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Pusateri v. Klamath County Community Development

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

January 18, 2018


          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiffs Matthew Robert Pusateri and Dalton Robert Pusateri seek leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) in this civil rights action against Klamath County Community Development (KCCD) and Earl Perry, a Klamath County code enforcement officer. For the reasons set forth below, the Pusateris' Complaint, ECF No. 1, is DISMISSED with leave to amend. The Court defers ruling on the Pusateris' Application for Leave to Proceed IFP, ECF No. 2, pending submission of an amended complaint.


         The Pusateris' Complaint is disjointed and difficult to read. It largely consists of a disconnected recitation of incidents and grievances, apparently involving an unnamed home owner's association (HOA), as well as conflicts between the Pusateris and various private individuals and Klamath County employees. To the best of the Court's understanding, the Pusateris (1) believe that they are being unfairly targeted by KCCE, which the Court infers to be Klamath County Code Enforcement, and by KCCE officer Earl Perry in particular; and (2) that there are some sort of irregularities in the development of a residential area.

         Most of the events described involve Matthew Pusateri. Dalton Pusateri's involvement in the incidents described in the Complaint, if any, remains unclear.


         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.


         The Complaint in this case is disjointed and difficult to read. Construed liberally, it appears the Pusateris intend to assert 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights claims against KCCD and KCCE officer Earl Perry for violating their right to equal protection and for malicious prosecution of Matthew Pusateri.

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “provides a federal cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of his federal rights.” Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999). To maintain a claim under § 1983, “a plaintiff must both (1) allege the deprivation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or statutory law, and (2) allege that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

         I. Statute of Limitations

         Any claim under § 1983 is subject to a statute of limitations. Because § 1983 does not have an express statute of limitations, federal courts borrow the state statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240-41 (1989). Oregon's two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions, ORS 12.110(1), applies to ...

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