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Nelson Wynn v. A. Hedgpeth

January 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge



I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Nelson Wynn is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently pending before the Court is the complaint, filed November 8, 2010.

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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under 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)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007)).

II. Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and is incarcerated at the California Institution for Men, Chino. The incidents alleged in the complaint occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") and High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"). Plaintiff brings this action against Defendants Hedgpeth, Juarez, Billings, Esparza, Bacerra, Clark, Gebremedhin, and Meza, employed at KVSP; Defendants McDonald and Keating, employed at HDSP; Defendant Foston and fifty unnamed Defendants employed by the CDCR alleging denial of access to the court in violation of the First Amendment and is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages.

On May 25, 2008, Plaintiff was placed in protective custody and his property was removed and inventoried by Defendants Meza and Gebremedhin. On June 3, 2008, Plaintiff was seen by the Institutional Classification Committee ("ICC"). After the hearing Plaintiff asked Defendant Juarez how he could go about getting his legal property returned and Defendant Juarez told Plaintiff that he did not deal with property and Plaintiff needed to talk to someone else. Plaintiff asked Defendant Becerra for his legal property to be returned to him and Defendant Becerra stated that he would get Plaintiff's property to him when he got to it.

On June 7, 2008, Plaintiff told Defendant Clark that he was allowed to possess his legal property and Defendant Clark stated that they had not had time to get to his request. On June 11, 2008, Defendant Becerra acknowledged the receipt of six boxes of property and a television set that belonged to Plaintiff. On June 12, 2008, Defendant Clark acknowledged the accuracy of the property report. On June 16, 2008, Defendant Becerra and Esparza came to Plaintiff's cell and Defendant Becerra handed Plaintiff a twelve inch stack of documents. When Plaintiff objected that there were many more documents, Defendant Becerra stated that they would get to them later. Plaintiff examined the documents and discovered that the majority of the stack belonged to another inmate. Plaintiff informed Defendant Becerra that the documents did not belong to him and Defendant Becerra stated that he would get back to Plaintiff later.

On June 23, 2008, Plaintiff gave Defendant Becerra a list of approximately 6,000 pages of documents that were missing. Defendant Becerra stated that he would give the list to Defendant Esparza. Plaintiff sent an inmate request to Defendant Becerra on June 30, 2008. Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal on June 17, 2008, regarding his missing documents. Plaintiff also handed Defendant Becerra an inmate appeal, but Defendant Becerra tore it up and told Plaintiff he needed to submit his request to the appeals coordinator. Plaintiff submitted an inmate appeal and never received a response.

On July 28, 2008, Plaintiff submitted a second inmate appeal regarding the lack of response to his prior request and requesting his documents be returned to him. Defendant Becerra took the inmate appeal and stated that he would submit it to Defendant Esparza. Later when Plaintiff saw Defendant Esparza he asked her about the appeal. Defendant Esparza stated that she did not know anything about it, but had located his boxes and only a few legal documents were inside. Defendant Becerra stated that she would return later with his boxes so Plaintiff could look at what was inside. Plaintiff asked Defendant Esparza about the appeal and asked for it to be returned when Defendant Esparza stated that it was in the program office and she had not given it to Defendant Becerra.

On August 12, 2008, Plaintiff filed a third inmate appeal. On August 13, 2008, Defendant Esparza returned with one box which contained approximately 100 pages of legal documents. Defendant Esparza informed Plaintiff that she had inspected his boxes and there were no legal documents in them. Plaintiff asked Defendant Esparza to check with the other inmate whose property he had received to see if he had Plaintiff's documents. Defendant Esparza told Plaintiff that the inmate had transferred to another facility.

On September 10, 2008, Plaintiff was interviewed by Defendant Gibbs regarding his inmate appeal. On October 27, 2008, Plaintiff submitted his appeal for second level review requesting that CDCR pay for the cost of duplicating his 6,000 pages of legal documents. Plaintiff was interviewed by Defendant Wilson on December 4, 2008, and his appeal was denied. On April 2, 2009, Plaintiff's appeal was denied at the Director's level.

On September 23, 2008, Plaintiff was released to the general population and Defendant Clark gave him three boxes of his property. When Plaintiff opened the boxes he noticed that items were missing. Plaintiff informed Officer Ramirez about the missing property and Officer Ramirez was unable to locate it. Plaintiff sent an inmate appeal to Defendant Gebremedhin and did not receive a response within the allotted time. Plaintiff sent another copy of the appeal to Defendant Billings, which was screened out because it was a duplicate of an appeal which was pending.

Plaintiff mailed two sealed letters to attorneys on October 30, 2008. On November 17, 2008, Plaintiff was transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison. On December 11, 2008, Plaintiff received the two letters back and they had been opened outside his presence. Plaintiff submitted an appeal that KVSP officials were opening his mail outside of his presence. The appeal was screened out by Defendant Billings because it was a copy and not an original. The remainder of Plaintiff's complaint sets forth unrelated incidents that occurred at HDSP, which are not properly brought in this division. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

Plaintiff alleges that due to the documents being lost he was prevented from pursuing viable issues that his appellate counsel was unable or unwilling to raise on direct appeal. Defendants Hedgpeth and Juarez failed to properly train and supervise employees in the appropriate storage, custody, and distribution of property while an inmate is housed in the administrative segregation unit.

Defendants Billings and Hedgpeth denied Plaintiff access to the appeals process by refusing to process his appeals and treat a copy as an original. Defendants Hedgpeth and Does 1-50 violated Plaintiff's right to access the court by opening his correspondence with the Federal District Court, two letters ...

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