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Cordell v. Tilton

September 17, 2007

WALTER CORDELL, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES E. TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER:

1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE BROOKS' R&R; 2) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [DOC. NO. 8]; AND

2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE OF COURT TO AMEND [DOC NO. 11]

Plaintiff Walter Cordell, III ("Plaintiff") filed a civil rights complaint ("Complaint") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") in which he alleges that his parole supervisors ("Defendants") imposed and enforced unconstitutional conditions of parole that effectively banished Plaintiff from his home, violated his right to due process by extending his period of parole beyond the term he agreed to under a plea bargain, and deprived him of his right to freedom of association. [Doc. No. 1.] On February 1, 2007, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. [Doc. No. 8.] Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks recommending that the Court grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. [Doc. No. 16.] On August 31, 2007, Defendants filed their Objections to the R&R. [Doc. No. 17.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the R&R and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Further, the Court DENIES Plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff was arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon after he severely beat a female victim with a wooden dowel; the victim suffered a broken finger and needed over fifty stitches in her head. (Compl. Ex. A at 1, Ex. M at 2, Ex. N at 2.) On July 13, 2001, Plaintiff entered an agreement to plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon inflicting great bodily injury in exchange for a three-year prison term followed by three years of parole. (Compl. Ex. N at 1-2.) After serving thirty months of his three year sentence, Plaintiff was paroled to San Diego County. Plaintiff's parole included a special condition that prohibited Plaintiff from returning to Orange County. (Compl. Ex. A at 1.) Plaintiff violated his parole by returning to Orange County and was sentenced to eight months of incarceration. On July 3, 2004, Plaintiff was released on parole. Plaintiff violated his parole a second time by returning to Orange County and was sentenced to ten months incarceration. (Compl. Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. at 2.) On May 24, 2006, Plaintiff was released from custody. Plaintiff violated his parole a third time by traveling beyond fifty miles of his home. (Compl. Ex. J at 1-2.) Plaintiff was sentenced to four months imprisonment. Id. at 2. After serving the sentence for his third parole violation, Plaintiff was paroled a fourth time. (Defs.' Mem. 3.) Plaintiff has now absconded from his parole and there is a parolee-at-large warrant currently pending against him. See id.)

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knowingly and blatantly administered illegal and unconstitutional conditions of parole that violate both the California and United States Constitutions by effectively banishing him from his home and denying him his right to freedom of association. (Compl. Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. at 2.) Plaintiff asserts that the terms of his parole include a condition precluding him from returning to Orange County, his home. Id. at 1. At the time of his release, Plaintiff was prepared with living arrangements and employment to return to Orange County. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was unable to find employment in nearby San Diego County and that, in part, he violated his probation by returning to Orange County because he missed his family and was suffering emotional distress as a result of being banished from his home and the resulting inability to see his children, attend his church, or find employment. Id.

Plaintiff also contends that Defendants violated his right to due process by extending his period of parole beyond the term he agreed to under a plea bargain. (Compl. Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. at 8.) Plaintiff asserts that he plea bargained his entire sentence including the period of parole to obtain a lighter sentence and that the additional time added to his period of parole is a violation of that plea agreement and his right to due process. Id.

Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants prohibited his freedom of association by banishing him from his home. (Compl. Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. at 11.) As a result of the parole condition prohibiting Plaintiff from entering San Diego County, Plaintiff was unable to attend his church or meet with his AA home group. Id. Plaintiff argues that the parole restriction and resulting violation of the Plaintiff's right to free association have no relationship to his offense and are also not related to any potential criminal conduct. Id. at 12. Plaintiff concludes that these parole conditions unreasonably violate Plaintiff's right to free association and are invalid. Id. at 13.

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to recover monetary damages in excess of twenty-one million dollars, an injunction preventing Defendants from enforcing the conditions of his parole, an order that he be immediately released from parole, and "oversight of the [California Department of Corrections] to prevent future violations of individuals['] constitutional rights." (Compl. at 7.)

In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that: (1) the fugitive disentitlement doctrine precludes Plaintiff from litigating these claims, (2) Defendants are absolutely immune from liability for damages, (3) Plaintiff's claims are not properly brought in a Section 1983 action, (4) Plaintiff's claims are without merit, and (5) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (Defs.' Mem. 6-14.) Plaintiff submitted an Opposition to Motion to Dismiss [doc. no. 13] and a Motion for Leave of Court to Amend Complaint [doc. no. 11]. Plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to assert claims against the Defendants in their individual capacities rather than their official capacities. (Mot. to Amend 1.)

Legal Standard

The duties of the district court in connection with a magistrate judge's report and recommendation are set forth in Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and in 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2005). The district court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection is made," and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2005); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980). In the instant case, Defendant has filed an Objection to the R&R. Accordingly, this Court will conduct a de novo review of the conclusions of law and the findings of fact to which Defendant has objected.

Dismissal of a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where "'it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Edwards v. Marin Park, Inc., 356 F.3d 1058, 1061 (9th Cir. 2004)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable theory. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In reviewing the motion, the court must assume the truth of ...


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