(PC) Stratmon v. Tucker et al, No. 1:2012cv01837 - Document 72 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER ADOPTING 69 Findings and Recommendations, and DENYING 68 Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment by Default and to Strike Defendant's Answer, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 4/12/18. (Marrujo, C)
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 DAVID STRATMON, JR., 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 15 16 v. ANGELA MORRIS, Defendant. No. 1:12-cv-01837-DAD-SAB (PC) ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT BY DEFAULT AND TO STRIKE DEFENDANT’S ANSWER (Doc. Nos. 68, 69) 17 18 Plaintiff David Stratmon, Jr. is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights 19 action brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of 20 Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge 21 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(1)(B) and Local Rule 302. 22 On November 30, 2017, defendant Morris filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 23 No. 67.) Plaintiff did not respond to that motion within the time permitted. Instead, on December 24 7, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for judgment by default and to strike defendant’s answer, on the 25 basis that plaintiff’s ability to litigate this case had been curtailed due to the destruction and 26 confiscation of his legal property. (Doc. No. 68.) 27 On January 18, 2018, the assigned magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations 28 recommending that plaintiff’s motion for judgment by default and to strike defendant’s answer be 1 1 denied. (Doc. No. 69.) The parties were given fourteen days to file objections to those findings 2 and recommendations. Plaintiff filed objections on February 2, 2018. (Doc. No. 70.) Defendant 3 filed a response to plaintiff’s objections on February 13, 2018. (Doc. No. 71.) 4 In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the court has conducted a 5 de novo review of this case. Having carefully reviewed the entire file, including plaintiff’s 6 objections and defendant’s response thereto, the court finds the findings and recommendations are 7 supported by the record and by proper analysis. 8 In his objections, plaintiff concedes that defendant is not the staff member he accuses of 9 destroying his legal materials. (Doc. No. 70 at 1.) Nevertheless, plaintiff objects that affidavits, 10 memoranda, emails, letters, notes, and copies of policies and procedures related to this case were 11 taken from him and destroyed. (Id.) Plaintiff further objects that his legal reference books were 12 confiscated, and that when he attempted to retrieve them, a property officer told him they could 13 not be found. (Id. at 1–2.) Thus, plaintiff seeks redress through “whatever systems are in place.” 14 (Id. at 2.) 15 Defendant was employed at the U.S. Penitentiary at Atwater at the time of the events at 16 issue, which occurred while plaintiff was incarcerated at that institution. Plaintiff now accuses 17 other prison officials at the institution where he is currently being held—the Federal Correctional 18 Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana—of destroying his property and thereby interfering with his 19 ability to litigate his case. Sanctioning defendant Morris by striking her answer and entering 20 default judgment in favor of the plaintiff is not an appropriate sanction to even be considered 21 under the facts and circumstances alleged by plaintiff.1 22 ///// 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 The undersigned declines to address whether plaintiff’s contentions regarding the destruction of his property have merit, particularly since the prison officials he accuses in that regard have not been provided an opportunity to be heard on those allegations. It appears plaintiff is contending that his ability to prosecute this case, including his ability to respond to defendant’s pending summary judgment motion, has been impaired by the loss or destruction of his property. As indicated below, this matter is being referred back to the assigned magistrate judge for further proceedings. The magistrate judge may be called upon to address plaintiff’s contentions regarding denial of access to his property in the context of resolving the pending summary judgment motion and may consider an appropriate course of action in light of those claims. 2 1 Accordingly: 2 1. The findings and recommendations issued January 17, 2018 (Doc. No. 69) are 3 adopted in full; 2. Plaintiff’s motion for judgment by default and to strike defendant’s answer (Doc. 4 5 No. 68) is denied; and 6 3. This matter is referred back to the assigned magistrate judge for further 7 8 9 proceedings consistent with this order. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 12, 2018 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3