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Anderson v. City of Las Vegas

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 17, 2019

BLAKE L. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF LAS VEGAS, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE [1]

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Blake L. Anderson's (“Anderson”), application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 1), his pro se civil rights complaint (ECF No. 1-1), and his motion for screening (ECF No. 1-2). For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends that Anderson's in forma pauperis application (ECF No. 1) be granted, that his complaint (ECF No. 1-1) be dismissed without prejudice, and without leave to amend, and that the motion for screening (ECF No. 1-2) be denied as moot, in light of this report and recommendation.

         I. IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION

         A person may be granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) if the person “submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets such [person] possesses [and] that the person is unable pay such fees or give security therefore. Such affidavit shall state the nature of the action, defense or appeal and affiant's belief that the person is entitled to redress.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (stating 28 U.S.C. § 1915 applies to all actions filed IFP, not just prisoner actions).

         The Local Rules of Practice for the District of Nevada provide: “Any person who is unable to prepay the fees in a civil case may apply to the court for authority to proceed [IFP].

         The application must be made on the form provided by the court and must include a financial affidavit disclosing the applicant's income, assets, expenses, and liabilities.” LSR 1-1.

         “[T]he supporting affidavit [must] state the facts as to [the] affiant's poverty with some particularity, definiteness and certainty.” U.S. v. McQuade, 647 F.2d 938, 940 (9th Cir. 1981) (quotation marks and citation omitted). A litigant need not “be absolutely destitute to enjoy the benefits of the statute.” Adkins v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948).

         A review of the application to proceed IFP reveals Anderson cannot pay the filing fee; therefore, the Court recommends that the application be granted.

         II. SCREENING STANDARD

         Inmate civil rights complaints are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Section 1915A provides, in relevant part, that “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). A complaint is frivolous when “it lacks an arguable basis in either law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g., delusional scenarios). Id. at 327-28; see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). Dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915A incorporates the same standard applied in the context of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1122 (9th Cir. 2012), which requires dismissal where the complaint fails to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         The complaint is construed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Chubb Custom Ins. Co. v. Space Systems/Loral Inc., 710 F.3d 946, 956 (9th Cir. 2013). The court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations, set aside legal conclusions, and verify that the factual allegations state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but must offer more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” and “raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Particular care is taken in reviewing the pleadings of a pro se party, for a more forgiving standard applies to litigants not represented by counsel. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). Still, a liberal construction may not be used to supply an essential element of the claim not initially pled. Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992). If dismissal is appropriate, a pro se plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint and notice of its deficiencies, unless it is clear that those deficiencies cannot be cured. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1107 (9th Cir. 1995).

         III. SCREENING OF COMPLAINT

         In his complaint, Anderson sues Defendants City of Las Vegas, State of Nevada, Deputy District Attorney William Rowles, Judge Joseph Sciscento, and Deputy Public Defender Patricia Doyle under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See ECF No. 1-1.) Anderson alleges the following: On April 4, 2016, the defendants “committed an illegal act of fraud.” (Id. at 3.) After Anderson stated on the record that he did not understand what was going on, Judge Sciscento entered a plea of not guilty, failed to release Anderson, and set bail at $300, 000. (Id.) Rowles “did nothing” and Doyle illegally moved to be appointed to Anderson's case, even though a conflict existed. (Id.) Based on these allegations, Anderson asserts violations of his due process rights and seeks monetary damages. (Id. at 4-5, 8.)

         42 U.S.C. § 1983 aims “to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights.” Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting McDade v. West, 223 F.3d 1135, 1139 (9th Cir. 2000)). The statute “provides a federal cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of his federal rights[, ]” Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999), and is “merely . . . the procedural device for enforcing substantive provisions of the Constitution and federal statutes.” Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Claims under § 1983 require the plaintiff to allege (1) the violation of a federally-protected right by (2) a person or official who acts under the color of state law. Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

         However, § 1983 is not a backdoor through which a federal court may overturn a state court conviction or award relief related to the fact or duration of a sentence. Section 1983 and “the federal habeas corpus statute . . . both provide access to the federal courts ‘for claims of unconstitutional treatment at the hands of state officials, . . . [but] they different in their scope and operation.'” Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 854 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 48 (1994)). Federal courts must take care to prevent prisoners from relying on § 1983 to subvert the differing procedural requirements of habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87; Simpson v. Thomas, 528 F.3d 685, 695 (9th Cir. 2008). When a prisoner challenges the legality or duration of his custody, raises a constitutional challenge which could entitle him to an earlier release, or seeks damages for purported deficiencies in his state court criminal case, which effected a conviction or lengthier sentence, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997); Heck, 512 U.S. at 481; Wolf v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 554 (1974); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973); Simpson, 528 ...


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