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Paul Denham v. Correctional Officer Aranda

August 17, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge


Presently before the Court are Plaintiff Paul Denham's ("Denham") Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint, (Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 117), and Supplemental Memorandum in Support of His Motion for Leave to File an Amended Second Amended Complaint, (Supp. Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 119). Also before the Court are Defendants' response in opposition, (Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 126), and Denham's reply in support, (Reply in Supp., ECF No. 127). The hearing set for the motion on May 3, 2012, was vacated, and the matter taken under submission on the papers. Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Denham's motion.


This Order incorporates by reference the procedural history, factual background, and summary of claims as set forth in Magistrate Judge Gallo's Report and Recommendation advising the Court to grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the first amended complaint ("FAC"). (R&R 1--7, ECF No. 35) In short, Denham filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint against several Defendants arising out of a series of events that occurred while he was housed at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. In the FAC he asserted (1) an Eighth Amendment violation of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment based on his being placed in Administrative Segregation and transferred to another prison in retaliation for complaining about prison staff, and (2) retaliation in violation of the First Amendment for his complaining about prison staff.

Denham's original and first amended complaints were filed pro se. The original was dismissed with leave to amend, (Order, June 21, 2010, ECF No. 36), and the FAC was dismissed in part, (Order, Feb. 4, 2011, ECF No. 43). Since then, Denham has obtained pro bono representation, and the parties have engaged in extensive but ultimately unsuccessful settlement negotiations.*fn1 "Now that Mr. Denham has counsel, he respectfully requests the opportunity to have his counsel file a second amended complaint that more precisely sets forth his claims, and identifies other State Actor Defendants against whom he has legitimate civil rights claims." (Mot. Amend 3, ECF No. 117) And, since filing the initial motion for leave to amend, Denham's pro bono counsel discovered new facts giving rise to additional claims Denham also plans to assert. (Supp. Mot. Amend, ECF No. 119)


Leave to amend should be freely given "when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). But while the rule should be interpreted extremely liberally, leave should not be granted automatically. Jackson v. Bank of Haw., 902 F.2d 1385, 1387 (9th Cir. 1990). "The party opposing amendment bears the burden of showing prejudice." DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987). A trial court may deny a motion for leave to amend based on various factors, including bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, futility of amendment, and whether the party has previously amended. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Relevant here, "[t]he rule favoring liberality in amendments to pleadings is particularly important for the pro se litigant." Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

A motion to amend a complaint to add or drop a party may also implicate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21, which grants the district court discretion to add or drop a party. Rules 19 and 20 govern who may be joined as a party. Rule 20(a)(2) allows for the permissive joinder of defendants if "any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences" and "any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action."


Defendants do not contest Denham's request to amend his complaint in order to "more precisely sets forth his claims" now that he has obtained pro bono counsel, (Mot. Amend 3, ECF No. 117), but oppose the addition of new claims and defendants to the amended complaint, (See generally Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 126). Defendants oppose Denham's motion on the basis of futility alone. Specifically, Defendants assert that amendment would be futile for the following reasons: (1) joinder of parties and events wholly unrelated to the subject of the original complaint violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20; (2) venue is improper over Denham's new claims against parties located and events taking place in the Northern District of California; (3) the claims asserted against Defendants Cluck, Barnhart, Sandoval, and two Doe Defendant supervisors are barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (4) the claims against Cluck, Barnhart, and Sandoval are barred by the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Denham did not exhaust his administrative remedies; and (5) he fails to state a claim against Shaffer. (See generally Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 126)

1. Defendants Shaffer, Two Unknown Salinas Valley Prison Officials, and the State of California

According to Defendants, "Plaintiff's Fourth Claim for Relief against new Defendant Shaffer, his Eighth Claim for Relief against new State Actor Defendants, Two Unknown Prison Officials, and his Ninth Claim for Relief against new Defendants California and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have nothing to do with the allegations or Defendants in the original complaint and therefore cannot be joined in this lawsuit." (Resp. in Opp'n 4, ECF No. 126)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2)(A) permits joinder of defendants where the right to relief asserted against them arises "out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences." (emphasis added) Denham asserts that here "[t]he series of transactions and occurrences start[s] in San Diego at Donovan prison," (Reply in Supp. 5, ECF No. 127), whereby Defendants "manufactured reasons to ship [Denham] from prison to prison," (id. at 6), such that the same transaction or occurrence continued through Denham's imprisonment at Salinas Valley, where he experienced reckless indifference to his severe health problems, (id.). See also id. ("But for the retaliatory conduct that started at Donovan and carried over to Salinas Valley, Denham would not be in Soledad . . . . Rather, he would still be at Donovan where he would have access to some of the finest medical facilities in California.") And the series continues: "Denham sought to escape the treatment he was suffering at the hands of prison officials from San Diego to Soledad by exercising his rights under the international convention on prisoner transfer." (Id.) But California (allegedly) illegally denied Denham's transfer request. And so, according to Denham, that denial too arises out of the same series of transactions or occurrences that gave rise to this lawsuit.

Although Rule 20 encourages broad joinder, see League to Save Lake Tahoe v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 558 F.2d 914, 917 (9th Cir. 1977) ("[Rule 20] is to be construed liberally in order to promote trial convenience and to expedite the final determination of disputes, thereby preventing multiple lawsuits."), joinder must "'comport with the principles of fundamental fairness' [and may not] result in prejudice to either side," Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1298 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Desert Empire Bank v. Insurance Co. of N. Am., 623 F.2d 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980)). As such, the Court finds joinder inappropriate here. Though the Court appreciates the connection Denham draws between one event, the next, and the next, the chain of events must end somewhere. Even if the transaction or occurrence that first gave rise to this lawsuit-namely, the alleged retaliation-resulted in Denham's transfer whereby he suffered this series of unfortunate events, the Court finds those events sufficiently distinct from the retaliation that they do not ...

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