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Cleveland v. Arpaio

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 29, 2013

Christopher Lamar Cleveland, Plaintiff,
Joseph M. Arpaio, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Christopher Lamar Cleveland, who is confined in the Pinal County Jail in Florence, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. [1] Plaintiff also filed a motion requesting federal intervention, notices, and a brief. (Doc. 5-10). Plaintiff has also filed a document captioned "Submitting Documentation to Evidence Burden of Proof" in which he seeks injunctive relief and to which he has attached copies of California records concerning his conviction there. (Doc. 11.) He has also filed a request to produce documents, a motion to produce a copy of plea agreement in a 1993 California case, and several notices. (Doc. 12-20.) The Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend, deny the motion, the notices, and the brief to the extent that any relief is sought therein.

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 , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (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 1950. 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 1951.

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). The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint 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 three counts for threat to safety, slander or defamation, and wrongful imprisonment. Plaintiff sues Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio; Arizona Governor Jan Brewer; the National Crime Information Center (NCIC); and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, compensatory, and punitive relief.


In this and other cases, Plaintiff disputes whether he was convicted in 1993 of a sexually-based offense in California and whether he is required to comply with Arizona's sex offender registration statute, Arizona Revised Statute § 13-3281. Unofficial information from the Administrative Office of the Courts for Los Angeles County, which is available on Westlaw, reflects that a person named "Christopher Lamar Cleveland" was charged with a "P 288.A" offense in Los Angeles County Court, case #SA013565, on May 13, 1993.[2] California Penal Code § 288a penalizes oral copulation with a person under 18 years of age and/or with a person against the person's will, among other circumstances. See West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 288a.

Documents submitted by Plaintiff in this case from his California case reflect that: Plaintiff was convicted in 1993 of a "288.A" offense in California for which the California court sentenced him to 365 days in jail, less good time credit resulting in actual incarceration for 257 days, and three years on probation; the court ordered that Plaintiff have no further contact with the victim or his co-defendant and that he register as a sex offender within 30 days; the court stated that it had no objection to Plaintiff's probation supervision being transferred to Arizona; and the court ordered Plaintiff to report to probation within 48 hours of release from jail, unless he was extradited to Arizona. (Doc. 11 at 11.) Plaintiff asserts that these documents reflect that he was released on November 30, 1993, but he contends there is no evidence that he received a sentence rather than the mere dismissal of the California charge.[3]

According to Plaintiff, after serving time in California, he was convicted in Arizona of armed robbery in Maricopa County Superior Court, case #CR9310362. Prior to his release from that sentence, however, a Corrections Officer III told him that he was required to register as a sex offender based on the California conviction. (Doc. 10 at 7-8.)

Between October 31, 1994 and April 23, 2001, Plaintiff was incarcerated in Arizona for an armed robbery conviction imposed by the Maricopa County Superior Court, case#9310362. Shortly before his release from the armed robbery conviction, Plaintiff was required to register as a sex offender based upon his conviction in California case SA013565, which was reflected on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.[4] Plaintiff apparently did register and did not then contend that he had never been convicted of the offense in California. Plaintiff was released from ADC custody.

On September 30, 2003, Plaintiff was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender based upon California case SA013565, in Maricopa County Superior Court case #CR2003-037149.[5] On December 18, 2007, Plaintiff was sentenced to three years in prison after he again pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender with one prior felony in Maricopa County Superior Court case #CR2007-030890, again based on California case SA013565.[6] Plaintiff does not explain why he pleaded guilty in these cases if he had not been convicted in the California case.

Plaintiff is currently charged in two cases in Pinal County Superior Court. In case #CR201200144, he is charged with one count of failure as a sex offender to file a notice of address or name charge, and in case #CR201202592, he is charged with one count each of failure as a sex offender to file a notice of moving out of the county and failure to register with the sheriff's department.[7] In a minute entry issued December 20, 2012 in CR201200144, the court set a hearing on a state motion to dismiss, which was scheduled to be held on January 8, 2013.[8] Based on the scheduled hearing in that case, the court reset the pretrial conference in CR201202592 to be held the same day.[9] Both hearings have since been continued for reasons, and to a date, not reflected in records currently available on-line.[10]

In his Complaint in this case, Plaintiff alleges the following: NCIC falsely reported that Plaintiff was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica, California, of lewd acts with a minor for which he was incarcerated for one year, case #SA01356501. On April 23, 2001, MCSO, under Joseph Arpaio, falsified and unlawfully used unauthorized information to charge Plaintiff with failure to comply with Arizona Revised Statute § 13-3821(A), i.e., failure to register as a sex offender.[11] According to Plaintiff, MCSO relied on invalid information absent proof from the California court to substantiate that he had been convicted or served a sentence for a sex offense and that he has been wrongfully prosecuted for failure to comply with § 13-3821(A). Plaintiff also contends that Arpaio, MCSO, NCIC, and Brewer lacked valid grounds to enforce § 13-3821 against him and that he has been, and is, wrongfully incarcerated for failure to comply with § 13-3821(A). Plaintiff also asserts that the Clerk of Court for Los Angeles County has indicated that case SA01356501 was dismissed, but that Plaintiff has nevertheless been repeatedly charged with failure to comply with § 13-3821.

IV. Failure to State a Claim

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts to support 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). In addition, to state a valid constitutional claim, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant, and he must ...

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