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Bovarie v. Tilton

March 19, 2008

MARCUS BOVARIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES E. TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER (1) ADOPTING IN PART and REJECTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' OBJECTIONS, (2) REJECTING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS, (3) ADOPTING IN PART and REJECTING IN PART MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, (4) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF DEFAULT, and (5) GRANTING IN PART and DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

(Doc. Nos. 40, 46)

Presently before the Court are the objections of James E. Tilton, et al. ("Defendants") and of Marcus Bovarie ("Plaintiff") to Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes's Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). Magistrate Judge Stormes recommended that the Court, inter alia, (1) grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint ("SAC") and (2) deny Plaintiff's request for entry of default. For the reasons outlined below, this Court REJECTS the recommendation to deny the motion to dismiss as to Defendants J. Gonzalez and Z. Steinhaus. Otherwise, the Court ADOPTS the remaining recommendations, finding those portions of the R&R to be well reasoned. Therefore, this Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion to dismiss and DENIES Plaintiff's request for entry of default.

Background

Plaintiff is an inmate of the California Department of Corrections ("CDC") and is currently housed at Centinela State Prison ("Centinela"). Plaintiff alleges that CDC and Centinela authorities denied him access to the courts by "making, enforcing, and allowing the[] policies and procedures" which limit access to the prison's law library. [SAC, at 14.] These policies include keeping the 15-person-capacity library open twice daily, for two-hour sessions at a time, to meet the needs of 2,400 inmates. [Id. at 10.] Additionally, prison officials often place Centinela on security "lock down" or "modified program" status, when library access is limited to prisoners with an "approved court deadline" (i.e., a litigation deadline issued by a court and approved by the law library). [Id.] Plaintiff alleges that Centinela sometimes disregards approved deadlines and denies access to the library altogether. [Id. at 12.] Plaintiff states that his access was limited to nine 2-hour sessions for all of 2005. [Id. at 14.] Plaintiff details other periods when he was completely denied access to the library, including: (1) five months ending 11/13/04; (2) three months between 4/16/05 and 7/9/05; (3) three months between 7/9/05 and 10/13/05; and (4) two months between 10/20/05 and 12/15/05. [Id. at 14-15.] Plaintiff filed several administrative grievances related to these practices, but prison authorities denied the grievances, finding that the prison's policy was satisfied. [Id.]

On February 3, 2004 Plaintiff filed a habeas petition, which the California Supreme Court denied on December 1, 2004.*fn1 [Id. Ex. B.] Plaintiff alleges that he could not subsequently file a federal habeas petition within the one-year statute of limitations of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") because restrictive library policies prevented him from adequately researching his claim. [Id. at 11 & Ex. C, at 40-41.] Instead, Plaintiff filed a separate 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint in federal district court. (See case no. 04cv2385 JM (WMC).) The Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller dismissed the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. [Doc. No. 5, case no. 04cv2385.] Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which Judge Miller dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. [Doc. No. 29, case no. 04cv2385.]

In the present action, Plaintiff alleges that the denial of access to the law library violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to access to the courts because he was forced to submit legal work in prior actions that was "flawed, partial, barely researched, and ineffective." [SAC, at 15.] He alleges that his direct appeals, habeas petitions, and civil rights complaint have all been compromised by this denial. [Id.] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that lack of access to the library caused the dismissal of his prior 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action and his state habeas petition, while also preventing the filing of a federal habeas petition. [Id. at 15-17.] Plaintiff brings the present action for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants J. Tilton, J. Woodford, R. Hickman, and J. Dovey, current and former Directors of the CDC ("Directors"); Defendants J. Burleson, V. Alamanger, J. Salazar, G. Giurbino, Wardens of Centinela ("Wardens"); Defendants J. Denault, R. Darr and N. Grannis, Lieutenants of Centinela ("Lieutenants"); and Defendants A. Hernandez, J. Cortez, J. Napolitano, and P. Kuzil-Buan as Facility D Captains ("Captains") were each "responsible for operations and policies" of the prison and the law library and were "grossly negligent" in their supervision and duty. [Id. at 2-7.] Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants M. Cullor, R. Pitones, and P. Anchondo ("Library Staff") are "responsible for the law library". [Id. at 7-8.] Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants J. Gonzalez, Associate Warden, and Z. Steinhaus, Supervisor of Vocational Instruction, denied Plaintiff's administrative grievance and thus denied him access to the courts. [Id. at 4, 7.]

Procedural History

On March 28, 2006, Plaintiff filed this complaint for denial of access to the courts. [Doc. No. 1.] The action was originally assigned to the Hon. Roger T. Benitez. Judge Benitez dismissed without prejudice for failure to pay the mandatory $350 filing fee. [Doc. No. 3.] On July 20, 2006, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint. [Doc. No. 7.] On December 7, 2006, he filed the SAC presently at issue, adding two defendants. [Doc. No. 16.]

On April 4, 2007 Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss the SAC. [Doc. No. 40.] On April 23, 2007, Plaintiff filed his opposition. [Doc. No. 41.] Defendants filed their reply on May 1, 2007. [Doc. No. 44.]

On July 13, 2007, Plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default against all defendants who had not yet filed an answer. [Doc. No. 46.]

On July 30, 2007, Magistrate Judge Stormes issued the R&R. [Doc. No. 47.] The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court (1) grant Defendants' motion to dismiss the SAC against all Defendants in their official capacities because Plaintiff sought monetary damages, rather than declaratory or injunctive relief; (2) grant in part and deny in part the motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for denial of access to the courts against Defendants in their individual capacities; (3) deny Defendants' claim of qualified immunity, without prejudice to renew that defense on a motion for summary judgment or at trial; (4) deny Plaintiff's request for entry of default; and (5) strike Plaintiff's prayer for punitive damages.

Plaintiff and Defendants both filed their respective objections to the R&R on August 20, 2007. [Doc. Nos. 48-49.] Plaintiff replied to Defendants' objections on August 31, 2007. (Doc. No. 50.) Defendants objected to the portion of the R&R recommending that the Court deny in part the motion to dismiss the SAC against Defendants in their individual capacities. Plaintiff objected to the portion of the R&R recommending that the Court deny Plaintiff's request for entry of default. Neither side objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendations that the Court dismiss the SAC against Defendants in their official capacities, deny Defendants' claim of qualified immunity, or strike Plaintiff's prayer for punitive damages.

This action was reassigned from Judge Benitez to the Hon. Janis L. Sammartino ...


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