Cooper v. Smith, No. 1:2010cv01040 - Document 4 (E.D. Cal. 2010)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Regarding Plaintiff's 1 Complaint signed by Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin on 11/12/2010. The Court HEREBY RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. Referred to Judge Anthony W. Ishii. (Bradley, A)
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Cooper v. Smith Doc. 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 JOHNNY D. COOPER, SR., 11 12 13 14 15 ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) ROBERT C. SMITH, ) ) Defendant. ) ) _____________________________________ ) 1:10-cv-01040 AWI GSA FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT (Document 1) 16 17 18 Plaintiff Johnny D. Cooper, Sr. (“Plaintiff”), appearing pro se and proceeding in forma 19 pauperis, filed the instant complaint1 against Defendant Robert C. Smith on June 10, 2010. 20 Plaintiff asks this Court to review the dismissal of an action filed in the Fresno County Superior 21 Court. (Doc. 1.) 22 DISCUSSION 23 A. 24 Pursuant to Title 28 of the United States Code section 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct 25 Screening Standard an initial review of the complaint for sufficiency to state a claim. The Court must dismiss a 26 27 28 1 The title of Plaintiff’s pleading actually reads “Petition for Review.” 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 complaint or portion thereof if the Court determines that the action is legally “frivolous or 2 malicious,” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from 3 a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines 4 that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the 5 deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. 6 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 7 pleader is entitled to relief . . ..” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 8 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 9 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing 10 Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff 11 must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its 12 face.’” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While legal conclusions 13 can provide a framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. Iqbal, 14 129 S.Ct. at 1950. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Iqbal 15 at 1949. 16 In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the Court must accept as true the allegations 17 of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. V. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 18 (1976), construe the pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick 19 v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff’s favor, 20 Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). 21 A pleading may not simply allege a wrong has been committed and demand relief. The 22 underlying requirement is that a pleading give “fair notice” of the claim being asserted and the 23 “grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47-48 (1957); Yamaguchi v. 24 United States Department of Air Force, 109 F.3d 1475, 1481 (9th Cir. 1997). 25 26 27 28 2 1 B. 2 The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: 3 5 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. 6 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to state a claim under Title 42 of the United States Code section 1983,2 7 a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law, and (2) the defendant 8 deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los 9 Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). 4 10 1983 Actions Moreover, section 1983 requires that there be an actual connection or link between the 11 actions of defendant and the deprivation allegedly suffered. See Monell v. Department of Social 12 Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit Court of 13 Appeals has held that “a person ‘subjects’ another to deprivation of constitutional right, within 14 the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another’s affirmative 15 acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of 16 which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). 17 C. 18 Plaintiff’s complaint is actually entitled “Petition for Review,” although he does 19 expressly cite to Title 42 of United States Code section 1983 and other federal authorities. The 20 gist of Plaintiff’s complaint, however, is that he believes the Fresno County Superior Court erred 21 by granting Defendant’s demurrer to Plaintiff’s second amended complaint in the state court’s 22 case number 08CECG03699 AMC on May 21, 2010. (See Doc. 1 at 2 & Att. 7 [Law and Motion 23 Minute Order & Tentative Ruling].) He specifically asks this Court “to review the superior court 24 dismissal decision . . ..” (Doc. 1 at 2:22-23.) Plaintiff’s Allegations 25 26 2 27 All further statutory references are to Title 42 of the United States Code unless otherwise indicated. 28 3 1 D. 2 For the reasons that appear below, this Court recommends dismissal of this action 3 4 5 6 7 Analysis without leave to amend. 1. Rooker-Feldman Doctrine Plaintiff’s complaint is a request that the Court review the state court proceeding, however, this Court lacks jurisdiction to do so. Federal courts lack jurisdiction to review or modify state court judgments under the 8 Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Company, 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149 9 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482, 103 S.Ct. 1303 10 (1983). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine is based on Title 28 of the United States Code section 11 1257 which grants the United States Supreme Court jurisdiction to review decisions of the 12 highest state courts for compliance with the federal Constitution. See Rooker, 263 U.S. 413, 44 13 S.Ct. 149; Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482, 103 S.Ct. 1303. The doctrine provides that “lower federal 14 courts do not have jurisdiction to review a case litigated and decided in state court; only the 15 United States Supreme Court has jurisdiction to correct state court judgments.” Gottfried v. 16 Medical Planning Services, 142 F.3d 326, 330 (6th Cir. 1998). “This is equally true in 17 constitutional cases brought under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983, since federal courts must give ‘full faith 18 and credit’ to the judicial proceedings of state courts.’” Gottfried, 142 F.3d at 330 (citing 28 19 U.S.C. § 1738). 20 “Federal district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to review such final adjudications 21 or to exclude constitutional claims that are ‘inextricably intertwined with the state court’s 22 [decision] in a judicial proceeding.’” Valenti v. Mitchell, 962 F.2d 288, 296 (3rd Cir. 1992) 23 (quoting Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483, n. 16). This rule applies to “inextricably intertwined” with 24 final state court decisions, even if such “inextricably intertwined” claims were not raised in state 25 court. See District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483-487 and n. 16; 26 Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413; Olson Farms, Inc. v. Barbosa, 134 F.3d 933, 937 27 28 4 1 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding the Rooker-Feldman doctrine is jurisdictional). Thus, “a losing party in 2 state court is barred from seeking what in substance would be appellate review of the state 3 judgment in a United States District Court, based on the losing party’s claim that the state 4 judgment itself violates the loser’s federal rights.” Johnson v. DeGrandy, 512 U.S. 997, 5 1005-1006 (1994). 6 The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars this Court’s review of the proceedings involving 7 Plaintiff and Defendant in the Fresno County Superior Court case. Gottfried, 142 F.3d at 330. 8 In sum, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to review state court judgments such 9 as the one Plaintiff expressly asks this Court to review. For that reasons, this Court will 10 11 12 recommend Plaintiff’s complaint be dismissed without leave to amend. 2. Judicial Immunity To the degree Plaintiff’s complaint can be interpreted to assert a claim against Fresno 13 County Superior Court Judge Adolfo M. Corona (Doc. 1 at 2:12-13 [“Plaintiff finds that the 14 superior court is unwilling to fulfill its constitutional obligations . . .]), Plaintiff is advised that 15 state court judges and prosecutors are immune from liability under section 1983. See Olsen v. 16 Idaho State Bd. of Medicine, 363 F.3df 916, 922 (9th Cir. 2004) (“Absolute immunity is 17 generally accorded to judges and prosecutors functioning in their official capacities”); Ashelman 18 v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986) (holding that judges and prosecutors are immune 19 from liability for damages under section 1983). Thus, Judge Corona is entitled to immunity in 20 any section 1983 action. 21 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 22 For the foregoing reasons, the Court HEREBY RECOMMENDS that this action be 23 24 DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Honorable Anthony W. 25 Ishii pursuant to the provisions of section 636(b)(l). Within thirty (30) days after being served 26 with these findings and recommendations, the parties may file written objections with the Court. 27 28 5 1 The document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and 2 Recommendations." The parties are 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: 6i0kij November 12, 2010 /s/ Gary S. Austin 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 6