(PC) Hollingsworth v. Kernan et al, No. 1:2017cv01477 - Document 15 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that the instant action be dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim re 14 Amended Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint filed by Louis Hollingsworth ; referred to Judge Ishii, signed by Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone on 7/10/18. Objections to F&R due by 8/13/2018(Martin-Gill, S)
Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 10 11 12 Case No.: 1:17-cv-01477-AWI-SAB (PC) LOUIS HOLLINGSWORTH, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF ACTION FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM UPON WHICH RELIEF MAY BE GRANTED Plaintiff, v. SCOTT KERNAN, et al., 13 (ECF No. 14) Defendants. THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE 14 15 16 I. 17 INTRODUCTION 18 19 20 21 Plaintiff Louis Hollingsworth is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff’s first amended complaint, filed on April 25, 2018. (ECF No. 14.) 22 II. 23 SCREENING REQUIREMENT 24 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a 25 governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The 26 Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally 27 “frivolous or malicious,” that “fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted,” or that “seek 28 monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 1 1 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 2 pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 3 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 4 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell 5 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate 6 that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff’s rights. Jones v. 7 Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). 8 Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings 9 liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 10 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be 11 facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer 12 that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss 13 v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant 14 has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s 15 liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d 16 at 969. 17 Notwithstanding any filing fee, the district court must perform a preliminary screening 18 and must dismiss a case if at any time the Court determines that the complaint “(i) is frivolous or 19 malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief 20 against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Lopez v. 21 Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis 22 complaints, not just those filed by prisoners); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) 23 (dismissal required of in forma pauperis proceedings which seek monetary relief from immune 24 defendants); Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (district court has 25 discretion to dismiss in forma pauperis complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)); Barren v. 26 Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998) (affirming sua sponte dismissal for failure to state a 27 claim). 28 /// 2 1 III. 2 COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS 3 4 Plaintiff names as defendants H. Shirley, Chief Deputy Warden of Wasco State Prison, and D. Meeks, Head Librarian at Wasco State Prison. 5 Plaintiff alleges as follows: On or about May 23, 2017, Plaintiff received an order at 6 Wasco State Prison that his writ of habeas corpus had been denied. Plaintiff requested access to 7 the law library to conduct legal research on how to respond by traverse to the denial of his writ, 8 emphasizing a court deadline. Plaintiff should have received a response in three working days, 9 and should have been placed on Priority Library User status. 10 11 Instead, Plaintiff was placed on the general library user list by Defendant Meeks, some two weeks later. 12 On or about June 9, 2017, Plaintiff informed Defendant Shirley about his being deprived 13 of his access to the courts, but as of June 26, 2017, no response has been offered. Plaintiff did not 14 receive access to the law library until June 22, 2017, at which point it was too late. Plaintiff’s 15 thirty-day filing period had come and gone, and he was barred, with prejudice. 16 IV. 17 DISCUSSION 18 “[T]he fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities 19 to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners 20 with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law.” Bounds v. 21 Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977)); Phillips v. Hust, 588 F.3d 652, 655 (9th Cir.2009) (same). The 22 right of access to the courts, however, is limited to non-frivolous direct criminal appeals, habeas 23 corpus proceedings, and § 1983 actions. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 354–55 (1996). 24 In order to frame a claim of a denial of the right to access the courts, a prisoner must 25 allege facts showing that he has suffered “actual injury,” a jurisdictional requirement derived 26 from the standing doctrine. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349. An “actual injury” is “actual prejudice with 27 respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to 28 present a claim.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 348 (citation and internal quotations omitted); see also 3 1 Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1155 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2008) (noting that “[f]ailure to show that a 2 ‘non-frivolous legal claim had been frustrated’ is fatal” to a claim for denial of access to legal 3 materials) (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353 & 353 n. 4). 4 The provision of an adequate law library (or legal assistance) is not an end in itself, “but 5 only the means for ensuring ‘a reasonably adequate opportunity to present claimed violations of 6 fundamental constitutional rights to the courts.’” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351 (quoting Bounds, 430 7 U.S. at 825). Indeed, there is no “abstract, freestanding right to a law library or legal assistance.” 8 Id., at 351. Therefore, a prisoner’s complaint will not survive screening if it simply alleges facts 9 showing “that his prison’s law library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical 10 sense.” Id. 11 Claims for denial of access to the courts may arise from the frustration or hindrance of “a 12 litigating opportunity yet to be gained” (forward-looking access claim) or from the loss of a 13 meritorious suit that cannot now be tried (backward-looking claim). Christopher v. Harbury, 536 14 U.S. 403, 412-15 (2002). For backward-looking claims, plaintiff “must show: 1) the loss of a 15 ‘nonfrivolous’ or ‘arguable’ underlying claim; 2) the official acts frustrating the litigation; and 3) 16 a remedy that may be awarded as recompense but that is not otherwise available in a future suit.” 17 Phillips, 477 F.3d at 1076 (citing Christopher, 536 U.S. at 413-14). 18 A prisoner must allege the denial of the necessary tools to litigate a non-frivolous claim 19 attacking a conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement. Christopher, 536 U.S. at 415; 20 Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353 & n.3. Plaintiff need not show that he would have been successful on the 21 merits of his claims, but only that they were not frivolous. Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1085 & 22 n.12 (9th Cir. 1994). A claim “is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in 23 fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). To properly plead a denial of access to the 24 courts claim, “the complaint should state the underlying claim in accordance with Federal Rule of 25 Civil Procedure 8(a), just as if it were being independently pursued, and a like plain statement 26 should describe any remedy available under the access claim and presently unique to it.” 27 Christopher, 536 U.S. at 417-18 (footnote omitted). 28 /// 4 1 In this case, Plaintiff is making a backwards-looking claim related to his habeas corpus 2 action. He has not met the requirements for showing that he was frustrated in pursuing a non- 3 frivolous claim. In this original complaint, Plaintiff included a copy of an order which appeared 4 to show that he filed a petition in a habeas proceeding while his direct appeal was pending, and it 5 was denied. He further alleges that he was seeking library access to prepare a response to the 6 writ. However, he cannot base a claim on the denial of access to prepare a response to a court’s 7 denial of his habeas petition. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. at 354–55; Madrid v. Gomez, 190 8 F.3d 990, 995 (9th Cir.1999); Cornett v. Donovan, 51 F.3d 894, 898 (9th Cir.1995) (“[W]e 9 conclude the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the constitutional right of access requires a 10 state to provide a law library or legal assistance only during the pleading stage of a habeas or civil 11 rights action.”). Plaintiff has also not shown that he had a non-frivolous claim, and he cannot do 12 so as his petition was dismissed because he had a direct appeal pending. 13 Finally, it appears Plaintiff’s complaints related to the law library involve either the 14 frequently and length of his law library visits. He pleads that he was a general law library user 15 but was seeking priority access. The Court cannot infer here that Plaintiff was denied the means 16 to prosecute some non-frivolous habeas claim merely because he did not have a higher priority 17 law library access. 18 V. 19 CONCLUSION AND ORDER 20 For the reasons discussed, Plaintiff’s amended complaint is not found to state a cognizable 21 claim. Plaintiff was previously provided these standards, but has not cured the deficiencies in his 22 pleading despite being given an opportunity to amend. His allegations are largely the same as in 23 his prior complaint. Therefore, further leave to amend is not warranted. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 24 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Schmier v. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 25 279 F.3d 817, 824 (9th Cir. 2002) (recognizing “[f]utility of amendment” as a proper basis for 26 dismissal without leave to amend). 27 28 Accordingly, it is HEREBY RECOMMENDED that the instant action be dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim. 5 1 This Findings and Recommendation will be submitted to the United States District Judge 2 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within thirty (30) 3 days after being served with this Findings and Recommendation, Plaintiff may file written 4 objections with the Court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s 5 Findings and Recommendation.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the 6 specified time may result in the waiver of rights on appeal. Wilkerson v. Wheeler, 772 F.3d 834, 7 838-39 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th Cir. 1991)). 8 9 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 10, 2018 UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6