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Adams v. Carey

December 10, 2009



Plaintiff, whose current CDCR number is P-65157, is a state prison inmate proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants have filed a motion to revoke plaintiff's in forma pauperis status and to require the pre-payment of the filing fee. A motion to dismiss on the same grounds was denied without prejudice.

I. The PLRA "Three Strikes" Provisions

The "three strikes" provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) empowers a court to deny in forma pauperis status to a litigant who has had three actions "dismissed on the grounds that [they are] frivolous, malicious, or fail[] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An action meets this standard if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or its "factual contentions are clearly baseless. Examples of the former class are claims against which it is clear the defendants are immune from suit and claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) (internal citation omitted).

When defendants challenge a plaintiff's in forma pauperis status, they bear the initial burden of production:

[T]he defendants must produce documentary evidence that allows the district court to conclude that the plaintiff has filed at least three prior actions that were dismissed because they were "frivolous, malicious, or fail[ed] to state a claim." . . . [T]he defendants may not simply rest on the fact of dismissal. Rather, the defendants must produce court records or other documentation that will allow the district court to determine because it was "frivolous, malicious or fail[ed] to state a claim."

Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1120 (9th Cir. 2005).

Once defendants have met this initial burden, it becomes the plaintiff's burden to explain why a prior dismissal should not count as a strike. It is plaintiff's "ultimate burden" to persuade the court that § 1915(g) does not apply. Id.

II. Plaintiff's Litigation History

Defendants have offered a print-out from the court's PACER system showing that a Ronald Adams, also known as Ronald L. Adams and Ronald Lee Adams, has filed twenty actions in the district courts. Defs.' Mot. To Revoke (MTR), Ex. B. They argue that the following cases constitute strikes:

A. Adams v. Marshall, 91-cv-04224 RFP (N.D. Cal.)

Defendants have provided a docket from the Northern District showing that Ronald Adams, CDC # C-43417, filed a civil rights action against three defendants and that this action was dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim. MTR, Ex. C. They have also submitted the declaration of J. Rodriguez, the Chief of Correctional Case Records Services, who explains that when a paroled inmate successfully completes his parole, his CDCR number is closed out and then if that same person is recommitted, he is given a new CDCR number. Declaration of J. Rodriguez (Rodriguez Decl.) ¶¶ 1, 6. These numbers are cross-referenced in the Offender Based Information System (OBIS). Id. ¶¶ 3, 7. Rodriguez identifies two print-outs from OBIS as showing that Ronald Adams, C-43417, is the same as Ronald Adams, P-65157. The court has examined both print-outs, which show not only a congruence of the offender's name, but also date and place of birth and CII (criminal information index) number. The court is satisfied that Adams v. Marshall, filed by plaintiff under CDCR number C-43417, was filed by the same plaintiff in this action.

Plaintiff argues that the court should not consider this action as a strike because there is no "declaration of the court clerk. There is no sign [sic] court order by Senior Judge Robert F. Peckham" and because there is no proof that the docket itself is authentic. Opposition (Opp'n) at 9.

A court may take judicial notice of "proceedings in other courts, both within and without the federal judicial system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue." United States ex rel. Robinson Rancheria Citizens Council v. Borneo, Inc., 971 F.2d 244, 248 (9th Cir. 1992). Judicial notice is proper only if the record is "capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." Fed. R. Evid. 201(b)(2). The accuracy of the record of the Marshall case "cannot reasonably be questioned" as it may be checked by accessing the PACER system of federal court records.

Additionally, public records or reports are self-authenticating. Fed. R. Evid. 902(5). In Williams v. Long, 585 F.Supp.2d 679 (D. Md. 2008), the court considered the question whether documents printed from a website maintained by a public authority were similarly self-authenticating. The court concluded that a printout "containing the 'internet domain address' and the 'date on which it was printed'" was sufficiently authenticated to fall within this rule and found that a page printed from the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website was sufficiently identified so as to be self-authenticating. Id. at 688-89. In this case, defendants' ...

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