Brown v. Zymey Industries et al

Filing 5

FIRST SCREENING ORDER. Order signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 8/1/2022. (Kusamura, W)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 11 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 12 13 JEREMY JAMES BROWN, 14 15 Plaintiff, v. Case No. 1:22-cv-00712-AWI-SKO FIRST SCREENING ORDER ORDER FOR PLAINTIFF TO: 16 ZYMEY INDUSTRIES, et al., 17 Defendants. 18 19 (1) FILE A FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; (2) NOTIFY THE COURT THAT HE WISHES TO STAND ON HIS COMPLAINT; OR (3) FILE A NOTICE OF VOLUNTARY DIMISSAL 20 (Doc. 1) 21 THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE 22 ORDER VACATING SCHEDULING CONFERENCE 23 24 25 Plaintiff Jeremy James Brown is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action. 26 Plaintiff filed his complaint on June 14, 2022. (Doc. 1). Upon review, the Court concludes that 27 the complaint is deficient. 28 1 1 Plaintiff has the following options as to how to proceed. Plaintiff may file an amended 2 complaint, which the Court will screen in due course. Alternatively, Plaintiff may file a statement 3 with the Court stating that he wants to stand on this complaint and have it reviewed by the presiding 4 district judge, in which case the Court will issue findings and recommendations to the district judge 5 consistent with this order. The third option is that Plaintiff may file a notice of voluntary dismissal 6 of this action so that he may pursue his case in state court. If Plaintiff does not file anything, the 7 Court will recommend that the case be dismissed. I. 8 SCREENING REQUIREMENT 9 In cases where the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen 10 each case and shall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that the allegation of poverty 11 is untrue, or that the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which 12 relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 13 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). See also Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (dismissal required 14 of in forma pauperis proceedings which seek monetary relief from immune defendants); Cato v. 15 United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (district court has discretion to dismiss in forma 16 pauperis complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 17 1998) (affirming sua sponte dismissal for failure to state a claim). If the Court determines that a 18 complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies 19 of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) 20 (en banc). 21 In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading 22 standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). A complaint must contain “a short and 23 plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 24 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of 25 a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 26 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). . A 27 complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack 28 of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri 2 1 v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff must allege a minimum factual 2 and legal basis for each claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair notice of what the 3 plaintiff’s claims are and the grounds upon which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. U.S. Dep’t of the 4 Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). 5 In reviewing the pro se complaint, the Court is to liberally construe the pleadings and accept 6 as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 7 (2007). Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a 8 court need not accept a plaintiff’s legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[A] complaint 9 [that] pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability . . . ‘stops short of the 10 line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 11 at 557). II. 12 SUMMARY OF PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT 13 Plaintiff drafted his complaint using the general complaint form provided by this Court. 14 The complaint lists two defendants, Ahmad Foroutanaliabad and Zymey Industries. (Doc. 1 at 2.) 15 Plaintiff states that subject matter jurisdiction is based on federal question. (Id. at 3.) The section 16 in which he is asked to indicate which of his federal constitutional or federal statutory rights have 17 been violated is blank. (Id. at 4.) The statement of claim section of the complaint states “Ahmad 18 Foroutanaliabad fraudulently had me sign an Invention Assignment Agreement thinking it was a 19 Non-disclosure Agreement at the start of my employment. He then transferred ownership of 20 Invention from Zymey Industries into his name, then made my work environment impossible to 21 work in so I would quit.” (Id. at 5.) In the “Relief” section of the complaint, Plaintiff writes: “I’m 22 still suffering as a result of Ahmad [sic] actions. I invented something that he agreed to pay me 23 for. He also agreed to give me credit for my inventions while reimbursing me an amount that is 24 reasonable. Now I can hardly weld for a company. And have back issues.” (Id. at 6.) III. 25 26 27 A. DISCUSSION Plaintiff Has Not Pleaded Any Cognizable Federal Claims Jurisdiction is a threshold inquiry that must precede the adjudication of any case before the 28 3 1 district court. Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Cal. State Bd. of Equalization, 858 F.2d 1376, 2 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may adjudicate only 3 those cases authorized by federal law. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 4 (1994); Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131, 136-37 (1992). “Federal courts are presumed to lack 5 jurisdiction, ‘unless the contrary appears affirmatively from the record.’” Casey v. Lewis, 4 F.3d 6 1516, 1519 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 546 7 (1986)). 8 Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by the court at any time during the 9 proceedings. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Prods., Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 10 1996). A federal court “ha[s] an independent obligation to address sua sponte whether [it] has 11 subject-matter jurisdiction.” Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 1999). It is the 12 obligation of the district court “to be alert to jurisdictional requirements.” Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas 13 Global Group, L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593 (2004). Without jurisdiction, the district court cannot decide 14 the merits of a case or order any relief. See Morongo, 858 F.2d at 1380. 15 The basic federal jurisdiction statutes are 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332, which confer 16 “federal question” and “diversity” jurisdiction, respectively. Federal jurisdiction may also be 17 conferred by federal statutes regulating specific subject matter. “[T]he existence of federal 18 jurisdiction depends solely on the plaintiff’s claims for relief and not on anticipated defenses to 19 those claims.” ARCO Envtl. Remediation, LLC v. Dep’t of Health & Envtl. Quality, 213 F.3d 1108, 20 1113 (9th Cir. 2000). 21 District courts have diversity jurisdiction only over “all civil actions where the matter in 22 controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs,” and the action is 23 between: “(1) citizens of different States; (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign 24 state; (3) citizens of different States and in which citizens or subjects of a foreign state are additional 25 parties; and (4) a foreign state ... as plaintiff and citizens of a State or of different States.” 28 U.S.C. 26 § 1332. “To demonstrate citizenship for diversity purposes a party must (a) be a citizen of the 27 United States, and (b) be domiciled in a state of the United States.” Lew v. Moss, 797 F.2d 747, 28 749 (9th Cir. 1986). “Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity between the parties-each 4 1 defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff.” In re Digimarc Corp. 2 Derivative Litigation, 549 F.3d 1223, 1234 (9th Cir. 2008). 3 Here, the complaint asserts that the court has federal question jurisdiction over this action. 4 However, liberally construed, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Foroutanaliabad fraudulently obtained 5 assignment of an invention to Defendant Zymey Industries, causing Plaintiff harm. At best, this 6 alleges a claim(s) under state law for fraud, breach of contract, and/or breach of fiduciary duty. 7 Such allegations do not give rise to any federal claim. 8 The only allegation that could present a federal question is that Defendant Foroutanaliabad 9 “made [Plaintiff’s] work environment impossible to work in so [he] would quit.” Title VII of the 10 Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S. C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”) imposes liability for creating a 11 hostile work environment. To state a hostile work environment claim under Title VII, Plaintiff 12 must allege that he was subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct on the basis of either 13 his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the 14 condition of his employment and create an abusive work environment. See Kang v. U. Lim Am., 15 Inc., 296 F.3d 810, 817 (9th Cir. 2002). Here, there are no allegations in the complaint that Plaintiff 16 was subjected to verbal or physical conduct on the basis of any protected class membership. 17 B. Leave to Amend Will Be Granted 18 For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to dismissal. The undersigned 19 has carefully considered whether Plaintiff may amend the complaint to state a claim upon which 20 relief can be granted. “Valid reasons for denying leave to amend include undue delay, bad faith, 21 prejudice, and futility.” California Architectural Bldg. Prod. v. Franciscan Ceramics, 818 F.2d 22 1466, 1472 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Klamath-Lake Pharm. Ass’n v. Klamath Med. Serv. Bureau, 23 701 F.2d 1276, 1293 (9th Cir. 1983) (holding that while leave to amend shall be freely given, the 24 court does not have to allow futile amendments). 25 However, when evaluating the failure to state a claim, the complaint of a pro se plaintiff 26 may be dismissed “only where ‘it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts 27 in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.’” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 28 1228 (9th Cir. 1984) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972)); see also Weilburg v. 5 1 Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007) (“Dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to 2 amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be 3 cured by amendment.”) (quoting Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1203-04 (9th Cir. 1988)). 4 Given the complaint’s lack of supporting factual allegations, the undersigned cannot yet 5 determine whether it appears beyond doubt that leave to amend would be futile. Plaintiff will 6 therefore be granted leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff is cautioned, however, that if he 7 elects to file an amended complaint “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations 8 contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements 9 of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 10 678. “While legal conclusions can provide the complaint’s framework, they must be supported by 11 factual allegations.” Id. at 679. Those facts must be sufficient to push the claims “across the line 12 from conceivable to plausible[.]” Id. at 680 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). 13 Plaintiff is also reminded that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make an 14 amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that any amended complaint be complete 15 in itself without reference to prior pleadings. The amended complaint will supersede the original 16 complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F 3d. 896, 907 n.1 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc). Thus, in 17 an amended complaint, just as if it were the initial complaint filed in the case, each defendant must 18 be listed in the caption and identified in the body of the complaint, and each claim and the 19 involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged. Any amended complaint that Plaintiff 20 may elect to file must also include concise but complete factual allegations describing the conduct 21 and events which underlie Plaintiff’s claims. 22 Plaintiff has a choice on how to proceed. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint if he 23 believes that additional true factual allegations would state cognizable federal claims. If Plaintiff 24 files an amended complaint, the Court will screen that complaint in due course. Alternatively, 25 Plaintiff may choose to stand on his complaint subject to the Court issuing findings and 26 recommendations to a district judge consistent with this order. Lastly, Plaintiff may file a notice 27 of voluntary dismissal so that he may pursue this action in state court. 28 6 1 IV. ORDER 2 Based on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that: 3 1. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall either: 4 a. File a First Amended Complaint; 5 b. Notify the Court in writing that he wants to stand on this complaint; or 6 c. File a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of his complaint. 2. 7 If Plaintiff chooses to file an amended complaint, Plaintiff shall caption the amended 8 complaint “First Amended Complaint” and refer to case number 1:22-cv-00712- 9 AWI-SKO. 10 3. Failure to comply with this order may result in the dismissal of this action; and 11 4. To afford Plaintiff time to comply with this order, the Scheduling Conference set 12 September 20, 2022, is hereby VACATED, to be reset once the pleadings are settled, 13 if appropriate. 14 15 16 17 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: /s/ Sheila K. Oberto August 1, 2022 . UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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