Turner v. City of Fremont

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-03099


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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 STEPHEN B. TURNER, 7 Case No. 15-cv-03099-HSG Plaintiff, 8 ORDER DENYING LEAVE TO v. PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS, 9 DENYING MOTION FO RECUSAL, CITY OF FREMONT, AND DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT 10 WITH PREJUDICE Defendant. 11 Re: Dkt. Nos. 2, 5 12 Plaintiff Stephen B. Turner, proceeding pro se, has filed an application to proceed in forma Northern District of California United States District Court 13 pauperis ("IFP") in this proposed civil rights lawsuit. Dkt. 1. After careful consideration of IFP 14 application, proposed complaint, the governing law, and the balance of the record, the Court 15 DISMISSES the complaint with prejudice and DENIES the IFP application as moot.1 16 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court may deny an application to proceed IFP 17 and should dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be 18 granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii); O'Loughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 616 (9th Cir. 19 1990). An action is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. 20 Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The fact that the plaintiff is not a prisoner does not affect the 21 Court's analysis. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) ("[S]ection 1915(e) 22 applies to all in forma pauperis complaints, not just those filed by prisoners."). 23 In this case, Turner asserts a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim arising out of a red-light citation 24 issued by the Defendant City of Fremont. Turner alleges that a camera operated by Redflex 25 Traffic Systems, Inc. (a third-party contractor for Fremont) allegedly captured "photographic and 26 1 27 Plaintiff's motion seeking the recusal of the undersigned, Dkt. No. 5, is DENIED. The Court finds that no "reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the judge's 28 impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Yagman v. Republic Insurance, 987 F.2d 622, 626 (9th Cir. 1993). 1 videographic evidence" of his car running a red light at an intersection. Compl. ¶ 5. Shortly after 2 receiving the citation, Turner discovered that Redflex "admitted to the felonious crime of bribery" 3 in a federal district court in Illinois, id. ¶ 12, had either been investigated or terminated for other 4 acts of bribery performed to secure municipal red-light camera contracts across the United States, 5 id. ¶ 18, and was operating in California without a contractor's license, id. ¶ 19. Turner provided 6 notice of Redflex's admission of bribery to Fremont and demanded that (1) Fremont void its 7 contract with Redflex under the provision that requires Redflex to "obey all laws;" and (2) dismiss 8 his traffic violation charge. Id. ¶¶ 13-15. Turner alleges that Fremont's failure to comply with 9 these demands constitutes a violation of his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth 10 Amendment. Id. ¶¶ 24-33. In short, Turner seeks relief on the ground that Fremont has failed to 11 exercise a provision of a contract to which he is not a party, or to rescind a traffic citation because 12 it is based solely on evidence provided by a contractor who has admitted to (or is alleged to have) Northern District of California United States District Court 13 secured its contracts with other municipalities in an illegal manner. Neither assertion provides the 14 basis for a non-frivolous claim for relief. 15 First, "[s]omeone who is not a party to [a] contract has no standing to enforce the contract 16 or to recover extra-contract damages for wrongful withholding of benefits to the contracting 17 party." Hatchwell v. Blue Shield of California, 198 Cal. App. 3d 1027, 1034 (1988); see also Cal. 18 Jur.3d Contracts § 381 (2014) ("A party who is not a party or privy to a contract cannot show a 19 wrong done to him or her for breach of any duty arising out of the contractual relation."). Even 20 assuming that Fremont could terminate its contract with Redflex based on the bribery schemes 21 alleged in the complaint, Turner has no standing to seek relief for Fremont's failure to do so. 22 Whether Fremont could or should have terminated its contract with Redflex in light of the 23 misconduct alleged is irrelevant to whether Turner suffered a legally cognizable violation of his 24 constitutional rights. 25 Second, and more fundamentally, Turner has failed to allege how a violation of his 26 constitutional rights (assuming, for the moment, that there was such a violation) was "proximately 27 caused" by Fremont's continued use of the "photographic and videographic evidence" provided by 28 Redflex. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Whether Redflex is guilty 2 1 of securing municipal red-light contracts through bribery (or whether it is operating without a 2 contractor's license) has no connection to the reliability of the evidence upon which his traffic 3 citation was allegedly based. Allegations that the government or government employees may have 4 acted improperly does not form a basis for a private cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 absent 5 the allegation of a constitutional violation proximately caused by that misconduct. See, e.g., 6 Bronner v. San Francisco Superior Court, No. 09-cv-5001-SI, 2010 WL 2650500, at *7 (N.D. 7 Cal. July 1, 2010) (dismissing complaint because "plaintiff has failed to allege how CCSF's 8 unspecified inaccurate or incomplete reports proximately caused plaintiff any constitutional 9 deprivations") (citation omitted) (emphasis in original). Turner has pled no plausible connection. 10 If Turner believes the evidence provided by Redflex is unreliable, his appropriate course of action 11 is to challenge the use of that evidence in the state court traffic proceeding. Cf. Marshall v. 12 Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 438 n. 6 (1983) ("[T]he Due Process Clause does not permit the federal Northern District of California United States District Court 13 courts to engage in a finely tuned review of the wisdom of state evidentiary rules."). 14 At base, Turner seeks to use his traffic citation as an opportunity to police the propriety of 15 Fremont's relationship with a third-party contractor. This the law does not allow. Accordingly, 16 the Court finds that the complaint is frivolous, as none of the allegations provide an arguable basis 17 for Turner's requested relief. Nor could amendment possibly cure the complaint's fundamental 18 defects. Accordingly, Turner's complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice and his request to 19 proceed IFP is DENIED as moot. 20 IT IS SO ORDERED. 21 Dated: September 10, 2015 22 ______________________________________ HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. 23 United States District Judge 24 25 26 27 28 3