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Phillips v. Salt River Police Department

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

April 29, 2013

Brian G. Phillips, Plaintiff,
v.
Salt River Police Department; Pima Maricopa Sheriff's Department; Pat Dallas; Salt River Casino, Defendants.

ORDER

LAWRENCE O. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

On April 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint and Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs on the same day.[1] (Docs. 1-2)

I. Standard for Reviewing Complaint

A district court is required to screen complaints brought by litigants who request leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), (e)(2); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) ( per curiam ) (§ 1915 applies to all applicants for in forma pauperis status, prisoner or non-prisoner). "While much of § 1915 outlines how prisoners can file proceedings in forma pauperis, § 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis proceedings, not just those filed by prisoners." Long v. Maricopa Cmty. College Dist., 2012 WL 588965, at *1 (D. Ariz. Feb. 22, 2012) (citing Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126 n. 7); see also Jones v. Social Sec. Admin., 2007 WL 806628 (E.D. Cal. 2007). Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) provides that a district court "shall dismiss a case at any time if it 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 from a defendant who is immune from such relief." In other words, Section 1915(e) " requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim." Long, 2012 WL 588965, at *1 (emphasis added). A complaint is legally frivolous within the meaning of Section 1915 "where it lacks any arguable basis either in law or fact." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31-32 (1992) ("[t]he in forma pauperis statute, unlike Rule 12(b)(6), accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

While this Court recognizes the significant challenges a non-lawyer pro se litigant may have in representing himself, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that federal "judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants." Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 232 (2004). Requiring trial judges to explain the details of federal procedure or act as the pro se's counsel "would undermine district judges' [or magistrate judges'] role as impartial decisionmakers." Id.

II. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Having reviewed Plaintiff's Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs, and it appearing Plaintiff qualifies for in forma pauperis (" IFP ") status, Plaintiff's request to proceed without prepaying fees and costs will be conditionally granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Court will withhold formally granting IFP status, however, until Plaintiff fully complies with this Order. At the time his compliance with this Order is verified, the Court will issue an order granting IFP status and directing the U.S. Marshal Service to serve the amended complaint.

III. The Complaint

The Complaint, written entirely in bold print, alleges the "Facts of Case" are as follows:

Plaintiff was arrested on the grounds of Salt River Casino, in late 2011. He had a license to possess medicinal marijuana; his car was illegally confiscated by the Salt River Police Department, and plaintiff Was never charged with any crime; he was never read his Miranda rights; Plaintiff is contending a conspiracy and cover-up by the defendants and each of them, similar to what 2 PIMA MARICOPA SHERIFFS who were arrested, indicted, and jailed in a similar case wherein they confiscated cars and property, illegally sold them on the black market.

(Doc. 1 at 2-3) The Complaint refers to a "civil action filed by" Defendant Pat Dallas to which Plaintiff "filed a timely answer and counter-claimed... which the Salt River Court and DA blatantly ignored[.]" ( Id. at 3) "[S]alt River claimed it was immune from U.S. law due to something vague and Ambiguous such as being a sovereign nation, ' like Somalia." ( Id. ) Plaintiff provides no court or case number to show where this civil action was filed.

The Complaint attempts to state three causes of action: 1) Violations of Civil Rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 2) Conversion of Personal Property; and 3) Injunctive Relief. (Doc. 1) The First Cause of Action is based upon "[t]he illegal arrest and violation of plaintiff's due process rights without charging him with any crime, has damaged his health; moreover the illegal seizure of his car and property was unreasonable under the circumstances, (sic) This thus violated his right not to be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution" ( Id. at 4) The Second Cause of Action "alleges that the defendants, and each of them, conspired and Colluded to confiscate his vehicle, take his personal property and continue To violate his civil rights, hiding behind so-called Indian' law as a foreign Nation.'... Moreover, the defendants have engaged in abuse of the legal process to Cover their illegal acts, i.e., violation of plaintiff's rights and taking his car And property to (sic) for their own illegal acts." ( Id. at 4) The so-called Third Cause of Action requests the Court "order[] his vehicle and personal property returned pending The outcome of litigation."[2] ( Id. )

The Complaint predicates subject-matter jurisdiction on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (federal question) and 1343 (civil rights violations) and the "[a]cts and omissions giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred in Salt River, Arizona[.]" ( Id. at 2) Plaintiff names as Defendants: 1) the Salt River Police Department and Pima Maricopa Sheriff's Department, alleging each is "an entity duly organized under the laws of the State of Arizona;" 2) the Salt River Casino, "a corporation duly organized under the laws of the State of Arizona;" and 3) Pat Dallas, a person who "was and is employed as the District Attorney by Salt River... sued in his individual and official Capacity." ( Id. )

Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages "in excess of $10, 000, 000;" loss of earnings and medical expenses; injunctive and/or declaratory relief; and the immediate return of ...


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