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Teahan v. Wilhelm

March 28, 2007

PAUL MICHAEL TEAHAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
S. WILHELM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER (1) ADOPTING IN PART AND MODIFYING IN PART REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND (2) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS IN ITS ENTIRETY

[Docket No. 17]

This case is before the court on the issuance of a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") by the Honorable Peter C. Lewis, United States Magistrate Judge. The R&R recommends that Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted in part and denied in part. The parties have filed timely objections. After conducting a de novo review of those portions to which the parties object, the court hereby sustains Defendants' objections in their entirety and overrules Plaintiff's objections in their entirety. Accordingly, the R&R is ADOPTED IN PART and MODIFIED IN PART as set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a state prisoner incarcerated at Centinela State Prison and proceeding pro se, has filed this § 1983 action challenging conditions of his confinement. Defendants are Correctional Sergeant Wilhelm and Correctional Lieutenant Caldwell (the "Defendants"), who are sued in both their individual and official capacities. Comp. at 2. Plaintiff alleges claims arising under the First Amendment*fn1 and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, money damages in the sum of $175.57, and punitive damages in the sum of $4,000.00.

The complaint arises out of an incident in November 2004 wherein defendant Wilhelm allegedly seized property from Plaintiff's cell, including a television. The complaint further alleges that defendant Caldwell failed to adequately respond to Plaintiff's administrative grievance filed in response to the seizure of property.

On April 18, 2006, the court issued an order granting Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") and finding that "Plaintiff's Complaint survives the sua sponte screening required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b)[.]" See Docket No. 4 (the "screening order"). The screening order did not state why the complaint survived the sua sponte screening process.

On Defendants' motion to dismiss, the R&R recommended that (1) the complaint be dismissed as to Defendants in their official capacities because Defendants enjoy Eleventh Amendment immunity from suits seeking money damages, (2) the court find that Plaintiff had adequately stated a First Amendment retaliation claim because the court, in the screening order, had already made that determination, and (3) the court find that Plaintiff had failed to state a Due Process claim because California provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for any unlawful seizure of Plaintiff's property that may have occurred.

Defendants object to the second recommendation above. Plaintiff objects to the second and third recommendations. Since the district judge "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made", the court will now address the merits of the parties' objections. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Defendants' Objections

Defendants object to the R&R's conclusion that because the complaint survived the sua sponte screening process provided for in §§ 1915(e)(2)*fn2 and 1915A(b),*fn3 then the court has already determined that Plaintiff has successfully stated a First Amendment retaliation claim and the R&R would therefore decline to address the merits of Defendants' First Amendment arguments. In so concluding, the R&R, relied on Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) and Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) for the proposition that because the language of § 1915(e)(2) parallels the language of Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, then the court has effectively already ruled on Plaintiff's First Amendment claim pursuant Rule 12(b)(6). R&R at 6.

Defendants argue that Judge Lewis misinterprets Lopez and Barren. Defendants also argue that the R&R's view forecloses pleadings and a full hearing based on the defendant's interpretation of the complaint, as well as the distinct possibility that this process will result in a narrowing and focusing of the issues, or dispense with the lawsuit altogether, both advancing judicial economy. To hold otherwise would also read ...


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