United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
OPINION & ORDER
AIKEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Chad Johnson seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis
("IFP") in this action. ECF No. 2. For the reasons
set forth below, the Complaint, ECF No. 1, is DISMISSED with
leave to amend. The Court shall defer ruling on Plaintiffs
IFP petition pending submission of an amended complaint.
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).
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 Aft.
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
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
Complaint in this case is disjointed and unclear. It appears
that Plaintiff Chad Johnson was the subject of an
investigation by the Oregon Department of Human Services
("DHS") and that some sort of state court
proceeding was initiated against him, both of which related
to custody of his son. It appears that one or both cases were
ultimately dropped, dismissed, or otherwise terminated. See
Compl. 6 ("I was also told this was a Circuit court case
but that case was dismissed..." and "My lawyer said
. ., that the case [was] dismissed because my wife complied
with all orders."). Johnson appears to be complaining
generally about the fact that DHS has not provided him with
explicit instructions concerning custody of his son, although
Johnson also alleges that his "lawyer said I must take a
psycho sexual in order for DHS to be out of my life[.]"
Complaint alleges violation of Johnson's Fourth, Fifth,
Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, as well as violations of Johnson's religious
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1.
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).
Insufficient Factual Allegations
most serious problem with Johnson's Complaint is that it
lacks sufficient facts for the Court to understand what has
happened, other than in the most general terms. The Court is
left to guess and infer what Johnson means by many of his
allegations. For example, the Complaint does not describe the
circumstances which led to DHS becoming involved in
Johnson's family, nor does it clearly state the current
status of that investigation. It is not clear whether
Johnson's complaints stem from ongoing state proceedings,
either judicial or administrative, a fact which might have
important implications for this Court's ability to
exercise jurisdiction over his case. 
invokes his Fourth Amendment rights, but the section of the
Complaint devoted to that issue does not clearly explain how
Defendants transgressed those rights and instead complains
more generally about the existence of DHS as a state agency.
Johnson also invokes his Eighth Amendment rights, apparently
for issues related to custody of his son, but it is not clear
if Johnson has been convicted, charged with a crime,
incarcerated, subjected to any sort of custodial detention.
Likewise, Johnson invokes his Fifth Amendment rights
concerning the apparent requirement that he submit to a
"psycho sexual, " but he does not explain what he
means by that allegation, nor does it appear that any
incriminating statements have been used to initiate or
maintain a criminal proceeding against him. See Stoot v.
City of Everett, 582 F.3d 910, 924-27 (9th Cir. 2009)
(finding that a Fifth Amendment claim had "ripened"
when a coerced confession was used to initiate and maintain a
criminal case against the plaintiff); Farmer v.
Youhas, 525 Fed.Appx. 547, 548 (9th Cir. 2013) (finding
no Fifth Amendment claim when the plaintiffs incriminating
statements were not used against him in a criminal
proceeding); Ferry v. Doohan, No. 3:18-cv-00153-AC,
2018 WL 1173425, at *5 (D, Or. Mar. 6, 2018) ("[I]n the
absence of criminal prosecution, Plaintiff cannot obtain
damages under § 1983 for the alleged violation of his
Fifth Amendment self-incrimination rights because no criminal
charges have been pursued against him.").
sufficient factual allegations, the Court's ability to
assess the legal validity of Johnson's claims is limited.
While this deficiency justifies dismissal, the ...