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Parsons v. State

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 23, 2013

John James Parsons, Plaintiff,
State of Arizona, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff John James Parsons, who is confined in the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). Plaintiff has also filed a request ("Motion") for the Court to refer to him as "John: of the Parsons family" and to order the jail where he is incarcerated to provide legal materials. (Doc. 5.) The Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion and dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.[1]

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The statutory fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam )).

If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) ( en banc ). The Court should not, however, advise the litigant how to cure the defects. This type of advice "would undermine district judges' role as impartial decisionmakers." Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131 n.13 (declining to decide whether the court was required to inform a litigant of deficiencies). Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because the Complaint may possibly be saved by amendment, the Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

III. Complaint

Plaintiff alleges one count in his Complaint-that his "rights as a sovereign freeman" have been violated. (Doc. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff asserts this claim pursuant to the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff names as Defendants the State of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO") and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and its "Peace Officers, " and the City of Mesa Police Department and its "Peace Officers." ( Id. at 2.) Plaintiff does not allege any facts connecting any particular Defendant(s) to an alleged violation of his rights. Plaintiff merely claims he was "arrested and held without bond. [I] [h]ave had my personal property search[ed] and seized and forf[e]ited. I am being tried as a legal ficti[t]ious person, not as the flesh and blood sovereign human being." ( Id. at 3.) Plaintiff seeks an "acquit[t]al of all charges, " the return of his property, and $500, 000 in damages. ( Id. at 4.)

IV. Failure to State a Claim

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on the court-approved form for prisoner civil rights complaints, and he asserted that this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Because Plaintiff seeks relief against persons allegedly acting under color of state law, the Court construes the Complaint as brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979) (Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'"); see also Buckley v. City of Redding, 66 F.3d 188, 190 (9th Cir. 1995) (Section 1983 provides a cause of action against persons acting under color of state law who have violated rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and federal law).

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts supporting that (1) the conduct about which he complains was committed by a person acting under the color of state law and (2) the conduct deprived him of a federal constitutional or statutory right. Wood v. Ostrander, 879 F.2d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 1989). A plaintiff must also allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant and he must allege an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

A. State of Arizona and State Agencies

Plaintiff names the State of Arizona and the Arizona Department of Public Safety as Defendants. Ordinarily, under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, neither a state nor a state agency may be sued in federal court without its consent. Pennhurst Sate Sch. & Hosp., 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Further, neither the State of Arizona nor any State agency is a "person" within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989) (holding that the term "person" as used in § 1983 did not include a State or State agency). For both reasons, the State of Arizona and the Arizona Department of Public Safety will be dismissed as Defendants in this case.

B. Governor Brewer

Plaintiff also sues Arizona Governor Brewer. Eleventh Amendment immunity bars suit for damages against Brewer in her official capacity for violations of federal law, but does not bar suit for declaratory or injunctive relief against her. See Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Brown, 674 F.3d 1128, 1134 (9th Cir. 2012). However, an "individual state official sued must have some connection with the enforcement of the act.'" Id. (quoting Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 157 (1908)). Further, "that connection must be fairly direct; a generalized duty to enforce state law or general supervisory power over persons responsible for enforcing the challenged provision will not subject an official to suit.'" Id. (quoting L.A. County Bar Ass'n v. Eu, 979 F.3d 697, 704 (9th Cir. 1992)).

Plaintiff fails to allege any facts connecting Brewer with the enforcement of any act. Therefore, Plaintiff fails to state a claim ...

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