Civil No. 15cv1285 WQH (RBB)
(1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS (Doc. No. 2)
(2) DIRECTING U.S. MARSHAL TO EFFECT SERVICE OF SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) AND FED.R.CIV.P. 4(c)(3)
Thomas R. Woodson ("Plaintiff"), currently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison ("CAL") in Calipatria, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights complaint ("Compl.") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff alleges that several CAL doctors, nurses, a health care supervisor, and two health care appeals coordinators acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by delaying necessary surgery after he fractured and dislocated bones in his left hand. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants obstructed his attempts to seek administrative relief related to his care in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. See Compl. at 4-12. He seeks $52,500 in general and punitive damages. Id. at 14.
Plaintiff did not prepay the civil filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) when he filed his Complaint; instead, he has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Doc. No. 2).
I. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP
All parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if he is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1177 (9th Cir. 1999). However, if the plaintiff is a prisoner and he is granted leave to proceed IFP, he remains obligated to pay the full entire fee in "increments," see Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 2015), regardless of whether his action is ultimately dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) & (2); Taylor v. Delatoore, 281 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 2002).
In addition to the $350 statutory fee, civil litigants must pay an additional administrative fee of $50. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) (Judicial Conference Schedule of Fees, District Court Misc. Fee Schedule, § 14 (eff. Dec. 1, 2014). The additional $50 administrative fee does not apply to persons granted leave to proceed IFP. Id.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), prisoners seeking leave to proceed IFP must submit a "certified copy of the trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the . . . six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2); Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1119 (9th Cir. 2005). From the certified trust account statement, the Court assesses an initial payment of 20% of (a) the average monthly deposits in the account for the past six months, or (b) the average monthly balance in the account for the past six months, whichever is greater, unless the prisoner has no assets. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). The institution having custody of the prisoner then collects subsequent payments, assessed at 20% of the preceding month's income, in any month in which the prisoner's account exceeds $10, and forwards those payments to the Court until the entire filing fee is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
In support of his IFP Motion, Plaintiff has submitted a certified copy of his trust account statement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and S.D. CAL. CIVLR 3.2. Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119. The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's trust account activity, which shows an average monthly balance of $2.42 and average monthly deposits of only $2.60 to his account over the six-month period preceding the filing of his Complaint. However, Plaintiff had an available balance of zero on the books at the time of filing. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) (providing that "[i]n no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil action or criminal judgment for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay [an] initial partial filing fee."); Taylor, 281 F.3d at 850 (finding that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4) acts as a "safety-valve" preventing dismissal of a prisoner's IFP case based solely on a "failure to pay . . . due to the lack of funds available.").
Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP (Doc. No. 2) and assesses no initial partial filing fee per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). However, the entire $350 balance of the filing fee owed must be collected by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and forwarded to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the installment payment provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).
II. Initial Screening per 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)
Notwithstanding Plaintiff's IFP status or the payment of any filing fees, the PLRA also requires the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program," "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these statutes, the Court must sua sponte dismiss any complaint, or any portion of a complaint, which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
All complaints 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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "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. The "mere possibility of misconduct" falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).
"When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity, and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000) ("[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff."); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)").
However, while the court "ha[s] an obligation where the petitioner is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt," Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985)), it may not "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).
As currently pled, the Court finds Plaintiff's Complaint contains plausible claims for relief which are sufficient to survive the "low threshold" for proceeding past the sua sponte screening required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). See Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1123 (9th Cir. 2012); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976) (prison officials may be held liable under the Eighth Amendment if they act with deliberate indifference to serious medical needs); id. at 104-05 (deliberate indifference may be shown if prison officials "intentionally deny or delay access to medical care."). Accordingly, the Court will direct the U.S. Marshal to effect service upon the Defendants on Plaintiff's behalf. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) ("The officers of the court shall issue and serve all process, and perform all duties in [IFP] cases."); Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(c)(3) ("[T]he court may order that service be made by a United States marshal or deputy marshal . . . if the plaintiff is authorized to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.").
Plaintiff is cautioned that "the sua sponte screening and dismissal procedure is cumulative of, and not a substitute for, any subsequent Rule 12(b)(6) motion that [a defendant] may choose to bring." Teahan v. Wilhelm, 481 F. Supp. 2d 1115, 1119 (S.D. Cal. 2007). --------
III. Conclusion and Orders
Good cause appearing, the Court:
1. GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Doc. No. 2).
2. DIRECTS the Secretary of the CDCR, or his designee, to collect from Plaintiff's prison trust account the $350 filing fee owed in this case by garnishing monthly payments from his account in an amount equal to twenty percent (20%) of the preceding month's income and forwarding those payments to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in the account exceeds $10 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). ALL PAYMENTS SHALL BE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED BY THE NAME AND NUMBER ASSIGNED TO THIS ACTION.
3. DIRECTS the Clerk of the Court to serve a copy of this Order on Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary, CDCR, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, California, 94283-0001.
4. ORDERS the U.S. Marshal to serve a copy of the Complaint and summons upon Defendants as directed by Plaintiff on the USM Form 285s provided to him. All costs of that service will be advanced by the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d); FED.R.CIV.P. 4(c)(3).
5. DIRECTS the Clerk to issue a summons as to Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. No. 1) upon Defendants and forward it to Plaintiff along with a blank U.S. Marshal Form 285 for each Defendant. In addition, the Clerk will provide Plaintiff with a certified copy of this Order, a certified copy of his Complaint, and the summons so that he may serve the Defendants. Once he receives this "IFP Package," Plaintiff must complete the Form 285s as completely and accurately as possible, and return them to the United States Marshal according to the instructions the Clerk provides in the letter accompanying the IFP package.
6. ORDERS Defendants to reply to Plaintiff's Complaint within the time provided by the applicable provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a). See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2) (while a defendant may occasionally be permitted to "waive the right to reply to any action brought by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility under section 1983," once the Court has conducted its sua sponte screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b), and thus, has made a preliminary determination based on the face on the pleading alone that Plaintiff has a "reasonable opportunity to prevail on the merits," the defendant is required to respond).
7. ORDERS Plaintiff to serve upon Defendants or, if an appearance has been entered by counsel, upon Defendants' counsel, a copy of every further pleading or other document he wishes the Court to consider. Plaintiff must include with the original paper to be filed with the Clerk of the Court, a certificate stating the manner in which a true and correct copy of the document was served on Defendants, or counsel for Defendants, and the date of that service. Any paper received by the Court which has not been properly filed with the Clerk, or which fails to include a Certificate of Service, may be disregarded. DATED: July 28, 2015
WILLIAM Q. HAYES
United States District Judge