Chavez v. Robinson, No. 14-35384 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Daniel Chavez served a prison sentence for attempted sexual abuse and then entered probation. Chavez was ordered to enroll in a sex offender treatment program as a condition of his probation. The program required him to admit his guilt before treatment began and while his appeal was pending. Chavez maintained his innocence and invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Chavez was rejected from the treatment program and his probation officer sent him back to prison for violating the terms of probation. The Oregon Attorney General conceded error and the Oregon Court of Appeals remanded his case for retrial. Meanwhile, Chavez filed a pro se in forma pauperis (IFP) civil rights complaint in federal district court against his probation officer and therapist. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. At issue was whether a district court can sua sponte dismiss an IFP complaint on the basis of qualified immunity under 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii), which requires dismissal if the action “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” The court held that the term “immune” as used in the statute includes both absolute and qualified immunity. In this case, because Chavez’s complaint did not clearly foreclose the possibility of qualified immunity, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.