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Jenkins v. Bartley

August 28, 2008

JAMAL ALBERT JENKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BARTLEY, DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prison inmate proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendant Riley denied him access to the law library from February through June 2004, while he was a pretrial detainee at Sacramento County Jail, and that defendant Bartley removed materials from a letter plaintiff mailed to his mother. Defendants have moved for summary judgment.

I. Summary Judgment Standards Under Rule 56

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 322. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

On May 7, 2007, the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999), and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

II. Access To The Court

In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that his First Amendment right of access to the courts was violated when he was unable to go the jail's law library. Defendant Riley argues that this cause of action is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, that plaintiff is unable to show actual injury, and that she is entitled to qualified immunity.

A. Facts

Plaintiff was arrested in January 2004 and booked into Sacramento County Jail, where he remained through his conviction in October 2006. Deposition of Jamal Jenkins (Jenkins Depo.) at 9:23-10:1, 12:1-3.*fn1 Plaintiff was represented initially by Deputy Public Defender Paula Weikel, but in February 2004, he retained Charles Bloodgood. Id. at 19:2-3 & 21-23, 20:16, 21:16. Petitioner was not satisfied with either lawyer's performance and so sought access to the law library beginning in February and continuing through June 2004. Amended Complaint (Am. Compl.)*fn2 at 3-4; Opposition (Opp'n), Ex. B at 8-9 (plaintiff's requests for law library access). In May 2004, he discharged Attorney Bloodgood. Jenkins Depo. at 20:23-24. Plaintiff proceeded pro se from September through December 2004 and thereafter was represented by Attorney Miller and Attorney Bowman. Id. at 23:10-12, 24:18-22. He did not represent himself during the period of time he alleges that defendant Riley denied him access to the law library. Id. at 22:23-23:4. Jail policies provided that inmates with pro se status were given priority access to the law library. Opp'n, Ex. B at 1-2 (Riley's response to request for admissions no. 8) & 3 (jail policy).

Plaintiff asserts that had he been given access to the law library during this critical phase of the prosecution against him, he could have "read law documents that would have allowed me to represent myself," prepared habeas petitions and obtained a better outcome. Jenkins Depo. at 15:5-8, 16:23-17:20.

Plaintiff was convicted on October 5, 2006. At the time his deposition was taken and the motion for summary judgment was filed, his appeal of the conviction was pending. Jenkins Depo. at 12:3-6, 13:11-13; Motion For Summary Judgment, [First] Request For Judicial Notice. On May 13, 2008, the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District affirmed plaintiff's conviction but directed the Superior Court to correct the minute order concerning plaintiff's sentence. See Second Request for Judicial Notice (opinion in People v. Jenkins, C051852).

B. Access To The Court and Heck v. Humphrey

In Heck v. Humphrey, the United States Supreme Court held:

[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.

512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). In Heck, the plaintiff did not allege he was denied access to the courts but rather claimed that state prosecutors and police had destroyed evidence. Id. at 478-79.

In contrast, plaintiff's claims in this case do not directly implicate his conviction; instead, he argues that his First Amendment right of access to the court was abridged when he was denied law library access and so was unable to research and understand his right to proceed in pro per and to take other actions to challenge and supplement the perceived inadequacies of counsel's performance.

Although an inmate has a constitutionally protected right of meaningful access to the courts, there is no freestanding constitutional right to law library access for prisoners. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 820-21 (1977); see Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350-51 (1996). Instead, law library access serves as one means of ensuring the constitutional right of access to the courts. See id. at 351. A prisoner claiming that his right of access to the courts has been violated due to inadequate library access must show that: 1) access was so limited as to be unreasonable, and 2) the inadequate access caused actual injury. Vandelft v. Moses, 31 F.3d 794, 797 (9th Cir. 1994). A prisoner cannot make conclusory declarations of injury, but instead must demonstrate that a non-frivolous legal claim has been frustrated ...


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