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Henry v. Tholberg

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

May 30, 2018

JOHN HENRY, Plaintiff,



         This case was initially filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia as No. 1:18-cv-00308. It was transferred to this Court on May 15, 2018. Plaintiff John Henry 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. Plaintiffs IFP application is DENIED and will be reconsidered upon the filing of an amended complaint and an amended IFP application.


         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.'" As heroft 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.


         In its Order transferring the case to Oregon, the DC district court observed that Plaintiffs Complaint is "prolix" and "difficult to decipher." ECF No. 3. The Complaint is certainly voluminous, running to 117 pages when considered with its supporting exhibits. Despite its length, the Complaint is light on facts, and filled instead with repetitive unsupported assertions and quasi-legal gibberish. To the best of the Court's understanding, these are the facts as alleged:

         Plaintiff was driving on the highway when he was pulled over by Defendant Oregon State Police Trooper Eric Tholberg. From the supporting exhibits, it appears that Plaintiff was cited for Failure to Display License Plates, No. Operator's License, and Driving Uninsured. ECF No. 1-1, at 41. The details of the traffic stop are not clearly described, but it apparently escalated to the point where Plaintiff was pepper-sprayed and arrested by Tholberg. Following his arrest, Plaintiff was lodged at the Josephine County Jail, which is administered by Defendant Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniels.

         Plaintiffs vehicle and its contents were impounded and towed away by Crystal Peak Towing LLC, which is operated by Defendants Jack Way and Heidi K. Bornholdt-Way. It appears that the vehicle and its contents remain impounded.

         Plaintiff was criminally charged in Josephine County Circuit Court, although the precise nature of Plaintiffs charges is not clear from the Complaint. The case against Plaintiff was overseen by Defendant Josephine County District Attorney Ryan A. Mulkins. Defendant Judge Lindi L. Baker and Defendant Judge pro tempore Lore Rutz-Burri presided over portions of the criminal prosecution. It appears that this was one of several state court cases in which Plaintiff was defendant. It is not clear if any of these cases are ongoing or, if not, how they were resolved.


         Plaintiff brings this federal action for injunctive and declaratory relief against Defendants for violation of his federal statutory and constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks to have a number of state court criminal cases "avoided or vacated." Plaintiff also appears to seek the criminal prosecution of a number of Defendants.

         Aside from the factual deficiencies outlined in the preceding section, the Court notes a number of other ...

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