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Isaza v. Trotter

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 17, 2017

EARL MARSHALL TROTTER, et al., Defendants.


          C.W. Hoffman, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge

         Presently before the court is Plaintiff Rigoberto Enrique Isaza's application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 4), filed on October 15, 2015. Also before the court is Plaintiff's civil rights complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. (ECF No. 1).) Plaintiff is a pro se inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections.


         Plaintiff submitted the declaration required by 28 U.S.C. §1915(a) showing an inability to prepay fees and costs or to give security for them. Based on the information regarding Plaintiff's financial status, the court finds Plaintiff is unable to pay an initial installment toward the full filing fee required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). However, Plaintiff will be required to make installment payments toward the full $350.00 filing fee when he has funds available. Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis therefore will be granted.


         A. Background

         This case arises out of a family dispute regarding rents owed on a home located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Plaintiff alleges that his mother, Maria Trotter, died in 1996, and that her will left her home to Plaintiff and his brother, Carlos Isaza. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he spoke to a Farmer's Insurance representative named Donna who confirmed the existence of his mother's will and stated that there were two witnesses to the will. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Earl Marshal Trotter, another extended family member, has been coordinating the rental of the home to Earl's uncle and daughter for $1, 200 per month since 1999. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that the rent proceeds should have been paid to Plaintiff and his brother, Carlos, but that Earl has been “defrauding [Plaintiff] of the 600 every month since approx[imately] 2004.” (Id.) Specifically, he contends that Earl has defrauded him of $88, 000. (Id. at 5.) In contrast, Plaintiff alleges that Earl has been giving Carlos thousands of dollars. (Id. at 4.)

         Plaintiff now brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Earl Trotter for “violation of probate law” (claim one), for deprivation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights related to “breach of will” (claim two), and for “immunities; equity; breach of will” (claim three). (Id. at 4-6.) He also brings a claim against Defendant Farmers Insurance for “failure to supply plaintiff with sealed will copy.” (Id. at 2, 4, 7.) Plaintiff seeks $88, 000 in monetary damages, punitive damages for the alleged civil rights violations, an injunction ordering the unsealing of the will, and other miscellaneous costs. (Id. at 9.)

         B. Screening Standard

         Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening in any civil case “in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). In addition to the screening requirements under § 1915A, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court must dismiss the case if “the allegation of poverty is untrue” or if the court determines the action “is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915(e)(2).

         Dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915A incorporates the standard for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2014). To survive § 1915A review, a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The court liberally construes pro se civil rights complaints and may only dismiss them “if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to state a claim, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Wyler Summit P'ship v. Turner Broad. Sys. Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). Although the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) does not require detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action is insufficient. Id. Unless it is clear the complaint's deficiencies could not be cured through amendment, a pro se plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with notice regarding the complaint's deficiencies. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         C. Analysis

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that “[e]very person who, under color of [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 and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law . . . .” Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights, but provides a method for enforcing rights contained in the Constitution or federal statutes. Crowley v. Nev. ex. rel. Nev. Sec'y of State, 678 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2012). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege “(1) the defendants acting under color ...

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