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Bennetti v. Gottfield

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 4, 2019

Dino Bennetti, Plaintiff,
Robert L. Gottfield, et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge

         On August 30, 2019, Plaintiff Dino Bennetti, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye, Arizona, filed a pro se Complaint and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a September 9, 2019 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Complaint because Plaintiff had not filed his Complaint on a court-approved form, as required by Local Rule of Civil Procedure 3.4. The Court gave Plaintiff thirty days to file an amended complaint on a court-approved form. On September 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (Doc. 8). The Court will dismiss the First Amended Complaint and this action.

         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)).

         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 First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, without leave to amend because the defects cannot be corrected. . . . .

         II. First Amended Complaint

         In his one-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottfield and former Maricopa County Clerk Michael K. Jeans.[1] Plaintiff alleges his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated based on “negligence/libel/and defamation.” Plaintiff contends that on July 24, 2019, he received a minute entry from the Clerk of Court stating that he had been found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder Maricopa County Superior Court cases CR2002-006108-A and CR2002-010429-B, “per [Defendants] Gottfield and . . . Jeans.” According to Plaintiff, the minute entry stated that he had been sentenced to life without parole in both cases based on a plea of (guilty).” Plaintiff asserts that “[i]f this were true, then it was publish[ed] and became public knowledge on or about July 1, 2005.”

         Plaintiff asserts that this is a “grave mistake” and “‘libel'/‘defamation.'” He claims that “[d]ue to these false charges and sentences, and published notification to the public, ” he has “los[t] (3) parole hearings, chances to [be] parole[d] to [his] next term, or . . . absolute discharge on [his] original case.” Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief “ordering this error b[e] fixed[ and] taking it off the Plaintiff's record.”

         III. Failure to State a Claim

         A. Request for Monetary Damages

         Judges are absolutely immune from § 1983 suits for damages for their judicial acts except when they are taken “in the ‘clear absence of all jurisdiction.'” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 351 (1871)); Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 1986). An act is “judicial” when it is a function normally performed by a judge and the parties dealt with the judge in his or her judicial capacity. Stump, 435 U.S. at 362; Crooks v. Maynard, 913 F.2d 699, 700 (9th Cir. 1990). This immunity attaches even if the judge is accused of acting maliciously ...

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