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Wills v. Barton

June 16, 2009

DALE WILLS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TODD BARTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DISMISSAL OF ACTION (Doc. ) 1) AND DENIAL OF TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

(Doc. 6)

Plaintiff DALE WILLS, a state prisoner appearing pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action on June 3, 2009, alleging that Defendants Todd Barton and John/Jane Doe, Clerk of the Court and deputy clerk for the Kings County Superior Court, have deprived him of his right to petition the government for redress of grievances and access to the courts, thereby violating his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. More specifically, Defendants have refused to file legal documents in the Kings County Superior Court, proffered by Plaintiff and concerning conditions of his confinement. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and an award of punitive damages.

Plaintiff also seeks a temporary restraining order enjoining Defendants from refusing to file legal documents he previously presented to the Kings County Superior Court for filing, and "an order directing Defendants to serve and file papers in opposition to the duly noticed motion for preliminary injunction and that failure to do so constitutes a stipulation to the granting of the motion." (Doc. 6.)

DISCUSSION

A. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . .." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. Id. at 514. "'The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.'" Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 755 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004) ("'Pleadings need suffice only to put the opposing party on notice of the claim . . ..'"). However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

B. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff contends Defendants have denied him access to the courts by refusing to file legal documents prepared by Plaintiff and directed to the Kings County Superior Court. Plaintiff names Defendants in his or her "individual capacity for the purposes of damages relief, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief, and in his/her official capacity for the purposes of injunctive relief and declaratory relief." (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶¶ 4-5.)

More specifically, Plaintiff contends that on or about January 5, 2009, he forwarded, via U.S. Mail, an original and one copy of a petition for writ of mandate, application and order for waiver of court fees and costs, a motion to compel production of documents, an ex parte motion for temporary restraining order, and a proof of service, to the Clerk of the Court for the Superior Court of Kings County. Simultaneously, Plaintiff forwarded the same documents to the Office of the Attorney General for the State of California in Sacramento, California. (Doc. 1 at 3-4, ¶ 8; Doc. 4, Ex. A.) In the petition, Plaintiff argued that he had a right to have his personal property stored by prison officials if that property was disallowed while he was confined to the Security Housing Unit (SHU). (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 9; Doc. 4, Ex. A.) In the motion to compel production of documents, which Plaintiff attempted to file contemporaneously with the mandate petition, Plaintiff complained that prison officials refused to provide him with an original, certified six-month trust account statement and sought an order of the court compelling officials to provide him with the documentation. (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 10.)

On or about January 9, 2009, Plaintiff was notified in a rejection slip prepared by Defendant Deputy Clerk #1160 that he must pay the filing fee of $350 or submit an application and order for waiver of court fees and costs accompanied by "an original statement of account for any sums due to the inmate for the six-month period immediately preceding," and that "[i]t is mandatory that you attach an original certified statement of accounting to your fee waiver." (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 11.)

On or about January 20, 2009, Plaintiff asserts he sent a letter, addressed to the Clerk of the Court, informing the clerk that he could not provide the certified six-month trust account statement because prison officials had refused his requests, and that the clerk must file the documents "and allow the judge to rule on the merits of the motion to compel production of documents." (Doc. 1 at 4-5, ¶ 12.)

On February 3, 2009, Plaintiff was again notified in a rejection slip prepared by Defendant Deputy Clerk #1160 that he must pay the filing fee of $350 or submit an application and order for waiver of court fees and costs accompanied by "an original statement of account for any sums due to the inmate for the six-month period immediately preceding," and that "[i]t is mandatory that you attach an original certified statement of accounting ...


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