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Jawwaad Hasan v. C/O Johnson

July 9, 2012

JAWWAAD HASAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
C/O JOHNSON,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR COURT ASSISTANCE TO FACILITATE COMMUNICATION WITH INMATE WITNESSES (Docs. 47, 56.) ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REOPEN DISCOVERY, WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO RENEWAL OF THE MOTION WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

I. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This is a civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Jawwaad Hasan ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. All parties to this action have voluntarily consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and the case was assigned to the undersigned to conduct any and all further proceedings in the case, including the trial and entry of a final judgment. (Docs. 7, 14, 26.) This action now proceeds on Plaintiff's original Complaint filed on March 17, 2008, against defendant Correctional Officer B. Johnson ("Defendant") for use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment.*fn1 (Doc. 1.) Discovery in this action is now closed, and the deadline for filing pretrial dispositive motions has expired. On May 15, 2012, Defendant filed a timely motion for summary judgment, which is now pending. (Doc. 52.)

On April 6, 2012 and May 31, 2012, Plaintiff filed motions for assistance by the Court to facilitate Plaintiff's communication with his inmate witnesses, and a motion to reopen discovery. (Docs. 47, 56.) On April 23, 2012, Defendant filed a response to Plaintiff's April 6, 2012 motion. (Doc. 51.) On May 29, 2012, Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc. 55.) Plaintiff's motions are now before the Court.

II. MOTION FOR ASSISTANCE IN CORRESPONDING WITH INMATE WITNESSES

Inmates may only correspond with one another if they obtain written authorization from the appropriate prison officials. Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15 § 3139 (2010). The Court does not have jurisdiction in this action over anyone other than the Plaintiff and Defendant, and cannot direct prison officials to allow Plaintiff to correspond with his witnesses. E.g., City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 102, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 1665 (1983); Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 757-58 (1982); Jones v. City of Los Angeles, 444 F.3d 1118, 1126 (9th Cir. 2006).

Plaintiff requests court assistance in facilitating communication with his inmate witnesses who are housed at different prisons throughout the state. Plaintiff requests the Court to act as a "depository [or] go-between." (Motion, Doc. 47 at 1:24-25.) Plaintiff also requests a court order enabling him to contact witnesses by telephone through the prison counselor. Plaintiff asserts that in May 2011 he obtained assistance from an individual outside the prison who mailed him letters from inmate witnesses indicating they were willing and able to testify about knowledge of the excessive force incident at issue in this action; however, Plaintiff never received the information. Plaintiff also asserts that in August 2011 he enlisted the services of a paralegal to contact inmate witnesses, but Plaintiff has not received any mail from the paralegal. Plaintiff presumes that his mail was tampered with by mailroom staff or correctional officers working in concert with Defendant or Defendant's counsel.

Defendant declares that he has not engaged in witness tampering and that, to his knowledge, no conspiracy exists regarding Plaintiff's mail. (Declaration of B. Johnson, Doc. 51-1 ¶¶2-3.) Defendant argues that there is no need for the Court to provide Plaintiff with assistance to communicate with his inmate witnesses, because the CDCR has established regulations providing inmates with the ability to communicate with other inmates, which Plaintiff has attempted to circumvent.

Plaintiff reasserts his contention that witness tampering has occurred and denies that he tried to circumvent prison regulations by using outside assistance to contact witnesses.

Discussion

Plaintiff's motion for court assistance must be denied. As discussed above, the Court does not have jurisdiction in this action to order prison officials to allow Plaintiff to correspond with his witnesses. Moreover, the Court recognizes that prison administrators "should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321-322 (1986) (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1970). With respect to Plaintiff's request for the Court to act as a go-between, the Court is precluded from assisting Plaintiff or Defendant in this manner. "A district court lacks the power to act as a party's lawyer, even for pro se litigants." Bias v. Moynihan, 508 F.3d 1212, 1219 (9th Cir. 2007). "[I]t is not for the trial court to inject itself into the adversary process on behalf of one class of litigant," Jacobson v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1365 n.5 (9th Cir. 1986), or "to become an 'advocate' for or to assist and guide the pro se layman through the trial thicket, " Bias at 1219 (citing Jacobson at1365 n.5).

Plaintiff has not indicated that he exhausted the procedures available to him at the prison to obtain permission to correspond with his witnesses. Plaintiff seeks leave to contact witnesses by telephone through the prison counselor, but Plaintiff has not indicated that he made any attempt to communicate with the counselor or to make a formal request for assistance from prison officials. Plaintiff should follow procedures and use the available resources at the prison to obtain written authorization to contact his witnesses, with consideration by prison officials of safety, security, and procedural priorities.

IV. MOTION TO REOPEN DISCOVERY

Plaintiff requests that the Court reopen discovery to enable him to interview his witnesses and acquire the declarations needed to file a properly supported opposition ...


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