nor his response to the order to show 08 cause sets forth a basis for a viable constitutional claim. His claims remain entirely and 09 insufficiently conclusory, consisting of no more than a bare allegation of the violation of his 10 constitutional rights. (See Dkt. 3 at 1.) Plaintiff, therefore, fails to set forth sufficient facts or 11 allegations supporting the existence of a claim of constitutional dimension. 4 See generally 12 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 13 14 CONCLUSION Because plaintiff is a pro se litigant, the Court allowed him the opportunity to explain 15 why his claims should not be dismissed and to remedy the deficiencies in his complaint. The 16 Court advised plaintiff that, if he filed an amended complaint that failed to correct the identified 17 18 19 20 21 22 4 Nor is there any apparent basis for concluding that the facts as asserted by plaintiff implicate federal constitutional concerns. For instance, while plaintiff could arguably allege a violation of his right to due process, any such claim appears foreclosed by evidence submitted by plaintiff demonstrating he was provided with the opportunity to oppose the collection of the appellate costs. (See Dkt. 15 at 14 (August 8, 2008 letter to plaintiff from the Washington State OPD noting that he had been provided “with forms for a remission of your cost bill[,]” that that “process is the way to get a judicial declaration that you do not have to pay costs,” and encouraging plaintiff “to file for remission of costs.”)) Indeed, the statute here challenged by plaintiff plainly allows for the opportunity to oppose the imposition of costs. RCW § 10.73.160(4) (defendant “may at any time petition the court that sentenced the defendant . . . for remission of the payments of costs or of any unpaid portion[]”; if determined that the payment would impose “manifest hardship” sentencing court may remit all or part of amount due). ORDER PAGE -8 01 deficiencies, the Court may dismiss this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Because 02 plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and seeks monetary relief from 03 defendants immune from such relief, plaintiff’s motion to amend (Dkt. 13) is DENIED and 04 plaintiff’s claims are DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 05 DATED this 30th day of November, 2012. 06 07 A 08 Mary Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 ORDER PAGE -9