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Williams v. Felker

September 30, 2009

KIRK DOUGLAS WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
T. FELKER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's claims challenge Cal. Code Reg. tit 15, § 3084.4(a), which limits the frequency with which inmates may file grievances. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Eastern District of California local rules.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the court must screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. The Magistrate Judge conducted such a screening, and in his findings and recommendations recommended dismissing plaintiff's amended complaint with prejudice. These findings and recommendations were served on the parties and contained notice that the parties may file objections within twenty days. Plaintiff filed timely objections. In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and Local Rule 72-304, this court has conducted a de novo review of this case. The court adopts the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations insofar as they conclude that plaintiff has failed to allege the details necessary to support his claim. The court rejects the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to dismiss the suit with prejudice, however, instead granting plaintiff one final opportunity to cure these defects through amendment.

I. BACKGROUND

A. California's Inmate Grievance Process

California has adopted an grievance system for prisoners seeking to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15 §§ 3084.1 - 3084.7.*fn1 Under this system, an inmate files an "appeal" of a "departmental decision, action, condition, or policy." § 3084.1(a). The appeals process involves an "informal" level of review and then three formal levels of review, although the informal level is waived for appeals of certain actions, and the applicable appeals coordinator may allow an inmate to bypass the first level of formal review in certain other circumstances. §§ 3084.5(a)(3), (b).

Regardless of whether any levels of review have been waived, the inmate must initiate the formal appeal process "within 15 working days of the event or decision being appealed." § 3084.6(c). An appeal may be rejected if the "[t]ime limits for submitting the appeal are exceeded and the appellant had the opportunity to file within the prescribed time constraints." § 3084.3(c)(6); Marella v. Terhune, 568 F.3d 1024, 1027 (9th Cir. 2009). See also Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 86 (2006) (describing California's grievance system in greater detail).

B. Restriction on Plaintiff's Grievances

Plaintiff alleges that on eight specified occasions, grievances filed by plaintiff were "screened out" pursuant to § 3084.4(a). Second Amended Complaint, 11-12 (Doc. 35) ("SAC"). Plaintiff identifies the particular defendants that plaintiff alleges are responsible for the screening of each appeal, but plaintiff provides no allegations regarding the content of these appeals. Thus, the complaint does not indicate whether these appeals arose out of separate incidents, whether plaintiff later attempted to file an appeal or suit reiterating the challenges made in the screened appeals, or the outcome of any subsequent proceedings.

Section 3084.4 describes "Appeal System Abuse." Subsection (a) provides:

(a) Excessive filings. One appellant's submission of more than one non-emergency appeal within a seven-calendar-day period shall be considered excessive.

(1) When an appellant submits excessive appeals, the first appeal received shall be processed normally and all subsequent non-emergency appeals filed within the seven-calendar-day period by that individual shall be suspended.

(2) The appeals coordinator shall consult with the chief, inmate appeals, who shall determine further action to be taken on the suspended appeals.

(3) Upon determination of abuse, the chief, inmate appeals, shall authorize the appeals coordinator to prepare a notice restricting the inmate to one appeal per month for six consecutive months.

(4) Any subsequent violations of the appeal restriction shall result in an extension of the restriction for an ...


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