Ransom v. Volunteers of America Gretchen Angeles

Filing 3

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes on 10/21/17, ORDERING that plaintiff's complaint 1 is DISMISSED with leave to amend. Within 28 days from the date of this order, plaintiff shall file an amended complaint. Failure to comply with this order in a timely manner may result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed. (Kastilahn, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 CLINTON RANSOM, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 No. 2:17-cv-1442 KJM DB PS v. ORDER VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was referred to the undersigned in 17 18 accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the court is 19 plaintiff’s complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 20 (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Therein, plaintiff complains of an illegal eviction. The court is required to screen complaints brought by parties proceeding in forma 21 22 pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 23 2000) (en banc). Here, plaintiff’s complaint is deficient. Accordingly, for the reasons stated 24 below, plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend. 25 I. 26 Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Plaintiff’s in forma pauperis application makes the financial showing required by 28 27 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, a determination that a plaintiff qualifies financially for in forma 28 pauperis status does not complete the inquiry required by the statute. “‘A district court may deny 1 1 leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed 2 complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit.’” Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 3 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat. Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th 4 Cir. 1987)); see also McGee v. Department of Child Support Services, 584 Fed. Appx. 638 (9th 5 Cir. 2014) (“the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying McGee’s request to proceed 6 IFP because it appears from the face of the amended complaint that McGee’s action is frivolous 7 or without merit”); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir. 1965) (“It is the duty of the 8 District Court to examine any application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis to determine 9 whether the proposed proceeding has merit and if it appears that the proceeding is without merit, 10 the court is bound to deny a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis.”). 11 Moreover, the court must dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the allegation of 12 poverty is found to be untrue or if it is determined that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to 13 state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune 14 defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an 15 arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. 16 Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a 17 complaint as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the 18 factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). 19 To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to 20 state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 21 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as 22 true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most 23 favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. 24 Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 25 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by 26 lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true 27 conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western 28 Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). 2 1 The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows: 2 A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court’s jurisdiction depends . . . , (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks. 3 4 5 Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). 6 II. 7 Plaintiff’s Complaint Here, the complaint fails to contain a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which 8 the court’s jurisdiction depends or a claim showing that plaintiff is entitled to relief. In this 9 regard, plaintiff’s complaint alleges this court has federal question jurisdiction over plaintiff’s 10 claims stemming from an “[i]llegal eviction,” and increased monthly rent. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) 11 at 4.) Specifically, the complaint alleges that plaintiff received a notice of rent increase on April 12 22, 2017, and a “3 day notice to pay” on May 10, 2017. (Id. at 5.) The complaint, however, does 13 not allege any federal statues at issue nor does it state the elements of any claim. 14 Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure adopt a flexible pleading policy, a 15 complaint must give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff’s claims and must allege facts that 16 state the elements of each claim plainly and succinctly. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Jones v. 17 Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). “A pleading that offers ‘labels 18 and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of cause of action will not do.’ Nor 19 does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions’ devoid of ‘further factual 20 enhancements.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 21 557). A plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which the 22 defendants engaged in that support the plaintiff’s claims. Jones, 733 F.2d at 649. 23 Moreover, jurisdiction is a threshold inquiry that must precede the adjudication of any 24 case before the district court. Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Cal. State Bd. of 25 Equalization, 858 F.2d 1376, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). Federal courts are courts of limited 26 jurisdiction and may adjudicate only those cases authorized by federal law. Kokkonen v. 27 Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131, 136-37 28 (1992). “Federal courts are presumed to lack jurisdiction, ‘unless the contrary appears 3 1 affirmatively from the record.’” Casey v. Lewis, 4 F.3d 1516, 1519 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting 2 Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 546 (1986)). 3 Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by the court at any time during the 4 proceedings. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Prods., Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 5 1996). A federal court “ha[s] an independent obligation to address sua sponte whether [it] has 6 subject-matter jurisdiction.” Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 1999). It is the 7 obligation of the district court “to be alert to jurisdictional requirements.” Grupo Dataflux v. 8 Atlas Global Group, L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593 (2004). Without jurisdiction, the district court 9 cannot decide the merits of a case or order any relief. See Morongo, 858 F.2d at 1380. 10 The basic federal jurisdiction statutes are 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332, which confer 11 “federal question” and “diversity” jurisdiction, respectively. Federal jurisdiction may also be 12 conferred by federal statutes regulating specific subject matter. “[T]he existence of federal 13 jurisdiction depends solely on the plaintiff’s claims for relief and not on anticipated defenses to 14 those claims.” ARCO Envtl. Remediation, LLC v. Dep’t of Health & Envtl. Quality, 213 F.3d 15 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000). District courts have diversity jurisdiction only over “all civil actions where the matter in 16 17 controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs,” and the action 18 is between: “(1) citizens of different States; (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a 19 foreign state; (3) citizens of different States and in which citizens or subjects of a foreign state are 20 additional parties; and (4) a foreign state . . . as plaintiff and citizens of a State or of different 21 States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332. “To demonstrate citizenship for diversity purposes a party must (a) be 22 a citizen of the United States, and (b) be domiciled in a state of the United States.” Lew v. Moss, 23 797 F.2d 747, 749 (9th Cir. 1986). “Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity between 24 the parties-each defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff.” In re 25 Digimarc Corp. Derivative Litigation, 549 F.3d 1223, 1234 (9th Cir. 2008). 26 III. 27 28 Leave to Amend For the reasons stated above, plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed. The undersigned has carefully considered whether plaintiff may amend the complaint to state a claim upon which 4 1 relief can be granted. “Valid reasons for denying leave to amend include undue delay, bad faith, 2 prejudice, and futility.” California Architectural Bldg. Prod. v. Franciscan Ceramics, 818 F.2d 3 1466, 1472 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Klamath-Lake Pharm. Ass’n v. Klamath Med. Serv. Bureau, 4 701 F.2d 1276, 1293 (9th Cir. 1983) (holding that while leave to amend shall be freely given, the 5 court does not have to allow futile amendments). 6 However, when evaluating the failure to state a claim, the complaint of a pro se plaintiff 7 may be dismissed “only where ‘it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts 8 in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.’” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 9 1228 (9th Cir. 1984) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972); see also Weilburg v. 10 Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007) (“Dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to 11 amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be 12 cured by amendment.”) (quoting Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1203-04 (9th Cir. 13 1988)). 14 Here, given the extremely vague and conclusory nature of the complaint’s allegations, the 15 undersigned cannot yet say that it appears beyond doubt that leave to amend would be futile. 16 Plaintiff’s complaint will therefore be dismissed, and plaintiff will be granted leave to file an 17 amended complaint. Plaintiff is cautioned, however, that if plaintiff elects to file an amended 18 complaint “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint 19 is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, 20 supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. “While 21 legal conclusions can provide the complaint’s framework, they must be supported by factual 22 allegations.” Id. at 679. Those facts must be sufficient to push the claims “across the line from 23 conceivable to plausible[.]” Id. at 680 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). 24 Plaintiff is also reminded that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make an 25 amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that any amended complaint be complete 26 in itself without reference to prior pleadings. The amended complaint will supersede the original 27 complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Thus, in an amended complaint, 28 just as if it were the initial complaint filed in the case, each defendant must be listed in the caption 5 1 and identified in the body of the complaint, and each claim and the involvement of each 2 defendant must be sufficiently alleged. Any amended complaint which plaintiff may elect to file 3 must also include concise but complete factual allegations describing the conduct and events 4 which underlie plaintiff’s claims. 5 IV. Conclusion 6 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 7 1. The complaint filed July 12, 2017 (ECF No. 1) is dismissed with leave to amend.1 8 2. Within twenty-eight days from the date of this order, an amended complaint shall be 9 filed that cures the defects noted in this order and complies with the Federal Rules of Civil 10 Procedure and the Local Rules of Practice.2 The amended complaint must bear the case number 11 assigned to this action and must be titled “Amended Complaint.” 12 3. Failure to comply with this order in a timely manner may result in a recommendation 13 that this action be dismissed. 14 Dated: October 21, 2017 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 DLB:6 DB/orders/orders.pro se/ransom1442.dism.lta.ord 23 24 25 1 26 27 28 Plaintiff need not file another application to proceed in forma pauperis at this time unless plaintiff’s financial condition has improved since the last such application was submitted. 2 Alternatively, if plaintiff no longer wishes to pursue this action plaintiff may file a notice of voluntary dismissal of this action pursuant to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 6

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