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Cohea v. Patzloff

November 10, 2010

DANNY JAMES COHEA, CDCR #J-13647, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DINA M. PATZLOFF, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) & 1915A(b)

I. Procedural History

On February 25, 2010, Danny James Cohea ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison located in Corcoran, California, and proceeding in pro se, filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff did not prepay the $350 filing fee mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); instead he filed two Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) [Doc. No. 2, 4], and a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") [Doc. No. 3].

On March 23, 2010, the Court denied Plaintiff's Motion for a TRO, granted Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP and sua sponte dismissed his Complaint for failing to state a claim. See Mar. 23, 2010 Order at 10-11. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's March 23, 2010 Order which was denied by the Court on June 1, 2010 but the Court did sua sponte provide Plaintiff an extension of time to file his First Amended Complaint. See June 1, 2010 Order at 4. Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal on July 7, 2010. In addition, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File Amended Complaint which was granted by the Court. See Aug. 13, 2010 Order at 3-4. Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on October 25, 2010. On November 2, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an Order dismissing Plaintiff's appeal [Doc. No. 14].

II. SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28U.S.C.§§1915(e)(2)&1915A(b)

As the Court stated in its prior Order, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program," "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these provisions of the PLRA, the Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446 (9th Cir. 2000) (§ 1915A); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (discussing § 1915A). "[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick, 213 F.3d at 447; Barren, 152 F.3d at 1194 (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). In addition, the Court's duty to liberally construe a pro se's pleadings, see Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988), is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). However, in giving liberal interpretation to a pro se civil rights complaint, the court may not "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Liability

Section 1983 imposes two essential proof requirements upon a claimant: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 124 S.Ct. 2117, 2122 (2004); Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

B. Rule 8

Once again, the Court finds that Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8. Specifically, Rule 8 provides that in order to state a claim for relief in a pleading it must contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction" and "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(1) & (2). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is rambling and incomprehensible at times. If Plaintiff chooses to file an Amended Complaint, he must not only comply with Rule 8, he must abide by S.D. CIVLR 8.2(a) (providing that complaints by prisoners must use the court approved form and may attach no more than fifteen (15) additional pages.)

C. Access to Courts Claim

Plaintiff alleges that prison officials lost his personal property, including his legal materials, which has hampered his ability to pursue his "civil rights litigation." See FAC at 33. Prisoners do "have a constitutional right to petition the government for redress of their grievances, which includes a reasonable right of access to the courts." O'Keefe v. Van Boening, 82 F.3d 322, 325 (9th Cir. 1996); accord Bradley v. Hall, 64 F.3d 1276, 1279 (9th Cir. 1995). In Bounds, 430 U.S. at 817, the Supreme Court held that "the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons who are trained in the law." Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). To establish a violation of the right to access to the courts, however, a prisoner must allege facts sufficient to show that: (1) a non-frivolous legal attack on his conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement has been frustrated or impeded, and (2) he has suffered an actual injury as a result. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353-55 (1996). An "actual injury" is defined as "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; see also Vandelft v. Moses, 31 F.3d 794, 796 (9th Cir. 1994); Sands v. Lewis, 886 F.2d 1166, 1171 (9th Cir. 1989); Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1093 (9th Cir. 1996).

Here, Plaintiff has failed to alleged any actions with any particularity that have precluded his pursuit of a non-frivolous direct or collateral attack upon either his criminal conviction or sentence or the conditions of his current confinement. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355 (right to access to the courts protects only an inmate's need and ability to "attack [his] sentence[], directly or collaterally, and ... to challenge the conditions of [his] confinement."); see also Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002) (the non-frivolous nature of the "underlying cause of action, whether anticipated or lost, is an element that must be described in the complaint, just as much as allegations must describe the official acts frustrating the litigation."). Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to show that he has been actually injured by any specific defendant's actions. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351.

In short, Plaintiff has not alleged that "a complaint he prepared was dismissed," or that he was "so stymied" by any individual defendant's actions that "he was unable to even file a complaint," direct appeal or petition for writ of habeas corpus that was not "frivolous." Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351; Christopher, 536 U.S. at 416 ("like any other element of an access claim[,] ... the predicate claim [must] be described well enough to apply the 'non-frivolous' test and to show that the 'arguable' nature of the underlying claim is more than hope."). Therefore, Plaintiff's access to courts claims ...


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