(PS) Giannini et al v. Landry, No. 2:2016cv03004 - Document 3 (E.D. Cal. 2017)

Court Description: FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes on 5/30/2017 RECOMMENDING that the 2 Motion to Proceed IFP be denied and that the 1 Complaint be dismissed without prejudice; REFERRING this matter to Judge Kimberly J. Mueller; ORDERING that any objections be filed within fourteen (14) days. (Michel, G.)
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 ERIC GIANNINI and JIHAD BENSEBAHIA, 13 Plaintiffs, 14 15 16 17 No. 2:16-cv-3004 KJM DB PS FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS v. LANDRY, SHAWN, individually and in his/her official capacity as Chief Executive Officer of the Superior Court of Yolo County, 18 Defendant. 19 Plaintiffs, Eric Giannini and Jihad Bensebahia, are proceeding in this action pro se. This 20 21 matter was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 22 636(b)(1). Pending before the court is plaintiffs’ complaint and plaintiff Eric Giannini’s motion 23 to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Therein, plaintiffs 24 allege that the defendant “refused and still refused to convert the limited civil action” plaintiffs 25 filed in the Yolo County Superior Court “into an unlimited action . . . .” (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 26 2.) 27 28 The court is required to screen complaints brought by parties proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 1 1 2000) (en banc). Here, plaintiffs’ complaint is deficient. Accordingly, for the reasons stated 2 below, the undersigned will recommend that plaintiff Eric Giannini’s application to proceed in 3 forma pauperis be denied and plaintiffs’ complaint be dismissed without leave to amend. 4 I. 5 Plaintiffs’ Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Filing fees must be paid unless each plaintiff applies for and is granted leave to proceed in 6 forma pauperis. Here, plaintiff Jihad Bensebahia has not submitted an application to proceed in 7 forma pauperis. 8 9 Plaintiff Eric Giannini’s in forma pauperis application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). However, a determination that a plaintiff qualifies financially for in forma 10 pauperis status does not complete the inquiry required by the statute. “‘A district court may deny 11 leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset if it appears from the face of the proposed 12 complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit.’” Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 13 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat. Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th 14 Cir. 1987)); see also McGee v. Department of Child Support Services, 584 Fed. Appx. 638 (9th 15 Cir. 2014) (“the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying McGee’s request to proceed 16 IFP because it appears from the face of the amended complaint that McGee’s action is frivolous 17 or without merit”); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir. 1965) (“It is the duty of the 18 District Court to examine any application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis to determine 19 whether the proposed proceeding has merit and if it appears that the proceeding is without merit, 20 the court is bound to deny a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis.”). 21 Moreover, the court must dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the allegation of 22 poverty is found to be untrue or if it is determined that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to 23 state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune 24 defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an 25 arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. 26 Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a 27 complaint as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the 28 factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). 2 To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to 1 2 state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 3 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as 4 true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most 5 favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. 6 Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 7 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by 8 lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true 9 conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western 10 Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). 11 The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows: 12 A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court’s jurisdiction depends . . . , (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. 13 14 15 Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). 16 II. Plaintiffs’ Complaint 17 Plaintiffs’ “bring this suit pursuant to” 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendant “in his 18 capacity as a judge in the Superior Court of Yolo County.” (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 1.) The 19 complaint alleges that on December 19, 2016, plaintiff Giannini filed “documents at the Superior 20 Court of California, County of Yolo, for YOSU CVUD 2016 1275-1 . . . .” (Id. at 2.) Defendant 21 Landry “refused and still refuses to convert the limited civil action . . . into an unlimited action,” 22 in violation of plaintiffs’ rights. (Id.) 23 It is not clear from plaintiffs’ complaint if the defendant is in fact a judge or a nonjudicial 24 officer. Nonetheless, judges are generally absolutely immune from civil liability for actions taken 25 in their judicial capacity. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). Moreover, “[a]bsolute 26 judicial immunity is not reserved solely for judges, but extends to nonjudicial officers for ‘all 27 claims relating to the exercise of judicial functions.’” In re Castillo, 297 F.3d 940, 947 (9th Cir. 28 2002) (quoting Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 499 (1991) (Scalia, J., concurring in part and 3 1 dissenting in part)). In this regard, judicial personnel “have absolute quasi-judicial immunity 2 from damages for civil rights violations when they perform tasks that are an integral part of the 3 judicial process.” Mullis v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Dist. of Nevada, 828 F.2d 1385, 1390 (9th 4 Cir. 1987). 5 Moreover, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits “a direct appeal from the final 6 judgment of a state court,” Noel v. Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1158 (9th Cir. 2003), and “may also 7 apply where the parties do not directly contest the merits of a state court decision, as the doctrine 8 prohibits a federal district court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over a suit that is a de 9 facto appeal from a state court judgment.” Reusser v. Wachovia Bank, N.A., 525 F.3d 855, 859 10 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A suit brought in federal district court is a 11 ‘de facto appeal’ forbidden by Rooker-Feldman when ‘a federal plaintiff asserts as a legal wrong 12 an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court, and seeks relief from a state court judgment 13 based on that decision.’” Carmona v. Carmona, 603 F.3d 1041, 1050 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting 14 Noel, 341 F.3d at 1164); see also Doe v. Mann, 415 F.3d 1038, 1041 (9th Cir. 2005) (“[T]he 15 Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars federal courts from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over a 16 proceeding in ‘which a party losing in state court’ seeks ‘what in substance would be appellate 17 review of the state judgment in a United States district court, based on the losing party’s claim 18 that the state judgment itself violates the loser’s federal rights.’”) (quoting Johnson v. De Grandy, 19 512 U.S. 997, 1005-06 (1994), cert. denied 547 U .S. 1111 (2006)). “Thus, even if a plaintiff 20 seeks relief from a state court judgment, such a suit is a forbidden de facto appeal only if the 21 plaintiff also alleges a legal error by the state court.” Bell v. City of Boise, 709 F.3d 890, 897 22 (9th Cir. 2013). 23 24 25 26 [A] federal district court dealing with a suit that is, in part, a forbidden de facto appeal from a judicial decision of a state court must refuse to hear the forbidden appeal. As part of that refusal, it must also refuse to decide any issue raised in the suit that is ‘inextricably intertwined’ with an issue resolved by the state court in its judicial decision. 27 Doe, 415 F.3d at 1043 (quoting Noel, 341 F.3d at 1158); see also Exxon, 544 U.S. at 286 n. 1 (“a 28 district court [cannot] entertain constitutional claims attacking a state-court judgment, even if the 4 1 state court had not passed directly on those claims, when the constitutional attack [is] 2 ‘inextricably intertwined’ with the state court’s judgment”) (citing Feldman, 460 U.S. at 482 n. 3 16)); Bianchi v. Rylaarsdam, 334 F.3d 895, 898, 900 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2003) (“claims raised in the 4 federal court action are ‘inextricably intertwined’ with the state court’s decision such that the 5 adjudication of the federal claims would undercut the state ruling or require the district court to 6 interpret the application of state laws or procedural rules”) (citing Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483 n. 16, 7 485). Here, plaintiffs are essentially appealing the decision of the state court based on their claim 8 that the state court’s determination violated their federal rights. 9 Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, plaintiffs’ complaint should be dismissed for 10 lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 11 III. 12 Leave to Amend The undersigned has carefully considered whether plaintiffs may amend the complaint to 13 state a claim over which the court would have jurisdiction and upon which relief could be 14 granted. “Valid reasons for denying leave to amend include undue delay, bad faith, prejudice, 15 and futility.” California Architectural Bldg. Prod. v. Franciscan Ceramics, 818 F.2d 1466, 1472 16 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Klamath-Lake Pharm. Ass’n v. Klamath Med. Serv. Bureau, 701 F.2d 17 1276, 1293 (9th Cir. 1983) (holding that while leave to amend shall be freely given, the court 18 does not have to allow futile amendments). In light of the deficiencies noted above, the 19 undersigned finds that it would be futile to grant plaintiffs leave to amend in this case. 20 CONCLUSION 21 Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 22 1. Plaintiff Eric Giannini’s December 23, 2016 application to proceed in forma pauperis 23 (ECF No. 2) be denied; 24 25 2. Plaintiffs’ December 23, 2016 complaint (ECF No. 1) be dismissed without prejudice; and 26 3. This action be dismissed. 27 These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the United States District Judge 28 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within fourteen (14) 5 1 days after being served with these findings and recommendations, plaintiffs may file written 2 objections with the court. A document containing objections should be titled “Objections to 3 Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” Plaintiffs are advised that failure to file 4 objections within the specified time may, under certain circumstances, waive the right to appeal 5 the District Court’s order. See Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 6 Dated: May 30, 2017 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 DLB:6 DB/orders/orders.pro se/giannini3004.ifp.den.f&rs 26 27 28 6