(PC) Tunstall v. Bodenhamer, et al., No. 2:2016cv02665 - Document 65 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes on 4/2/2018 RECOMMENDING plaintiff's 61 , 62 motions for injunctive relief be denied and this case be dismissed with prejudice. Referred to Judge John A. Mendez; Objections to F&R due within 14 days. (Yin, K)
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(PC) Tunstall v. Bodenhamer, et al. Doc. 65 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 ROBERT WILLIAM TUNSTALL, Jr., 11 12 13 No. 2:16-cv-2665 JAM DB P Plaintiff, v. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS D. BODENHAMER, et al., 14 Defendants. 15 16 Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights 17 action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges his cell at California State Prison – 18 Sacramento (“CSP-Sac”) was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act 19 (“ADA”) or with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”). Plaintiff is presently housed at 20 California State Prison – Corcoran (“CSP-Corcoran”). Before the court are plaintiff’s motions for 21 physical access to the law library (ECF No. 61) and for injunctive relief (ECF No. 62). For the 22 reasons set forth below the court will recommend that both motions be denied and that this action 23 be dismissed. 24 BACKGROUND 25 Plaintiff filed this action in November 2016. Before the court had the opportunity to 26 screen the complaint, plaintiff filed four motions for injunctive relief (ECF Nos. 6, 7, 9, 10) and 27 requested leave to amend the complaint (ECF No. 8). The court instructed plaintiff to file an 28 amended complaint within thirty days and informed him that if he failed to do so the case would 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 proceed on his original complaint. (ECF No. 12.) The court also denied plaintiff’s motions for 2 injunctive relief requesting access to the library, transfer from CSP-Corcoran back to CSP-Sac, 3 relief from confinement to his cell 24-hours per day, and his motion for the appointment of 4 counsel. The court noted that plaintiff had been advised in a separate action he could not file 5 repeated, meritless motions for injunctive relief and warned him he could not continue his stream 6 of filings in this case without consequences. (Id. at 3.) 7 Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint. The court then screened plaintiff’s original 8 complaint, dismissed his claims, and instructed him to file an amended complaint within thirty 9 days. (ECF No. 29.) The court additionally addressed ten motions and notices plaintiff had filed 10 between July 20, 2017 and August 14, 2017 (ECF Nos 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26). (ECF No. 30.) In 11 those filings plaintiff sought: (1) an order requiring CSP-Corcoran to provide him access to the 12 law library, legal supplies, and a photocopy machine; (2) an order requiring CSP-Corcoran to 13 allow plaintiff access to programs and services and to release him from the 24-hour per day/7-day 14 a week confinement in his cell; (3) an order requiring CSP-Corcoran to provide plaintiff all of his 15 meals; and (4) an order requiring officials at CSP-Corcoran to respond to plaintiff’s appeals. (Id.) 16 The court provided plaintiff the standards for injunctive relief and explained plaintiff’s requests 17 were inappropriate in this action because the relief plaintiff sought was not related to the subject 18 matter of this suit. However, the court also ordered the Office of the Attorney General to contact 19 the litigation coordinator at CSP-Corcoran and inform the court about plaintiff’s access to the law 20 library. 21 Supervising Deputy Attorney General Monica Anderson specially appeared by filing a 22 response to the court’s request for information regarding plaintiff’s access to the law library. 23 (ECF No. 36.) The reply stated that plaintiff was designated a Correctional Treatment Center 24 (“CTC”) inmate at CSP-Corcoran due to his medical status. (Id.) CTC inmates are not allowed 25 physical access to the law library, but may obtain legal materials, supplies, and photocopying 26 through the law library paging system. (Id.) The reply noted that plaintiff had used the paging 27 system, but refused to give library workers his legal documents for photocopying. Plaintiff also 28 stated he refused to give library workers his legal documents for photocopying. (ECF No. 42.) 2 1 Following the filing of the court’s orders dismissing his complaint and denying his 2 requests for injunctive relief, plaintiff filed eight unsolicited documents and a response to Ms. 3 Anderson’s filing. (ECF Nos. 32, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43.) The court recommended 4 plaintiff’s requests be denied and again informed plaintiff that injunctive relief against officials at 5 CSP-Corcoran is not appropriate in this action. The court warned plaintiff for the second time 6 that he could not continue his stream of filings in this case without consequences and informed 7 him that further motions for injunctive relief directed towards officials at CSP-Corcoran would 8 likely result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed. (ECF No. 46.) 9 By order dated October 10, 2017 the court screened plaintiff’s first amended complaint 10 and found he stated a potentially cognizable claim for violation of his rights under the ADA and 11 the RA, but dismissed his retaliation claim. (ECF No. 45.) The court gave plaintiff the option to 12 amend or proceed on the complaint as screened. (Id.) Plaintiff has failed to comply with the 13 order to file an amended complaint or return a completed summons and copies of the complaint 14 so that defendants may be properly served, but has filed thirteen motions, notices, and objections. 15 (ECF Nos. 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62.) 16 Between October 18, 2017 and November 27, 2017 plaintiff filed a motion for court order 17 (ECF No. 44), a motion for protective custody (ECF No. 49), two motions for the appointment of 18 counsel (ECF Nos. 52, 53), two motions for injunctive relief (ECF Nos. 54, 55), and a motion for 19 an extension of time (ECF No. 51). The motions repeated plaintiff’s previous requests for relief 20 regarding physical access to the library and confinement to his cell, as well as a request for 21 placement in protective custody. 22 The undersigned recommended all of the motions and notices relating to plaintiff’s 23 confinement at CSP-Corcoran be denied. The court informed plaintiff for the third time that 24 injunctive relief based on events occurring at CSP-Corcoran were inappropriate in this action 25 because they are unrelated to his underlying claim and that he could not continue his stream of 26 filings in this case without consequences. (ECF No. 56.) Plaintiff was warned for the second 27 time that further motions for injunctive relief directed towards officials at CSP-Corcoran may 28 result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed. (Id.) 3 1 Between December 4, 2017 and March 1, 2018, plaintiff filed three motions for injunctive 2 relief requesting access to the law library (ECF No. 57, 61, 62), a notice (ECF No. 58), and 3 objections to the court’s findings and recommendations (ECF No. 59). Plaintiff acknowledged 4 that his failure to comply with the court’s order would likely result in a recommendation that this 5 action be dismissed, but claims he cannot comply unless the court orders officials at CSP- 6 Corcoran to provide plaintiff with two hours of physical access to the law library three times per 7 week. (ECF Nos. 61, 62.) 8 Based on plaintiff’s refusal to comply with court orders and his repeated filings of 9 meritless motions requesting physical access to the law library the court will recommend that this 10 action be dismissed. 11 MOTIONS FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF 12 After the court issued a second warning that filing further motions seeking injunctive 13 relief from officials at CSP-Corcoran would likely result in a recommendation that this action be 14 dismissed, plaintiff filed two more motions for injunctive relief requesting physical access to the 15 law library. (ECF Nos 61, 62.) Plaintiff’s request for physical access to the law library is 16 unrelated to plaintiff’s underlying claim concerning ADA and RA violations at CSP-Sac. 17 Therefore, it is inappropriate for the court to grant plaintiff’s motions for injunctive relief in this 18 case. See Pacific Radiation Oncology, LLC, v. Queen’s Medical Center, 810 F.3d 631, 636 (9th 19 Cir. 2015) (holding there must be a sufficient nexus between the request in a motion for 20 injunctive relief and the underlying claim itself). Accordingly, the court recommends that these 21 motions be denied because they are unrelated to the subject of plaintiff’s underlying claim. DISMISSAL 22 Plaintiff has filed the same or similar meritless motions in this matter repeatedly, even 23 24 after receiving two warnings that continuing to do so would result in a recommendation that this 25 case be dismissed. Plaintiff acknowledged the court would likely dismiss his claim because he 26 continued to file additional motions for injunctive relief. (ECF No. 62.) Because plaintiff has 27 knowingly failed to comply with the court’s instruction to file an amended complaint or submit 28 //// 4 1 service documents and has continued to file motions requesting injunctive relief that is 2 inappropriate in this action the court will discuss whether dismissal is warranted. 3 I. Legal Standards 4 “District courts have the inherent power to control their dockets and in the exercise of that 5 power they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, dismissal of a case.” Bautista v. 6 L.A. Cty., 216 F.3d 837, 841 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1260 (9th 7 Cir. 1992)). Involuntary dismissal is one of the harshest sanctions at a trial court’s disposal, since 8 it denies the plaintiff his day in court; and as a result, it is reserved for use only in the most 9 extreme circumstances. Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); Thompson v. Housing Auth. of L.A., 782 F.2d 10 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986). In determining whether to dismiss a claim for failure to prosecute or 11 failure to comply with a court order, the court must weigh the following factors: (1) the public’s 12 interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court’s need to manage its docket; (3) the 13 risk of prejudice to defendants; (4) the availability of less drastic alternatives; and (5) the public 14 policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61. 15 II. A. Public’s interest in expeditious resolution of litigation 16 “The public’s interest in expeditious resolution of litigation always favors dismissal.” 17 18 Discussion Yourish v. California Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999). This action has been pending since November 4, 2016.1 Plaintiff was directed to file an 19 20 amended complaint or return a completed summons with copies of the complaint so that 21 defendants could be served approximately five months ago. (ECF No. 45.) During the five 22 month delay plaintiff has filed six motions for injunctive relief (ECF Nos. 49, 54, 55, 57, 61, 62), 23 two notices (ECF Nos. 48, 58), and two motions for the appointment of counsel (ECF Nos. 52, 24 53). Plaintiff has acknowledged that he is aware he must either amend or submit service 25 documents. However, he has not done so, and instead has filed ten motions and notices regarding 26 1 27 28 Under the prison mailbox rule, a document is deemed served or filed on the date a prisoner signs the document and gives it to prison officials for mailing. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988) (establishing the prison mailbox rule); Campbell v. Henry, 614 F.3d 1056, 1059 (9th Cir. 2010) (applying the mailbox rule to both state and federal filings by incarcerated inmates). 5 1 his request for physical access to the law library, his request for the appointment of counsel, and 2 complaints regarding his confinement at CSP-Corcoran. Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the 3 court’s orders has prevented this action from moving forward. Accordingly, this factor weighs in 4 favor of dismissal. B. Court’s need to manage its docket 5 “District courts have the inherent power to control their dockets. In the exercise of that 6 7 power they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, default or dismissal.” Thompson 8 v. Housing Auth., 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 9 626, 630 (1961)). 10 Since filing this action plaintiff has filed 22 motions for injunctive relief (ECF Nos. 6, 7, 11 9, 10, 11, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 33, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 49, 54) that have been denied. 12 (See Findings and Recommendations (ECF Nos. 12, 17, 30, 46, 56) and Orders adopting Findings 13 and Recommendations in full (ECF Nos. 18, 47, 63, 60, 64).) Plaintiff’s failure to comply with 14 this court’s orders and filing repeated motions addressing conditions at his current facility rather 15 than pursue this claim suggests that he has abandoned this action and that further time spent by 16 the court on this issue will consume scarce judicial resources2 in addressing litigation which 17 plaintiff demonstrates no intention to pursue. Additionally, plaintiff’s failure to comply with the 18 court’s order to file an amended complaint or a completed summons with copies of the complaint 19 has prevented this case from moving forward. Accordingly, this factor weighs in favor of 20 dismissal. 21 C. Risk of prejudice to defendants 22 “To prove prejudice, a defendant must establish that plaintiff’s actions impaired 23 defendant’s ability to proceed to trial or threatened to interfere with the rightful decision of the 24 case.” Pagtalunan v. Galaza, 291 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Malone v. U.S. Postal 25 Service, 833 F.2d 128, 131 (9th Cir. 1987)). The “pendency of a lawsuit is not sufficiently 26 27 28 “Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters.” Cortez v. City of Porterville, 5 F. Supp. 3d 1160, 1162 (E.D. Cal. 2014). 6 2 1 prejudicial in and of itself to warrant dismissal.” Id. (citing Yourish, 191 F.3d at 991). However, 2 the risk of prejudice is also considered in relation to the plaintiff’s reason for defaulting. Id. 3 (citing Yourish, 191 F.3d at 991). 4 Here, plaintiff stated he has not submitted service documents because he is being denied 5 access to the law library. However, the court verified that plaintiff has access to legal supplies 6 and photocopies through the law library paging system. (ECF No. 36.) Additionally, plaintiff has 7 acknowledged that he refused to hand over his legal documents to be photocopied. (ECF No. 42 8 at 1.) Thus, the delay caused by plaintiff’s failure to comply with the court’s order is 9 unreasonable. See Pagtalunan, 291 F.3d at 643 (finding pro se prisoner’s failure to transfer 10 habeas petition to correct forms and delete “et al.” from the caption was an unreasonable delay). 11 Accordingly, this factor weighs in favor of dismissal. 12 13 D. Availability of less drastic alternatives Warning a plaintiff that failure to obey a court order will result in dismissal can suffice to 14 meet the “consideration of alternatives” requirement. Malone, 833 F.2d at 132 (citing Buss v. 15 Western Airlines, Inc., 738 F.2d 1053, 1054 (9th Cir. 1984)). The court has warned plaintiff 16 several times that failure to file an amended complaint or comply with court orders may result in 17 a recommendation that this action be dismissed. (ECF Nos. 29, 45, 56.) The court has also 18 informed plaintiff that requests for injunctive relief unrelated to his underlying complaint are 19 inappropriate in this action. In spite of these warnings plaintiff has failed to comply with the 20 court’s orders and has instead continued his stream of filings requesting relief that is unrelated to 21 his underlying claim. 22 At this stage of the proceedings there is little available which would constitute a 23 satisfactory lesser sanction while preserving scarce court resources. Plaintiff is proceeding in 24 forma pauperis, making monetary sanctions of little use. An order limiting plaintiff’s filings may 25 reduce the burden on the court’s resources, but would not address plaintiff’s repeated failures to 26 comply with court orders even after being warned that further noncompliance may result in a 27 recommendation that this action be dismissed. Accordingly, this factor weighs in favor of 28 dismissal. 7 1 E. Public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits 2 Public policy favors disposition of cases on the merits. Thus, this factor weighs against 3 dismissal. Hernandez v. City of El Monte, 138 F.3d 393, 399 (9th Cir. 1998). 4 III. 5 While public policy weighs against dismissal, all the other factors favor dismissal. 6 Instead of pursuing his claim in this suit plaintiff has filed a stream of motions and notices 7 seeking relief on matters unrelated to his claim and has filed the same or similar motions 8 numerous times. The court cannot continue to expend time and resources on a claim that plaintiff 9 appears to have abandoned in favor of pursuing a new claim regarding conditions of confinement Conclusion 10 at his current facility. As the court has previously informed plaintiff, if he wishes to pursue a 11 civil rights claim regarding conditions at CSP-Corcoran he should file a separate action 12 addressing those issues. Accordingly, the court will recommend that this action be dismissed 13 because plaintiff has refused to comply with this court’s order preventing this case from moving 14 forward and has filed similar motions requesting injunctive relief that is improper in this case. 15 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 16 1. Plaintiff’s motions for injunctive relief (ECF Nos 61, 62) be denied; and 17 2. This case be dismissed with prejudice. 18 These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the United States District Judge 19 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within fourteen days 20 after being served with these findings and recommendations, plaintiff may file written objections 21 with the court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings 22 and Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified 23 time may result in waiver of the right to appeal the district court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 24 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 25 Dated: April 2, 2018 26 27 28 DB:12 DLB1/orders/prisoner-civil rights/tuns2665.dism 8