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Salmons v. State

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

October 11, 2017

JOHN SALMONS, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF OREGON et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MICHAEL MCSHANE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff John Salmons, Sr. seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this action. ECF No. 2. For the reasons set forth below, the Amended Complaint, ECF No. 11, is DISMISSED with prejudice. Salmons's petition to proceed IFP, ECF No. 2, is DENIED.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Generally, all parties instituting any civil action in United States District Court must pay a statutory filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). However, the federal IFP statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), provides indigent litigants an opportunity for meaningful access to federal courts despite their inability to pay the costs and fees associated with that access. To authorize a litigant to proceed IFP, a court must make two determinations. First, a court must determine whether the litigant is unable to pay the costs of commencing the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Second, it must assess whether the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In regard to the second of these determinations, district courts have the power under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to screen complaints even before service of the complaint on the defendants, and must dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim. Courts apply the same standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). To survive a motion to dismiss under the federal pleading standards, the complaint must include a short and plain statement of the claim and “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. The court is not required to accept legal conclusions, unsupported by alleged facts, as true. Id.

         Pro se pleadings are held to less stringent standards than pleadings by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). That is, the court should construe pleadings by pro se plaintiffs liberally and afford the plaintiffs the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). Additionally, a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and the opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Like the original Complaint, the Amended Complaint asserts claims against the State of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Human Services and the “State of Oregon Attorneys Generals Office, ” (collectively, the “State Defendants”), for actions taken with regard to a state court juvenile dependency proceeding involving Salmons's children.

         The Amended Complaint also brings claims against the City of Klamath Falls, the Carter Jones Collection Agency (“Carter Jones”), and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”).[1] These claims relate to disputes over the payment of fines for municipal code violations and traffic tickets. The claims against Klamath Falls, the DMV, and Carter Jones do not appear to have any connection to the claims against the State Defendants.

         I. The State Defendants

         In the Amended Complaint, Salmons once again appears to bring his constitutional claims against the State Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] The Court previously dismissed these claims with prejudice, as they are barred by sovereign immunity. ECF No. 5. Salmons may not simply re-allege claims which this Court has dismissed with prejudice. The Court attempted to explain the original Complaint's other deficiencies, so that Salmons would have the opportunity to restate those claims on a legitimate basis, if he was able to do so.

         Instead, Salmons has reiterated his original claims essentially unaltered. For example, Salmons once again alleges that his children are his property, despite the Court's prior explanation that this premise is categorically false. See In Re Marriage of Winczewski, 188 Or.App. 667, 753 (2003) (“Children are not property.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The only substantive change that the Court can discern is the addition of a lengthy and repetitive discussion of the Seventh Amendment, portions of which appear to have been lifted unaltered from an editorial article published in Utah. See, e.g., Am. Compl. 2 (“In our interview last week with Vanessa Sommerfield…”), 3 (“These are the same legal safeguards Utah parents should be afforded.”).

         As the Court previously explained, sovereign immunity is fatal to Salmons's claims against the State Defendants. The Eleventh Amendment provides that a state is immune from suit in federal court unless Congress has abrogated the state's immunity by appropriate federal legislation or the state itself has waived it. Va. Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 253-54 (2011). It is similarly well settled that a state agency is entitled to sovereign immunity from suit. P. R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993). Congress has not abrogated state sovereign immunity in 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Braunstein v. Ariz. Dep't of Transp., 683 F.3d 1177, 1188 (9th Cir. 2012).

         The Court previously dismissed Salmons' claims against the State Defendants with prejudice. It is clear that, despite the Court's guidance, Salmons is unable to find an alternative ...


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