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Johnson v. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 2, 2015

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


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On November 14, 2014, Plaintiff Michael David Johnson, who was then confined in the Maricopa County Lower Buckeye Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a January 28, 2015 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to state a claim. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On March 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Change of Address indicating he is no longer in custody, and on May 7, 2015, he filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 14). At the time Plaintiff was released, he still owed $292.00 towards his filing fee. In a May 15, 2015 Order, the Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to either pay the $292.00 balance of the filing fee or file a non-prisoner Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs. Plaintiff has since filed a non-prisoner Application to Proceed (Doc. 17) and a Motion to Appoint Counsel (Doc. 18).

The Court will grant the non-prisoner Application to Proceed, dismiss the First Amended Complaint and this action, and deny the Motion to Appoint Counsel as moot.

I. 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 )).

II. First Amended Complaint

In his single-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio; Maricopa County Supervisors Denny Barney, Steve Chucri, Andy Kunasek, Clint Hickman, and Steve Gallardo; and the Scottsdale City Court. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, "appeal of civil order of protection hearing/re-hearing, " and court costs.

Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his due process rights by denying him access to a court transcript he needed to appeal an Order of Protection in Scottsdale City Court. Plaintiff's claim is based on the following allegations:

On July 3, 2014, Plaintiff was arrested for violating an Order of Protection issued by the Scottsdale City Court, and he was placed in the Lower Buckeye Jail to await trial. While in custody, Plaintiff was transported to an August 6, 2014 hearing in his Order of Protection case. Plaintiff lost that hearing, and he filed for an appeal and requested a copy of the August 6, 2014 hearing transcript. The Scottsdale City Court sent Plaintiff an audio CD of the hearing per their policy. This CD was intercepted by the Lower Buckeye Jail legal services and held by the property department.

On August 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed an inmate request, asking to listen to the CD, and the request was denied on August 20, 2014. On August 22, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to the Scottsdale City Court requesting assistance, and his request was denied on September 29, 2014. In the meantime, Plaintiff filed a series of inmate grievances and grievance appeals regarding the denial of his request to hear the CD. On October 6, 2014, Plaintiff's final grievance was denied. Plaintiff wrote his memorandum ...

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