Barnes v. Castellanos et al

Filing 10

ORDER signed on 5/5/2014 by Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong DISMISSING ACTION. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/7/2014)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 OAKLAND DIVISION 7 TURELL L. BARNES SR., Case No: C 14-00911 SBA 8 Plaintiff, 9 ORDER DISMISSING ACTION vs. 10 JUDGE CECILIA CASTELLANOS,, 11 Defendants. 12 13 On February 28, 2014, Turell L. Barnes, Sr. (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, 14 commenced the instant civil rights action1 against various attorneys and state court judges 15 (collectively, “Defendants”) arising out of the alleged taking of his home without due 16 process or just compensation. Compl., Dkt. 1. Plaintiff has also filed an application to 17 proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). As will be set forth below, the Court dismisses the 18 action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and denies Plaintiff’s IFP application as moot. 19 I. 20 LEGAL STANDARD Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), federal courts are authorized to review claims filed 21 IFP prior to service and to dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that: (1) the 22 allegation of poverty is untrue; (2) the action is frivolous or malicious; (3) the action fails to 23 state a claim; or (4) the action seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from 24 such relief. A pleading filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. 25 Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). 26 1 Plaintiff has styled his pleading as a “Petition for Writ of Certiorari.” Dkt. 1. The Court construes this document to be a complaint filed against the individuals named in the 28 caption. 27 1 To determine whether an IFP complaint passes muster under § 1915, the Court 2 applies the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the 3 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 4 1998). A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if the 5 plaintiff fails to state a cognizable legal theory, or has not alleged sufficient facts to support 6 a cognizable legal theory. Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013). “To 7 survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as 8 true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 9 662, 678, (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim 10 has facial plausibility when a plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw 11 the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 12 U.S. at 678. 13 II. 14 DISCUSSION It is undisputed that this case is related to Barnes v. Eugene Schneider, et al., C 13- 15 5333 SBA, which was dismissed without leave to amend on April 21, 2014 for failure to 16 state a claim. See C 13-5333 SBA, Dkt. 7. In the related action, Plaintiff alleged claims 17 against Judge Cecilia Castellanos (“Judge Castellanos”), Eugene Schneider (“Schneider”), 18 and the State of California. See C 13-5333 SBA, Dkt. 1. In the instant action, in addition 19 to alleging claims against Judge Castellanos and Schneider, Plaintiff alleges claims against 20 numerous judges (collectively, “judge defendants”) and attorneys (collectively, “attorney 21 defendants”). Id. Plaintiff, however, does not allege any claims against the State of 22 California. 23 Although not entirely clear, it appears that the facts giving rise to the instant action 24 are the same as those giving rise to the related action. In the related action, the complaint 25 alleged that an “illegal probate” was filed against Plaintiff’s real property2 by Schneider 26 and his client Armaline Childress. See C 13-5333 SBA, Compl. ¶ 2, Dkt. 1. According to 27 2 28 The real property is located at 6919 Hamilton Street, Oakland, California. See C 13-5333 SBA, Compl. ¶ 2, Dkt. 1. -2- 1 Plaintiff, Schneider failed to provide “Notice of Hearing to any heirs or party of interest, 2 thereby violating the statutory laws that govern Probate.” Id. The complaint further 3 alleged that Judge Castellanos willfully deprived Plaintiff of rights protected by the 4 Constitution by: (1) “appointing . . . Schneider as “Special Administer”; (2) “[a]llowing 5 proceeding in a close probate to continue”; and (3) “[d]isregarding to adhere to due process, 6 equal protection and judicial procedures.” Id. Plaintiff asserted that “upon the disregards 7 to adhere to due process, equal protection, judicial procedures, plaintiff was deprived 8 enjoyment of his real property. Resulting in a[] loss of ownership of the real property and 9 slander of the title, causing an injury in the sum of $1,000,000.00.” Id. ¶ 5. In that action, 10 Plaintiff sought, among other things, compensatory damages in the amount of $1,000,000, 11 an order declaring that the judgment entered in the probate matter is “null and void,” and an 12 order reflecting that Plaintiff is the owner of the subject property. Id. at 4. 13 In the instant action, Plaintiff alleges that “he has been forced into a fictional 14 contract, under threat and duress, and his home taken without the essential rights as 15 afforded in the 5th Amendment.” Compl. at 4. He further alleges that “[t]he Alameda 16 County Superior Court judges listed in the Complaint hindered the execution of the laws of 17 the State . . . depriving [him] of [the] . . . protections in the Constitution. . . .” Compl. at 3. 18 Plaintiff asserts that he “petitioned the court with evidence of true and correct records of 19 ownership, to only be ignored, rules and procedures twisted, manufactured facts, 20 obstruction of the records and allowed infirm claims and dismissed valid claims.” Id. By 21 this action, Plaintiff “seeks review of the Federal Court’s order mandating a cease and 22 desist for violation of due process and constitutional violations.” Id. 23 A. 24 To the extent that Plaintiff asks this Court to issue an order disrupting or undoing a Rooker-Feldman Doctrine 25 prior state-court judgment, his action is barred under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See 26 Bianchi v. Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d 895, 901 (9th Cir. 2003) (“Rooker–Feldman bars any suit 27 that seeks to disrupt or undo a prior state-court judgment. . . .”); Kougasian v. TMSL, Inc., 28 359 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2004) (holding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars -3- 1 federal district courts “from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over a suit that is a de 2 facto appeal from a state court judgment.”). The above notwithstanding, Plaintiff’s claims 3 fail on the merits, for the reasons set forth below. 4 B. 5 A judge is absolutely immune from civil liability for acts performed in her judicial 6 capacity. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-357 (1978) (holding that a judge is 7 absolutely immune from § 1983 damages even if the action he took “was in error, was done 8 maliciously, or was in excess of his authority”); accord Moore v. Brewster, 96 F.3d 1240, 9 1243 (9th Cir. 1996) (superseded by statute on other grounds). Such immunity extends to 10 claims for damages as well as claims for declaratory, injunctive and other equitable relief. 11 Mullis v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 828 F.2d 1385, 1394 (9th Cir. 1987). Here, there is 12 nothing in the complaint indicating that the claims alleged against the judge defendants are 13 predicated on anything other than actions they undertook in their judicial capacity. 14 Accordingly, because judges are absolutely immune for judicial acts, Plaintiff’s claims 15 against the judge defendants are DISMISSED without leave to amend. See Harvey v. 16 Waldron, 210 F.3d 1008, 1012 (9th Cir. 2000), overruled on other grounds by Wallace v. 17 Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007). Claims Against the Judge Defendants 18 C. 19 To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: Claims Against the Attorney Defendants 20 (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated; and 21 (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. 22 See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). No liability for constitutional violations may 23 attach to actions undertaken by private individuals. See Van Ort v. Estate of Stanewich, 92 24 F.3d 831, 835 (9th Cir. 1996). Here, there is nothing in the complaint suggesting that any 25 of the attorney defendants acted in a capacity other than as a lawyer in private practice. 26 Therefore, because there are no facts showing that any of the attorney defendants acted 27 under color of state law, Plaintiff cannot state a § 1983 claim against them. See Simmons 28 -4- 1 v. Sacramento County Superior Court, 318 F.3d 1156, 1161 (9th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, 2 the claims alleged against the attorney defendants are DISMISSED without leave to amend. 3 III. CONCLUSION 4 For the reasons stated above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT: 5 1. The complaint is DISMISSED without leave to amend. 6 2. Plaintiff’s IFP application is DENIED as MOOT. 7 3. The Clerk shall close the file and terminate any pending matters. 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 Dated: 5/5/2014 _______________________________ SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG United States District Judge 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -5-

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