Palacios v. Fresno County Superior Court et al, No. 1:2008cv00158 - Document 4 (E.D. Cal. 2008)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that this action be DISMISSED Without Leave to Amend signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Beck on 1/4/2008. Motion referred to Judge Oliver W. Wanger, Objections to F&R due by 3/7/2008. (Esteves, C)
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Palacios v. Fresno County Superior Court et al Doc. 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 GLORIA PALACIOS, 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 ) 1:08cv0158 OWW DLB ) ) ) FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION Plaintiff, ) REGARDING DISMISSAL OF ACTION ) v. ) ) FRESNO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, ) et al., ) ) ) ) Defendants. ) ) 16 17 Plaintiff, appearing pro se, filed the instant civil rights action on January 31, 2008. She 18 names the Fresno County Superior Court, Judge J. Petrucelli, Judge D. Kalemakarian, Tamara 19 Beard and Fran Collins as Defendants. 20 21 DISCUSSION A. Screening Standard 22 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court must conduct an initial review of the 23 complaint for sufficiency to state a claim. The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof 24 if the court determines that the action is legally “frivolous or malicious,” fails to state a claim 25 upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune 26 from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the court determines that the complaint fails to state 27 a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be 28 cured by amendment. 1 1 Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) provides: 2 5 A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court’s jurisdiction depends, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new grounds of jurisdiction to support it, (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. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be demanded. 6 A complaint must contain a short and plain statement as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 3 4 7 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair 8 notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. 9 Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of 10 particularity overt acts which the defendants engaged in that support Plaintiff's claim. Id. 11 Although a complaint need not outline all elements of a claim, it must be possible to infer from 12 the allegations that all elements exist and that there is entitlement to relief under some viable 13 legal theory. Walker v. South Cent. Bell Telephone Co., 904 F.2d 275, 277 (5th Cir. 1990); 14 Lewis v. ACB Business Service, Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 405-06 (6th Cir. 1998). 15 In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the Court must accept as true the allegations 16 of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 17 (1976), construe the pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick 18 v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff’s favor, 19 Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). 20 B. 21 Plaintiff’s Allegations Plaintiff’s allegations arise out of a family court matter in the Fresno County Superior 22 Court. She names the Fresno County Superior Court, Judges Petrucelli and Kalemakarian, who 23 made decisions in her case, and court staff Tamara Beard and Fran Collins as Defendants. 24 Plaintiff’s complaint alleges violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, 25 as well as violations of the California Constitution and various California statutes. Specifically, 26 she alleges that Judges Petrucelli and Kalemakarian were biased against her and made 27 “destructive decisions” in her case. She further alleges that Tamara Beard and Fran Collins 28 2 1 discriminated against her by refusing to speak to her and providing her with misinformation. 2 Plaintiff requests five million dollars in damages. 3 C. 4 Discussion The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides: 5 7 Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. 8 Section 1983 plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the 9 defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. 6 10 Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). “A 11 person deprives another of a constitutional right, where that person ‘does an affirmative act, 12 participates in another’s affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally 13 required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.’” Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 14 F. 3d 978 (th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). “[T]he 15 ‘requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal 16 participation in the deprivation, but also be setting in motion a series of acts by others which the 17 actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.’” 18 Id. (quoting Johnson at 743-44). Fresno County Superior Court 19 1. 20 Insofar as Plaintiff names the Fresno Country Superior Court as a Defendant, the court is 21 not a “person” for purposes of section 1983. Accordingly, Fresno County Superior Court is not a 22 proper defendant. 23 2. 24 Judge Petrucelli and Judge Kalemakarian are entitled to absolute judicial immunity. 25 Judges are absolutely immune from damages actions for judicial acts taken within the jurisdiction 26 of their courts. Schucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1204 (9th Cir. 1988); Imbler v. 27 Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 418 (1976). Plaintiff requests only monetary damages in this action, 28 and her conclusory claims that Judge Petrucelli acted “without jurisdiction” are not sufficient to Judges Petrucelli and Kalemakarian 3 1 prevent the application of judicial immunity. “As long as the judge’s ultimate acts are judicial 2 actions taken within the court’s subject matter jurisdiction, immunity applies.” Ashelman v. 3 Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1078 (9th Cir. 1986). Tamara Beard and Fran Collins 4 3. 5 Similarly, court clerks have absolute quasi-judicial immunity from damages for civil 6 rights violations when they perform tasks that are an integral part of the judicial process. Mullis 7 v. United States Bankruptcy Court, 828 F.2d 1385 (9th Cir. 1987); Morrison v. Jones, 607 F.2d 8 1269, 1273 (9th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 962 (1980). Plaintiff makes no allegations that 9 would suggest that Defendants Beard and Collins acted outside of their role as court clerks. They 10 are therefore entitled to immunity from Plaintiff’s claim for damages. California Law Allegations 11 4. 12 Plaintiff’s complaint alleges a violations of the California Constitution and California 13 14 law, which are beyond the scope of a 1983 claim. Dismissal of a pro se complaint for failure to state a claim is proper where it is obvious 15 that the plaintiff cannot prevail on the facts that he has alleged and that an opportunity to amend 16 would be futile. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Based on the 17 facts alleged, Plaintiff cannot prevail on a Section 1983 claim and it appears granting leave to 18 amend the complaint would be futile. Accordingly, the Court recommends that the complaint be 19 dismissed without leave to amend for failure to state a claim. 20 RECOMMENDATION 21 Accordingly, the Court HEREBY RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED 22 23 WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Honorable Oliver W. 24 Wanger, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within thirty (30) days after 25 being served with these Findings and Recommendations, Plaintiff may file written objections 26 27 28 4 1 with the Court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings 2 and Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified 3 time may waive the right to appeal the District Court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 4 (9th Cir. 1991). 5 6 7 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: 3b142a February 4, 2008 /s/ Dennis L. Beck UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5
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