Singh v. The City of Elk Grove, et al.

Filing 3

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes on 11/17/2017 DISMISSING 1 Complaint with Leave to Amend. Amended Complaint due within 28 days from the date of this order. The amended complaint must bear the case number assigned to this action and must be titled Amended Complaint. (Hunt, G)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 RON SINGH, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 15 No. 2:17-cv-2027 MCE DB PS v. ORDER THE CITY OF ELK GROVE; NATHAN CHAMPION, 16 Defendants. 17 Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was referred to the undersigned in 18 19 accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the court are 20 plaintiff’s complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.1 21 (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Plaintiff’s complaint alleges that the defendants engaged in an illegal search 22 and seizure. 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 The complaint purports to be brought on behalf of plaintiff, “all others similarly situated,” and “others who will join this lawsuit . . . .” (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 1.) Plaintiff is advised that the right to represent oneself pro se is personal to the plaintiff and does not extend to other parties. Simon v. Hartford Life, Inc., 546 F.3d 661, 664 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Russell v. United States, 308 F.2d 78, 79 (9th Cir. 1962) (“A litigant appearing in propria persona has no authority to represent anyone other than himself.”). Thus, a pro se plaintiff may not bring a lawsuit on behalf of another. See McShane v. United States, 366 F.2d 286, 288 (9th Cir.1966) (affirming the dismissal of a class action for lack of jurisdiction because a pro se plaintiff “has no authority to appear as an attorney for others than himself”). 1 1 The court is required to screen complaints brought by parties proceeding in forma 2 pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 3 2000) (en banc). Here, plaintiff’s complaint is deficient. Accordingly, for the reasons stated 4 below, plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend. 5 I. 6 Plaintiff’s Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Plaintiff’s in forma pauperis application makes the financial showing required by 28 7 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, a determination that a plaintiff qualifies financially for in forma 8 pauperis status does not complete the inquiry required by the statute. “‘A district court may deny 9 leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed 10 complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit.’” Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 11 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat. Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th 12 Cir. 1987)); see also McGee v. Department of Child Support Services, 584 Fed. Appx. 638 (9th 13 Cir. 2014) (“the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying McGee’s request to proceed 14 IFP because it appears from the face of the amended complaint that McGee’s action is frivolous 15 or without merit”); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir. 1965) (“It is the duty of the 16 District Court to examine any application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis to determine 17 whether the proposed proceeding has merit and if it appears that the proceeding is without merit, 18 the court is bound to deny a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis.”). 19 Moreover, the court must dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the allegation of 20 poverty is found to be untrue or if it is determined that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to 21 state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune 22 defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an 23 arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. 24 Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a 25 complaint as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the 26 factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). 27 28 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.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 2 1 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as 2 true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most 3 favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. 4 Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 5 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by 6 lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true 7 conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western 8 Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). 9 The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows: 10 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. 11 12 13 Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). 14 II. Plaintiff’s Complaint 15 Here, the complaint fails to contain a short and plain statement of a claim showing that 16 plaintiff is entitled to relief. In this regard, the three-page complaint consists almost entirely of 17 vague and conclusory allegations. The entirety of the complaint’s factual allegations are as 18 follows: 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 The subject property is located at 6136 Demonte Way, Elk Grove, California. In 2017, the Elk Grove City had illegal surveillance at the subject property without any warrant. Almost every week on different occasions within last two years including on January 16, 2016, on March 15, 2016, on September 18, 2016, on December 28, 2016, on January 9, 2017 and on September 9, 2017, the Elk Grove City Police, Nathan Champion conspiring with the Elk Grove City Police and other defendants illegally trespassed the subject property, illegally damaged the subject property and illegally seized the personal properties of plaintiffs without any warrant. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 2.) 26 Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure adopt a flexible pleading policy, a 27 complaint must give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff’s claims and must allege facts that 28 state the elements of each claim plainly and succinctly. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Jones v. 3 1 Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). “A pleading that offers ‘labels 2 and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of cause of action will not do.’ Nor 3 does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions’ devoid of ‘further factual 4 enhancements.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 5 557). A plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which the 6 defendants engaged in that support the plaintiff’s claims. Jones, 733 F.2d at 649. 7 Moreover, the complaint does not explain how defendant Nathan Champion acted under 8 color of state law. In this regard, the complaint cites to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) 9 at 1.) To state a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint must allege: “(1) that 10 defendant was acting ‘under color of state law’ at the time of the acts complained of, and (2) that 11 defendant deprived plaintiff of [a] right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or 12 Laws of the United States.” Freier v. New York Life Insurance Co., 679 F.2d 780, 783 (9th Cir. 13 1982); see also Cobine v. City of Eureka, 250 F.Supp.3d 423, 437 (N.D. Cal. 2017) (“In order to 14 state a claim under Section 1983 for violation of the Constitution, a plaintiff must allege two 15 essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was 16 violated and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of 17 state law.”). With respect to defendant City of Elk Grove, “[i]n Monell v. Department of Social 18 19 Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the Supreme Court held that a municipality may not be held liable 20 for a § 1983 violation under a theory of respondeat superior for the actions of its subordinates.” 21 Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1073 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc). In this regard, 22 “[a] government entity may not be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, unless a policy, practice, 23 or custom of the entity can be shown to be a moving force behind a violation of constitutional 24 rights.” Dougherty v. City of Covina, 654 F.3d 892, 900 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. 25 at 694). 26 Thus, municipal liability in a § 1983 case may be premised upon: (1) an official policy; 27 (2) a “longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the 28 local government entity;” (3) the act of an “official whose acts fairly represent official policy such 4 1 that the challenged action constituted official policy;” or (4) where “an official with final policy- 2 making authority delegated that authority to, or ratified the decision of, a subordinate.” Price v. 3 Sery, 513 F.3d 962, 966 (9th Cir. 2008). To sufficiently plead a Monell claim, allegations in a 4 complaint “may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient 5 allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself 6 effectively.” AE ex rel. Hernandez v. Cnty. of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 637 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting 7 Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011)). 8 III. 9 Leave to Amend For the reasons stated above, plaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed. The undersigned 10 has carefully considered whether plaintiff may amend the complaint to state a claim upon which 11 relief can be granted. “Valid reasons for denying leave to amend include undue delay, bad faith, 12 prejudice, and futility.” California Architectural Bldg. Prod. v. Franciscan Ceramics, 818 F.2d 13 1466, 1472 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Klamath-Lake Pharm. Ass’n v. Klamath Med. Serv. Bureau, 14 701 F.2d 1276, 1293 (9th Cir. 1983) (holding that while leave to amend shall be freely given, the 15 court does not have to allow futile amendments). 16 However, when evaluating the failure to state a claim, the complaint of a pro se plaintiff 17 may be dismissed “only where ‘it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts 18 in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.’” Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 19 1228 (9th Cir. 1984) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972); see also Weilburg v. 20 Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007) (“Dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to 21 amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be 22 cured by amendment.”) (quoting Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1203-04 (9th Cir. 23 1988)). 24 Here, the undersigned cannot say that it appears beyond doubt that leave to amend would 25 be futile. Plaintiff’s complaint will therefore be dismissed, and plaintiff will be granted leave to 26 file an amended complaint. Plaintiff is cautioned, however, that if plaintiff elects to file an 27 amended complaint “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a 28 complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of 5 1 action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. 2 “While legal conclusions can provide the complaint’s framework, they must be supported by 3 factual allegations.” Id. at 679. Those facts must be sufficient to push the claims “across the line 4 from conceivable to plausible[.]” Id. at 680 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). 5 Plaintiff is also reminded that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make an 6 amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that any amended complaint be complete 7 in itself without reference to prior pleadings. The amended complaint will supersede the original 8 complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Thus, in an amended complaint, 9 just as if it were the initial complaint filed in the case, each defendant must be listed in the caption 10 and identified in the body of the complaint, and each claim and the involvement of each 11 defendant must be sufficiently alleged. Any amended complaint which plaintiff may elect to file 12 must also include concise but complete factual allegations describing the conduct and events 13 which underlie plaintiff’s claims. 14 IV. Conclusion 15 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 16 1. The complaint filed September 29, 2017 (ECF No. 1) is dismissed with leave to 17 amend2; 18 2. Within twenty-eight days from the date of this order, an amended complaint shall be 19 filed that cures the defects noted in this order and complies with the Federal Rules of Civil 20 Procedure and the Local Rules of Practice.3 The amended complaint must bear the case number 21 assigned to this action and must be titled “Amended Complaint”; and 22 //// 23 //// 24 //// 25 2 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. 3 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 1 3. Failure to comply with this order in a timely manner may result in a recommendation 2 that this action be dismissed. 3 Dated: November 17, 2017 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 DLB:6 DB/orders/ se/singh2027.dism.lta.ord 26 27 28 7

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?