Norris DaJon Miller v. George Morris

Filing 6

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, 1 WITH LEAVE TO AMEND by Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal. The Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. If Plaintiff still wishes to pursue this action, he is granted thirty (30) days from the date of this Memorandum and Order within which to file a First Amended Complaint. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Rights Packet, # 2 Dismissal Form) (mz)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 NORRIS DAJON MILLER, Plaintiff, 12 MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER v. 13 14 Case No. CV 17-2966 SJO (SS) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE GEORGE MORRIS, TO AMEND Defendant. 15 16 17 I. 18 INTRODUCTION 19 On 20 April 19, 2017, Norris Dajon Miller (“Plaintiff”), a 21 California state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights 22 complaint pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Complaint”). 23 summarily alleges that Deputy District Attorney George Morris is 24 liable 25 violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 26 6) (continuous pagination). 27 \\ 28 \\ for malicious prosecution and false Plaintiff imprisonment in (Id. at 1 Congress mandates that district courts perform an initial 2 screening of complaints in civil actions where a prisoner seeks 3 redress 4 § 1915A(a). This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portion 5 thereof, 6 frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which 7 relief can be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant 8 who is immune from such relief. 9 also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) 10 (en banc). For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is DISMISSED 11 with leave to amend.1 from a before governmental service of entity process or if employee. the 28 complaint U.S.C. (1) is 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1-2); see 12 13 II. 14 ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT 15 16 The only Defendant sued in this matter is Deputy District 17 Attorney Morris. (Complaint 18 individual capacity only. at 4). Morris is sued in his (Id. at 3). 19 20 Plaintiff states that in an underlying state criminal matter, 21 he was assaulted by a man named Thomas Brown and “was put in jail 22 for it” on February 10, 2016, even though Plaintiff was acting in 23 self-defense. 24 a crime (or crimes) he did not commit, which Plaintiff does not 25 specifically identify. (Id. at 4). Morris “falsely accused” Plaintiff of (Id.). On June 20, 2016, Morris dismissed 26 27 28 A magistrate judge may dismiss a complaint with leave to amend without the approval of a district judge. See McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). 1 2 1 the charge(s) against Plaintiff. 2 was “falsely imprisoned” for four months and ten days as a result 3 of those charges, i.e., from the day he was arrested to the day 4 the charges were dismissed. 5 in monetary damages for “emotional stress, heartache, [and] pain 6 and suffering,” as well as “false imprisonment.”2 7 \\ 8 \\ 9 \\ 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 (Id.). (Id.). Plaintiff states that he Plaintiff seeks $63,000,000 (Id. at 5). In another malicious prosecution action brought by Plaintiff in this Court, filed on the same day as the instant Complaint, Plaintiff raised similar claims against another prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Lily Keenan. See Miller v. Keenan, C.D. Cal. Case No. 17-2969 SJO (SS) (the “Keenan Complaint”). The Court takes judicial notice of Plaintiff’s other cases pending in this Court. See In re Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd., 642 F.3d 685, 689 n.1 (9th Cir. 2011) (a court may take judicial notice of a court’s own records in other cases and the records of other courts). 2 It is unclear whether the state court criminal proceedings at issue in the instant action and the Keenan Complaint are related, identical, or entirely separate. However, in the Keenan Complaint, as here, Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on February 10, 2016 and held continuously in custody thereafter. (See Keenan Complaint, Dkt. No. 1, at 4). According to the Keenan Complaint, a jury ultimately convicted Plaintiff of three counts of assault (against victims Thomas Sotiriadis, Karen Sotiriadis, and Michael Haynes) and one count of resisting an executive officer (City of Hawthorne Police Officer John Dixon). The same jury acquitted Plaintiff of one count of attempting to rob Haynes and of one count of resisting City of Hawthorne Police Officer Sean Judd. (Id. at 10-11). Plaintiff is suing Keenan in that parallel action for “falsely accus[ing] [him] of crimes that [he] did not commit,” i.e., the two counts that resulted in acquittals. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff further claims that he was wrongfully held in jail pending trial on those counts for four months and nineteen days, from February 10, 2016 to June 29, 2016. (Id. at 5). The Court cannot determine from the meager facts alleged in these two actions whether Brown’s alleged assault on Plaintiff occurred during the same incident in which Plaintiff assaulted Thomas and Karen Sotiriadis and Hayes. However, the period of incarceration at issue in this action is entirely encompassed by the period of incarceration at issue in the Keenan Complaint. 3 1 III. 2 DISCUSSION 3 4 Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the 5 Complaint due to pleading defects. 6 a pro se litigant leave to amend his defective complaint unless 7 “it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint 8 could not be cured by amendment.” Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 9 1212 and (9th Cir. 2012) (citation However, the Court must grant internal quotation marks 10 omitted). For the reasons discussed below, it is not “absolutely 11 clear” that at least some of the defects of Plaintiff’s Complaint 12 could not be cured by amendment. 13 DISMISSED with leave to amend. The Complaint is therefore 14 15 A. The Complaint Fails To State A Claim For Malicious Prosecution 16 17 A claim of malicious prosecution is generally not cognizable 18 under section 1983 if process is available within the state 19 judicial system to provide a remedy. 20 693 F.3d 896, 919 (9th Cir. 2012). 21 common law tort of malicious prosecution, although such claims are 22 “disfavored.” 23 state a claim for malicious prosecution under California law, “a 24 plaintiff must demonstrate that the prior action (1) was initiated 25 by or at the direction of the defendant and legally terminated in 26 the plaintiff’s favor, (2) was brought without probable cause, and 27 (3) was initiated with malice.” 28 4th 735, 740 (2007). Lacey v. Maricopa Cnty., California law recognizes the Zamos v. Stroud, 32 Cal. 4th 958, 966 (2004). To Seibel v. Mittlesteadt, 41 Cal. Malicious prosecution is also actionable 4 1 under state law where the defendant “continu[es] to prosecute a 2 lawsuit discovered to lack probable cause.” 3 970. Zamos, 32 Cal. 4th at 4 5 Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit has determined that a civil 6 rights plaintiff may bring a federal claim for malicious 7 prosecution under section 1983 when certain conditions are met. 8 state a federal claim for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must 9 establish not only that a claim, brought without probable cause 10 and initiated with malice, terminated in plaintiff’s favor, but 11 also that the prosecution was conducted “for the purpose of denying 12 [the accused] equal protection or another specific constitutional 13 right.’” 14 Ana, 68 F.3d 1180, 1189 (9th Cir. 1995)). 15 actions “are not limited to suits against prosecutors but may 16 [also] be brought . . . against other persons who have wrongfully 17 caused the charges to be filed.” 18 F.3d 1062, 1066 (9th Cir. 2004). To Lacey, 693 F.3d at 919 (quoting Freeman v. City of Santa Malicious prosecution Awabdy v. City of Adelanto, 368 19 20 However, not every action taken by a prosecutor in an 21 abandoned or unsuccessful prosecution will subject the prosecutor 22 to suit, even when the act is “malicious or dishonest.” 23 v. Longanbach, 410 F.3d 630, 637 (9th Cir. 2005). 24 “[p]rosecutorial immunity applies to § 1983 claims.” 25 Cnty. of Los Angeles, 828 F.3d 837, 842 (9th Cir. 2016). 26 to that doctrine, “[s]tate prosecutors are absolutely immune from 27 § 1983 actions when performing functions ‘intimately associated 28 with the judicial phase of the criminal process,’ [Imbler v. 5 Genzler The doctrine of Garmon v. Pursuant 1 Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976)], or, phrased differently, ‘when 2 performing the traditional functions of an advocate.’” 3 828 F.3d at 843 (quoting Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 131 4 (1997)). Garmon, 5 6 Accordingly, a prosecutor is absolutely immune from suit for 7 “‘initiating a prosecution’ and ‘presenting a state’s case,’ and 8 during ‘professional evaluation of the evidence assembled by the 9 police and appropriate preparation for its presentation at trial 10 . . . after a decision to seek an indictment has been made.’” 11 Garmon, 828 F.3d at 843 (quoting Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 12 259, 273 (1993)); see also Milstein v. Cooley, 257 F.3d 1004, 1012 13 (9th Cir. 2001) (“Initiating a prosecution has consistently been 14 identified 15 advocate.”); Mishler v. Clift, 191 F.3d 998, 1008 (9th Cir. 1999) 16 (“Filing charges and initiating prosecution are functions that are 17 integral to a prosecutor’s work.”). 18 by absolute immunity in the “preparation of an arrest warrant,” 19 during “appearances before a grand jury,” “in a probable cause 20 hearing,” and at trial. 21 see also Milstein, 257 F.3d at 1012 (“Appearing in court to argue 22 a motion is a quintessential act of advocacy.”). as a function within a prosecutor’s role as an A prosecutor is also protected Lacey, 693 F.3d at 933 (citing cases); 23 24 Absolute immunity applies even if it “‘leave[s] the genuinely 25 wronged defendant without civil redress against a prosecutor whose 26 malicious or dishonest action deprives him of liberty.’” Genzler, 27 410 F.3d at 637 (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 432). However, 28 prosecutors are entitled only to “qualified immunity, rather than 6 1 absolute immunity, when they perform administrative functions, or 2 ‘investigative functions normally performed by a detective or 3 police officer.’” 4 U.S. at 126).3 Genzler, 410 F.3d at 636 (quoting Kalina, 522 5 6 Courts look to the “nature of the function performed” when 7 determining if a prosecutor’s actions are those of an advocate, 8 which are protected by absolute immunity, or of an administrator 9 or investigator, which are not. Garmon, 828 F.3d at 843 (quoting 10 Buckley, 509 U.S. at 269). 11 promote, transfer and terminate” employees, “which do not affect 12 the prosecutor’s role in any particular matter,” are generally 13 deemed administrative functions not protected by absolute immunity. 14 Lacey, 693 F.3d at 931. 15 apply when a prosecutor ‘gives advice to police during a criminal 16 investigation,’ ‘makes statements to the press,’ or ‘acts as a 17 complaining 18 application.’” 19 Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 343 (2009) (brackets in original; emphasis 20 added)); see also Milstein, 257 F.3d at 1101 (filing a false crime witness For example, “decisions to hire, Similarly, “[a]bsolute immunity does not in support of a[n arrest] warrant Garmon, 828 F.3d at 843 (quoting Van de Kamp v. 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials ‘from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). In analyzing whether qualified immunity applies, a court must determine “whether, taken in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff], Defendants’ conduct amounted to a constitutional violation, and . . . whether or not the right was clearly established at the time of the violation.” Bull v. City and Cnty. of San Francisco, 595 F.3d 964, 971 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted; brackets in original). 3 7 1 report is not protected by absolute immunity). Absolute immunity 2 also does not apply if a prosecutor knowingly fabricates evidence 3 by soliciting falsehoods from others, such as by obtaining false 4 statements from purported witnesses or “shopping for a dubious 5 expert opinion.” Id. 6 7 Here, Plaintiff’s only allegation against Morris is that he 8 “falsely accused” him of a crime or crimes he did not commit. It 9 is unclear from the Complaint what role Morris had in Plaintiff’s 10 prosecution, or what he did in the performance of that role. 11 Complaint does not explain how Morris falsely accused Plaintiff, 12 or when, or whether Plaintiff would have been entitled to release 13 from custody if Morris had dismissed the charges earlier. For 14 example, was 15 arrested pursuant to a warrant that Morris may have prepared, when 16 or how he was charged, whether Morris was the only prosecutor who 17 appeared in his case, or whether Morris had a more limited role. the Complaint does not state whether Plaintiff The 18 19 Depending on the “nature” of the acts Morris allegedly 20 committed, Morris may or may not be protected by absolute immunity. 21 For example, it is possible that Plaintiff believes that Morris 22 “falsely accused” him simply by filing charges against him to 23 initiate the underlying criminal action. 24 actions 25 prosecutorial 26 Plaintiff may have grounds to assert a claim against Morris that 27 would not be subject to absolute immunity. would appear to immunity. be If so, such “judicial” protected However, 28 8 it from is suit also by absolute possible that 1 Additionally, even if Plaintiff were able to allege facts that 2 would support a malicious prosecution claim against Morris that 3 would not be barred by absolute immunity, the Complaint does not 4 allege any facts showing that the prosecution was for the purpose 5 of denying Plaintiff equal protection or some other constitutional 6 right, as required for a federal malicious prosecution claim under 7 § 1983. 8 dismissed, with leave to amend. 9 may not allege claims for which he has no factual or legal basis. Lacey, 693 F.3d at 919. Accordingly, the Complaint is Plaintiff is cautioned that he 10 11 B. The Complaint Fails To State A Claim For False Imprisonment 12 13 In his request for relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages 14 from Morris for “false imprisonment,” although he does not explain 15 why or how he believes that Morris is liable for his pretrial 16 detention. 17 whether Morris is protected by absolute immunity for his acts will 18 depend 19 Plaintiff’s pre-trial detention here fully overlapped with his 20 detention on charges for which he was eventually convicted in the 21 Keenan matter, it seems doubtful that Plaintiff will be able to 22 show that he suffered any damages by his pre-trial incarceration. 23 Even if Plaintiff had not been detained on the counts that Morris 24 dismissed, he would still have been lawfully incarcerated pre-trial 25 on the four counts for which he was ultimately convicted in the 26 Keenan matter. on As the with nature Plaintiff’s of those 27 28 9 malicious acts. prosecution Furthermore, claim, because 1 “False arrest and false imprisonment overlap; the former is a 2 species of the latter.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007). 3 “To prevail on his § 1983 claim for false arrest and imprisonment, 4 [Plaintiff] would have to demonstrate that there was no probable 5 cause to arrest him.” 6 374, 380 (9th Cir. 1998). 7 [also] has ‘a constitutional right to be free from continued 8 detention after it was or should have been known that the detainee 9 was entitled to release.’” Cabrera v. City of Huntington Park, 159 F.3d Following arrest, “a [pretrial] detainee Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 10 668, 683 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks and citation 11 omitted). 12 [pretrial] incarceration ‘after the lapse of a certain amount of 13 time’ gives rise to a [false imprisonment] claim under the Due 14 Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” 15 (quoting Baker, 443 U.S. at 145). 16 does not guarantee that only the guilty will be arrested. 17 did, § 1983 would provide a cause of action for every defendant 18 acquitted -- indeed, for every suspect released,” which it does 19 not. The “loss of liberty caused by an individual’s mistaken Lee, 250 F.3d at 683 However, “[t]he Constitution If it Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 (1979). 20 21 Plaintiff’s false imprisonment claim against Morris, to the 22 extent that he is attempting to assert one, is largely intertwined 23 with his malicious prosecution claim, as is the extent of Morris’s 24 entitlement to absolute prosecutorial immunity. 25 the false imprisonment claim is simply that Morris filed criminal 26 charges 27 charging 28 absolute immunity. in reliance decision on would evidence appear provided to be by If the basis for the protected police, from suit the by However, if Plaintiff is able to allege facts 10 1 showing, for example, that Morris knowingly fabricated or solicited 2 false evidence to keep Plaintiff in custody prior to trial, and 3 that but for that fabrication, there was no other impediment to 4 Plaintiff’s entitlement to release from pre-trial custody, it is 5 possible that such acts may not be protected by absolute immunity. 6 In light of the convictions arising from the actions at issue in 7 the Keenan Complaint, and the fact that the pre-trial period of 8 which Plaintiff complains here is entirely encompassed by the 9 period at issue in the Keenan Complaint, the Court doubts that 10 Plaintiff will be able to assert a false imprisonment claim. 11 However, 12 dismissed, with leave to amend. 13 may not allege claims for which he has no factual or legal basis. out of an abundance of caution, the Complaint is Plaintiff is cautioned that he 14 15 IV. 16 CONCLUSION 17 18 For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is dismissed with 19 leave to amend. If Plaintiff still wishes to pursue this action, 20 he is granted thirty (30) days from the date of this Memorandum 21 and Order within which to file a First Amended Complaint. 22 amended complaint, the Plaintiff shall cure the defects described 23 above. 24 allegations that are not reasonably related to the claims asserted 25 in the original complaint. 26 shall be complete in itself and shall bear both the designation 27 “First Amended Complaint” and the case number assigned to this Plaintiff shall not include new defendants In any or new The First Amended Complaint, if any, 28 11 1 action. It shall not refer in any manner to any previously filed 2 complaint in this matter. 3 4 In any amended complaint, Plaintiff should confine his 5 allegations to those operative facts supporting each of his claims. 6 Plaintiff 7 Procedure 8(a), all that is required is a “short and plain statement 8 of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” 9 Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to utilize the standard civil 10 rights complaint form when filing any amended complaint, a copy of 11 which is attached. 12 identify the nature of each separate legal claim and make clear 13 what specific factual allegations support each of his separate 14 claims. 15 concise and to omit irrelevant details. 16 Plaintiff to cite case law, include legal argument, or attach 17 exhibits at this stage of the litigation. Plaintiff is also advised 18 to omit any claims for which he lacks a sufficient factual basis. is advised that pursuant \\ 22 \\ 23 \\ 24 \\ 25 \\ 26 \\ 27 Rule of Civil Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to keep his statements \\ 21 Federal In any amended complaint, Plaintiff should 19 20 to \\ 28 12 It is not necessary for 1 Plaintiff is explicitly cautioned that failure to timely file 2 a First Amended Complaint or failure to correct the deficiencies 3 described above, will result in a recommendation that this action 4 be dismissed with prejudices for failure to prosecute and obey 5 court orders pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). 6 Plaintiff is further advised that is he no longer wishes to pursue 7 this action, he may 8 Dismissal in accordance 9 41(a)(1). A form Notice of Dismissal is attached for Plaintiff’s 10 voluntarily dismiss it by filing a Notice of with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure convenience. 11 12 DATED: July 24, 2017 /S/ __________ SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 13

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