United States District Court, D. Oregon
A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
plaintiff, Christopher Beck, brings this action asserting
defendant Michael Gutzler "committed fraudulent
practices." Complaint (#1) at p. 4. On September 17,
2018, the court granted plaintiff's application to
proceed in forma pauperis (IFP).
court should dismiss, at the earliest practical time, certain
IFP actions that fail to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In determining the sufficiency of a pro se
complaint, the court must be mindful to construe it liberally
in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); see also Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor
Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007) (in
assessing whether a complaint fails to plead a claim, the
court must accept all factual allegations as true);
Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336,
337-38 (9th Cir.1996) (allegations of material fact are taken
as true and construed in the light most favorable to
asserts diversity jurisdiction in his complaint. Complaint
(#2) at p.3. However, plaintiff also alleges he is an Oregon
citizen and defendants Gutzler and Washington County Jail are
also citizens of Oregon. Accordingly, jurisdiction cannot be
based on diversity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332
(federal courts have original jurisdiction in civil actions
where amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and the action
lies between citizens of different states).
the complaint liberally, it cannot be determined if plaintiff
has alleged a cognizable claim upon which to assert federal
question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331
(federal courts have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution and laws of the United
States). Plaintiff alleges a contract between he and Gutzler
is void and that Gutzler committed certain acts of
professional malpractice and ethical violations during
litigation between plaintiff and Washington County Jail
resulting in "withholding of compensations paid by
[Washington County] at that time accumulated to my demand for
relief sums of $500, 000.00 from his office's
capital." Complaint (#1) at p. 4. Plaintiff appears to
allege state law claims for negligence, malpractice,
conversion, or similar torts. Such claims are insufficient to
demonstrate federal question jurisdiction.
are no allegations with respect to defendant Washington
County Jail, but to the extent plaintiff alleges a concerted
effort to violate his constitutional rights, the complaint is
lacking. Typically, a plaintiff seeking to vindicate their
constitutional rights does so via 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ...
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof
to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the
party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress....
to state a claim for relief under section 1983, a plaintiff
must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States; and second, the
alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person
acting under color of law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 48 (1988). Here, plaintiff not only fails to allege what
constitutional provision or federal law was violated, but he
also fails to identify any acts committed under color of law
by Washington County.
addition, the complaint fails to allege any action taken
under color of law by Gutzler since he is a private
citizen. While it is clear that private individuals
are not state actors, such individuals can be liable for
civil rights violations under section 1983 if they have
conspired, or engaged in joint activity with state actors.
Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 330 n. 7 (1983);
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 152
(1970). Joint action with a state official can be found only
if it is shown that the private individual acted in
“wilful collaboration” with a state actor to
deprive the plaintiff of a federal right. Bacquie v. City
of New York, 2000 WL 1051904 *1 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).
stating a section 1983 conspiracy claim against a private
individual requires more than pleading simply that the
defendant “conspired” with state actors.
Ciambriello v. County of Nassau, 292 F.3d 307, 324
(2d Cir. 2002). Rather, plaintiff must allege: “(1) an
agreement between a state actor and a private party; (2) to
act in concert to inflict an unconstitutional injury; and (3)
an overt act done in furtherance of that goal causing
damages.” Pacicca v. Stead, 456 Fed.Appx. 9,
12 (2d Cir. 2011).
extent plaintiff asserts his underlying action against
Washington County Jail involved any constitutional claims
that were wrongly decided, this court also lacks jurisdiction
to hear such claims. Under the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, federal courts lack jurisdiction to review a case
litigated and decided in state court, as only the United
States Supreme Court has jurisdiction to correct state court
judgments. District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 476 (1983); Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923). A party raising
a federal question must appeal a state court decision through
the state system and then proceed directly to the Supreme
Court of the United States. Feldman, 460 U.S. at 483
n. 16; Rooker, 263 U.S. at 415-16. Moreover, to the
extent the state court proceedings are ongoing, policy
dictates against this court interfering. The United States
Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971) and its progeny, espouse a strong federal policy
against federal court interference with pending state
judicial proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. The
notion of “comity” includes “a proper
respect for state functions, a recognition of the fact that
the entire country is made up of a Union of separate state
governments, and a continuance of the belief that the
National Government will fare best if the States and their
institutions are left free to perform their separate
functions in their separate ways.” Id. at 44.
Minimal respect for the state processes, of course, precludes
any presumption that the state courts will not safeguard
federal constitutional rights. Because the complaint lacks
sufficient allegations demonstrating jurisdiction, the
complaint must be dismissed for failure to allege subject
a complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)
requires a complaint contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to
[w]hile a complaint ... does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
“grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to
relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to
dismiss, courts “are not bound to accept as true a
legal conclusion couched as a ...