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Thomas John Heilman v. L. Sanchez

September 22, 2011

THOMAS JOHN HEILMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
L. SANCHEZ, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was removed from the Solano County Superior Court by defendant Sanchez on April 23, 2010. By order filed November 9, 2010, plaintiff's original complaint was dismissed with leave to amend. Plaintiff has filed an amended complaint and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. In addition, both parties have filed motions requesting that the court screen the amended complaint. (Doc. Nos. 16 & 18.)

I. Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Because this action was removed from state court, the filing fee has been paid.

However, plaintiff has requested that this court order service of his complaint on additional defendants and has filed an application requesting leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, plaintiff will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

II. Plaintiff's Claims

As plaintiff was advised in the order filed on November 9, 2010, the court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).

A. Claim One

In his first claim, plaintiff alleges that defendants prison law librarian Sanchez and prison litigation coordinator Williams violated his right of access to the court. In support of this claim, plaintiff alleges that on November 11, 2007, defendant Sanchez refused his request to copy legal documents, resulting in the dismissal of a lawsuit he had filed in the Solano County Small Claims Court. (Am. Compl., Doc. No. 14 at 7-8, 27.) In this regard, plaintiff also alleges that defendant Williams ordered defendant Sanchez not to make the copies of legal documents that plaintiff had requested. (Id. at 8.)

Plaintiff has previously been advised of the legal requirements for stating a cognizable claim for denial of access to the courts and, in particular, the requirement that he must allege facts demonstrating that he suffered an actual injury in connection with the interfering action alleged. See Order filed Nov. 9, 2010 (Doc. No. 11), at 5-7 (citing Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977) and Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996)). The court finds that plaintiff's allegation that his Small Claims Court action was dismissed because he was unable to obtain photocopies of documents is insufficient to satisfy the actual injury requirement and therefore fails to state a cognizable claim. As the U.S. Supreme Court has explained:

Bounds does not guarantee inmates the wherewithal to transform themselves into litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions to slip-and-fall claims. The tools it requires to be provided are those that the inmates need in order to attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Impairment of any other litigating capacity is simply one of the incidental (and perfectly constitutional) consequences of conviction and incarceration.

Lewis, 518 U.S. at 355. See also Stanley v. Superior Court of California, No. 08-55752, 2011 WL 3020803, at *1 (9th Cir. July 25, 2011) ("The district court properly dismissed Stanley's access-to-courts claim because an inmate's constitutional right to access the courts is limited to attacks on his or her conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement."); Rose v. Montana, No. 10-35048, 422 Fed. Appx. 631, at **1 (9th Cir. March 18, 2011) ("The district court properly dismissed Rose's access-to-courts claims because either they pertained to state law tort causes of action, or Rose failed to allege facts showing how defendants' acts hindered his efforts to pursue challenges to his criminal conviction or prison conditions."); Cosco v. Lightsey, No. 09-17162, 411 Fed. Appx. 959, at **1 (9th Cir. Jan. 24, 2011) (affirming dismissal of § 1983 action where alleged violation of right to access to the courts arose from prison librarian's failure to photocopy a legal document in a timely manner when the underlying litigation was a declaratory judgment action unrelated to any challenge by plaintiff to his conviction or the conditions of his confinement)*fn1 ; Hicks v. Evans, No. C 08-1146 SI (pr), 2011 WL 996751 at *3 (N.D. Cal. March 21, 2011) (concluding that plaintiff failed to state a cognizable access to court claim because the dismissal of his small claims court action did not satisfy the actual injury requirement since that action concerned neither his conviction or the conditions of his confinement).

Here, plaintiff has failed to allege in his amended complaint that his small claim court action which was allegedly dismissed attacked his conviction, sentence, or conditions of confinement. Therefore, plaintiff's first claim that his right to access to the court was violated should be dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim.*fn2

B. Claim Two

In his second claim, plaintiff alleges that in violation of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, defendant Sanchez made "'implied' verbal threats of consequential action should the Plaintiff seek remedies under 602 appeal." (Doc. No. 14 at 10.) Plaintiff contends that these threats were ...


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