JeanLouise Hallal et al v. Seroka et al, No. 1:2018cv00388 - Document 10 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: SCREENING ORDER Granting Plaintiff Leave to File Amended Complaint, signed by Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on 7/19/18. Amended Complaint Due Within Thirty Days. (Marrujo, C)
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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 ) ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) SEROKA, FRANK BRIONES, TAM LE, CURTIS BOUCHE, DEWALL, and STEVEN ) MOORE, ) ) Defendants. ) ) ) ) 17 SCREENING ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 1) THIRTY (30) DAY DEADLINE SCREENING ORDER 18 19 Case No. 1:18-cv-0388-DAD-BAM JEANLOUISE HALLAL, Plaintiff JeanLouise Hallal (“Plaintiff”)1 is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action filed on March 22, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff’s Complaint is currently before the 20 Court for screening. 21 I. Screening Requirement and Standard 22 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by persons proceeding in pro per. 28 23 24 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff’s complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is 25 26 27 28 1 Brentlan Brigner is listed along with JeanLouise as a Plaintiff in this action. However, Mr. Bringer did not sign the complaint and Plaintiff JeanLouise Hallal, as a pro se litigant, cannot represent others. See Fed. R. Civ. P 11 (“Every pleading, written motion, and other paper must be signed . . . by a party personally if the party is unrepresented.”); Simon v. Hartford Life, Inc., 546 F.3d 661, 664-65 (9th Cir. 2008) (Plaintiff proceeding pro se cannot represent others). Accordingly, this complaint proceeds with JeanLouise Hallal as the sole plaintiff. 1 1 frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks 2 monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 3 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader 4 is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but 5 “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory 6 statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) 7 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). While 8 a plaintiff’s allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted 9 inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation 10 marks and citation omitted). 11 Pro se litigants are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt 12 resolved in their favor, Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121-1123 (9th Cir. 2012), Hebbe v. 13 Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010), but to survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be 14 facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer 15 that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 16 at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th 17 Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere 18 consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 19 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. 20 II. Plaintiff’s Allegations 21 Plaintiff brings this suit against the following parties: 1) Seroka, California Highway Patrol 22 (“CHP”) Officer Badge #19263, 2) Frank Briones, Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) 23 employee, 3) Tam Le, Branch Chief of DMV, 4) Curtis Bouche, Lieutenant at Fresno City Police 24 Department, 5) DeWall, Sergeant at Fresno City Police Department, and 6) Steven Moore. 25 Plaintiff alleges that on September 29, 2017, she purchased an automobile from Defendant 26 Moore. During the transaction, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Moore agreed to provide her a clean 27 title; free of any previous parking tickets. On November 1, 2017, Plaintiff also paid $64.00 to 28 register her vehicle for exempt license plates with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Plaintiff 2 1 states that by paying the exemption fee, she understood that any remaining parking tickets 2 associated with the vehicle would be cancelled. 3 On February 26, 2018, Plaintiff received “a suspicious letter” from Defendant Frank 4 Briones concerning unpaid parking tickets of the previous owner, Defendant Moore. The letter 5 attached to Plaintiff’s complaint states that her application for exempt license plates was denied 6 because exempt license plates are only issued to vehicles owned or operated by the state, and her 7 “organization does not qualify for exempt license plates.” (Doc. 1 at 13). 8 Plaintiff alleges that she received another “suspicious letter” from the DMV on March 14, 9 2018. She claims the letter was undated, placed in a reused envelope, and requested bail fees. 10 According to Plaintiff, the DMV’s failure to honor her exempt status constitutes a breach of 11 contract. 12 As relief, Plaintiff requests $299,000,000 in breach of contract and trespass damages for 13 threats, illegal stops, and “falsification of the state database.” (Doc. 1 at 8). Plaintiff further 14 requests that her information be removed from the state database because she has “permanent CA 15 exemption, and [she] is not bound by any laws or codes of the DMV.” (Doc. 1 at 8). 16 17 18 III. Discussion A. Claims Failing to Satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that a complaint include a “short 19 20 and plain statement of the claim,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and that each allegation “be simple, 21 concise, and direct.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(1) (emphasis added). A complaint that is so confusing 22 that its “'true substance, if any, is well disguised’” may be dismissed for failure to satisfy Rule 8. 23 Hearns v. San Bernardino Police Dep’t, 530 F.3d 1124, 1131 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Gillibeau 24 25 v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969)); see also McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 1996) (“Something labeled a complaint but written . . . prolix in evidentiary detail, 26 27 28 yet without simplicity, conciseness and clarity as to whom plaintiffs are suing for what wrongs, fails to perform the essential functions of a complaint.”); Nevijel v. N. Coast Life Ins. Co., 651 3 1 F.2d 671, 673-74 (9th Cir. 1981) (affirming a dismissal with prejudice for failure to comply with 2 Rules 8(a) and 8(e), finding that both the original complaint and an amended complaint were 3 “verbose, confusing and conclusory”). 4 5 Plaintiff’s Complaint does not comply with the standards of Rule 8. It is confusing, 6 convoluted, and fails to set forth the facts in a comprehensible manner. The Complaint fails to 7 clearly articulate the facts giving rise to any claim nor does it specifically identify a constitutional 8 harm inflicted by the Defendant. In Plaintiff’s amended complaint, she must clearly allege facts 9 that outline her claims. As noted above, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of 10 the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed 11 12 factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, 13 supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 14 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual 15 matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 16 at 1949. 17 B. Rule 10(b) 18 19 Rule 10(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure also requires a plaintiff to state claims 20 in “numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.” Fed. 21 R. Civ. P. 10(b). Moreover, “[i]f doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate 22 transaction or occurrence . . . must be stated in a separate count.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). It is not 23 the responsibility of the Court to review a narrative in an attempt to determine the nature of a 24 Plaintiff’s claims. Thus, Plaintiff’s complaint style and formatting fails to comply with Rule 10(b). 25 C. 26 Assuming for the moment that Plaintiff is attempting to allege claims under §1983, most 27 of Plaintiff’s allegations fail to assert the requisite causal link between the challenged conduct, a Linkage Requirement 28 4 1 2 3 4 5 specific defendant, and a clearly identified constitutional violation. Under § 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each named defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 676–7; Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff may not attribute liability to a group of defendants, but must “set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant’s” deprivation of his 6 rights. Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 7 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Here, Plaintiff fails to link each of the defendants to the deprivation of her rights. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Moore failed to pay his parking tickets on the car before she bought it and Defendant Briones threatened to confiscate her automobile. However, Plaintiff fails to specify the conduct of the other defendants aside from the generalized activity she attributes to them. Plaintiff asserts that she is entitled to trespass damages from the other defendants due to the threats of bodily harm, falsification, and illegal stops, yet she fails to specify the conduct underlying her allegations. Plaintiff must instead link each individually named defendant to an alleged deprivation of her rights and state what he did or did not do. If Plaintiff chooses to amend, she should link each of the defendants’ actions to a constitutional violation to satisfy the linkage requirement. 18 D. Contesting Parking Tickets in California 19 California law considers parking violations as civil offenses subject to civil penalties and 20 administrative enforcement. California Vehicle Code §§ 40200, 40203.5(b). The statutory scheme 21 sets forth a two-step process for contesting a parking ticket. First, within 21 days of the issuance 22 of the ticket the person may request review by the processing agency. California Vehicle Code § 23 40215(a). The processing agency must then conduct an investigation, either with its own staff or 24 by the issuing agency. California Vehicle Code §§ 40215(a)(1).) If the person is not satisfied with 25 the results of this initial review, he or she may then request “administrative review,” consisting of 26 a hearing before an examiner. California Vehicle Code § 40215(a). The request for administrative 27 review must be made within 21 days following the mailing of the results of the initial review. 28 California Vehicle Code § 40215(b). The person requesting an administrative hearing shall deposit 5 1 2 3 4 the full amount of the parking penalty or shall follow the processing agency’s procedure for providing satisfactory proof of an inability to pay the amount due. California Vehicle Code § 40215(b). After exhausting this administrative review process, the contestant may obtain judicial review of the decision of the hearing examiner by filing an appeal in the superior court. California 5 Vehicle Code § 40230. 6 If the parking violator does not contest the parking ticket and does not pay the parking 7 penalty, the processing agency may notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 DMV must then collect the unpaid penalties when the vehicle’s registration is renewed. California Vehicle Code § 4760; 40220(a). In the alternative, if the violator has accumulated more than $400 in unpaid parking tickets, or if the vehicle's registration is not renewed, then proof of the unpaid parking tickets may be filed with the court with the same effect as a civil judgment. California Vehicle Code § 40220(b) & (c). Here, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Moore failed to pay his parking tickets before selling the vehicle. If Plaintiff wishes to contest these unpaid tickets, Plaintiff can challenge them through the process described above and not in federal court. E. Eleventh Amendment 18 “The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from hearing suits brought against an 19 unconsenting state.” Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Co., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th 20 Cir.1991); see also Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54, 116 S.Ct. 1114 (1996); 21 Puerto Rico Aqueduct Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144, 113 S.Ct. 684 22 (1993); Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 517 (2004). The Eleventh Amendment also bars suits 23 against a state’s agencies. See Puerto Rico Aqueduct, 506 U.S. at 144; Brooks, 951 F.2d at 1053; 24 Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College Dist., 861 F.2d 198, 201 (9th Cir. 1989); Beentjes v. 25 Placer Cnty. Air Pollution Control Dist., 397 F.3d 775, 777 (9th Cir. 2005). Here, to the extent 26 that Plaintiff seeks to sue the DMV or its employees in their official capacities, her suit is 27 prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment which bars federal lawsuits brought against state agencies 28 and their employees sued in their official capacities. 6 1 2 3 4 F. Fourth Amendment The Fourth Amendment, which applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961). Temporary detention of individuals 5 during the stop of an automobile by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited 6 purpose, constitutes a “seizure” within the meaning of this provision. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 7 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979). As a general matter, the decision to stop an 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. See Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 109, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (per curiam); Haynie v. County of Los Angeles, 339 F.3d 1071, 1075 (9th Cir. 2003). Here, Plaintiff fails to assert a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff claims she was subjected to illegal stops, but she fails to provide details surrounding those stops. As stated above, Plaintiff has failed to link any defendant to any stop. If Plaintiff wishes to amend her complaint, she must assert that her Fourth Amendment rights have been violated and include facts surrounding those illegal stops that demonstrate that the officers did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to seize her. 19 G. Bane Act (California Civil Code § 52.1) 20 California law prohibits any person or persons from interfering, or attempting to interfere 21 with, another person’s constitutional rights by threats, intimidation, or coercion. Cal. Civil Code § 22 52.1; see also Venegas v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 32 Cal. 4th 820, 843 (2004) (the provisions of § 23 52.1 do not extend to “ordinary tort actions” but “are limited to threats, intimidation or coercion 24 that interfere with a constitutional or statutory right”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Seroka, 25 Briones, Le, Bouche, and DeWall interfered with or attempted to interfere with Plaintiff’s 26 constitutional rights by threatening or committing violent acts against her. Plaintiff asserts that 27 Defendants Briones and Le threatened to take her car away because the exemption plates had been 28 revoked. Furthermore, Plaintiff claims that the Defendant officers threatened her as well. However, 7 1 2 3 4 Plaintiff fails to provide any facts or details pertaining to the threats from the other defendants, aside from the assertion that they made threats against her. Because the complaint alleges no facts supporting a conclusion that these Defendants threatened violence or committed violence against Plaintiff in violation of constitutional rights, this claim is not cognizable. 5 H. Subject Matter Jurisdiction 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 In order to state a claim in a United States District Court, Plaintiff must establish federal jurisdiction. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and lack inherent or general subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts can adjudicate only those cases in which the United States Constitution and Congress authorize them to adjudicate. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1677, 128 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1994). Generally, these cases involve diversity of citizenship (in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000 and is between citizens of different states), or a federal question, or to which the United States is a party. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332; See also Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545, 109 S.Ct. 2003, 2008, 104 L. Ed. 2d 593 (1989). Federal courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions, and the burden to establish the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377; 114 S.Ct. at 1677. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is never waived and may be raised by the court sua sponte. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-595 (9th Cir. 1996). “Nothing is to be more jealously guarded by a court than its jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is what its power rests upon. Without jurisdiction it is nothing.” In re Mooney, 841 F.2d 1003, 1006 (9th Cir.1988). Here, as explained above, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the existence of a link or casual connection between any defendant and a violation of Plaintiff’s federal rights. See Lemire v. California Dep’t of Corr. and Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff’s complaint therefore fails to establish that federal jurisdiction exists as the United States is not a party in this action and no federal question has been properly presented. Similarly, the complaint 28 8 1 does not allege that the parties are citizens of different states which deprives Plaintiff’s complaint 2 of diversity jurisdiction. 3 4 5 6 7 8 If Plaintiff chooses to amend her complaint she must demonstrate that this Court has jurisdiction over her claims. I. State Law Claims Section 1983 does not provide a cause of action for violations of state law. See Weilburg v. Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 2007); Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 662 (9th Cir.2007); Ove v. Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 824 (9th Cir.2001); Sweaney v. Ada County, 9 Idaho, 119 F.3d 1385, 1391 (9th Cir.1997); Lovell v. Poway Unified School Dist., 90 F.3d 367, 10 370 (9th Cir.1996); Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 921 (9th Cir.1986); Ybarra v. Bastian, 647 11 F.2d 891, 892 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 857, 102 S.Ct. 309, 70 L.Ed.2d 153 (1981). 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), however, in any civil action in which the district court has original jurisdiction, the district court “shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III,” except as provided in subsections (b) and (c). “[O]nce judicial power exists under § 1367(a), retention of supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims under 1367(c) is discretionary.” Acri v. Varian Assoc., Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1000 (9th Cir.1997). “The district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if ... the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). The Supreme Court has cautioned that “if the federal claims 22 are dismissed before trial ... the state claims should be dismissed as well.” United Mine Workers 23 of Amer., 383 U.S. at 726. Accordingly, unless the complaint states a cognizable federal cause of 24 action, this Court should not exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state claims. 25 Plaintiff’s complaint attempts to raise state law breach of contract claims. Plaintiff alleges 26 that she entered into an agreement with the DMV and Defendant Moore that would preclude her 27 from liability for any unpaid parking tickets. Plaintiff also paid $64.00 to receive state of 28 California exempt license plates. In Plaintiff’s view, the failure of the DMV and Defendant Moore 9 1 2 3 4 to fulfill their promises amounts to breach of contract. However, state law tort, negligence, or breach of contract claims do not confer federal subject matter jurisdiction. See Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 662 (9th Cir. 2007) (“Section 1983 requires [plaintiff] to demonstrate a violation of federal law, not state law.”). The 5 Court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims in any civil action in which it 6 has original jurisdiction, if the state law claims form part of the same case or controversy. 28 7 U.S.C. § 1367(a). “The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 claim under subsection (a) if ... the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). In the absence of a cognizable federal claim, this court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s putative state law claims. Ove v. Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 826 (9th Cir. 2001) (district court has discretion to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims upon dismissal of all claims over which it has original jurisdiction). Here, because Plaintiff has not yet alleged a cognizable federal claim, the Court will not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims. IV. Conclusion & Order 18 Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. However, the 19 Court will provide Plaintiff with the opportunity to file an amended complaint to cure the identified 20 deficiencies. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff may not change the 21 nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George v. Smith, 22 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no “buckshot” complaints). 23 Plaintiff’s amended complaint should be brief, but it must state what the named defendant 24 did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79, 129 25 S.Ct. at 1948-49. Although accepted as true, the “[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise 26 a right to relief above the speculative level. . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). 27 Finally, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. 28 Lacey v. Maricopa Cnty., 693 F.3d 896, 927 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc). Therefore, Plaintiff’s first 10 1 2 3 amended complaint must be “complete in itself without reference to the prior or superseded pleading.” Local Rule 220. Accordingly, it is HEREBY ORDERED that: 4 1. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file an 5 amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order (or 6 file a notice of voluntary dismissal); and 7 2. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint in compliance with this order, the 8 Court will recommend dismissal of this action, with prejudice, for failure to obey a 9 court order and for failure to state a claim. 10 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. 12 13 Dated: /s/ Barbara July 19, 2018 A. McAuliffe _ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 11