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Johnson v. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 28, 2015

Michael David Johnson, Plaintiff,
v.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael David Johnson, who is confined in the Maricopa County Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). The Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

Plaintiff has also filed two Motions to Add Additional Counts (Docs. 5, 6), and a Motion for Disclosure of Electronic Communications and Records ("Motion for Disclosure") (Doc. 7). The Court will construe the Motions to Add Additional Counts as Motions to Amend and will grant the motion to the extent that it will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend. The Court will construe the Motion for Disclosure as a motion for discovery and will deny it as premature.

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. Id. The statutory filing fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income credited to Plaintiff's trust account 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 ). Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because it may possibly be amended to state a claim, the Court will dismiss it with leave to amend.

III. Complaint

In his one-count Complaint, Plaintiff sues the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO") and the Scottsdale City Court. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, court costs, and to review transcripts and appeal an August 6, 2014 hearing in Scottsdale City Court, Civil Case #M-0751-CV-2013024796.

Plaintiff asserts that his "due process of law" rights and his "right to appeal" have been violated. Plaintiff alleges that the judge in his Scottsdale City Court civil case was "very negligent" in managing a hearing on August 6, 2014, and Plaintiff has appealed. According to Plaintiff, the appeals process requires him to review transcripts of the hearing, and the court mailed him an audio transcript, but jail officials have refused to provide a means for him to listen to the audio transcript and the court will not provide an alternative. Plaintiff asserts that he has written to the court and has "exhausted the internal and external appeals process at the jail, " but "neither party accepts any responsibility to ensure [his] right... to appeal this hearing." Plaintiff alleges that he has already had his appeal of the hearing extended once, but the appeal instructions clearly state that he is required to ...


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