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Antonio v. Stephens

September 1, 2009

CANDELARIO ANTONIO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEPHENS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN 30 DAYS

(Doc. 1)

Plaintiff Candelario Antonio ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and was incarcerated at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California ("CSATF/SP") at the time the events in his complaint took place. Plaintiff names "Stephens", a correctional officer at CSATF/SP as defendant. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint within 30 days.

I. 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. 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)).

II. Background

Plaintiff's sparse statement of his claim is that "Stephens did not want to give me my legal [material]. Know[ing] I had a [imminent] court date deadline." (Compl. 3.)

III. Discussion

A. Access to Courts

Plaintiff does not specify what rights Defendant Stephens infringed. The Court construes Plaintiff's claim as alleging interference with Plaintiff's constitutional right of access to the courts. Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977); Bradley v. Hall, 64 F.3d 1276, 1279 (9th Cir. 1995) (discussing the right in the context of prison grievance procedures); Vandelft v. Moses, 31 F.3d 794, 796 (9th Cir. 1994); Ching v. Lewis, 895 F.2d 608, 609 (9th Cir. 1989) (per curiam). To establish a violation of the right of access to the courts, a prisoner must establish that he or she has suffered an actual injury, a jurisdictional requirement that flows from the standing doctrine and may not be waived. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349. An "actual injury" is "'actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim.'" Id. at 348. Further, the right of access to the courts only pertains to attempts by inmates to pursue direct appeals from the convictions for which they were incarcerated, habeas petitions, and civil rights actions. Id. at 354.

Plaintiff's sparse, one sentence allegation is not sufficient to state a cognizable claim against Defendant Stephens. Plaintiff does not allege that he suffered "actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation." In other words, Plaintiff has not alleged what harm he suffered as a result of Defendant Stephens' actions. Stephens' actions do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation if Plaintiff was nonetheless able to meet his filing deadline, or if Plaintiff was given an extension of time and did not suffer any prejudice in his lawsuit.

Secondly, Plaintiff has not alleged what type of lawsuit he was pursing. Plaintiff's constitutional guarantee of access to the courts only guarantees the right to pursue claims attacking their sentences, or claims challenging the conditions of their confinement. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355. Plaintiff's claim fails if ...


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