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Nehemiah Robinson v. R. Rosenthal

February 26, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge




On May 10, 2011, Plaintiff Nehemiah Robinson, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (ECF No. 8.) Plaintiff's Complaint is now before the Court for screening.


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, malicious," or 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Section 1983 "provides a cause of action for the 'deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).


The Complaint names the following individuals as Defendants: (1) R. Rosenthal, Senior Librarian, California State Prison, Corcoran (Corcoran); (2) B. Van Klaveren, Principal of Education Department, Corcoran; (3) S. Wartman, Academic Vice Principal, Corcoran; (4) V. Neri, Library Technical Assistant, Corcoran; (5) Ms. Klippenstein, Library Technical Assistant, Corcoran; (6) R. Lopez, Acting Warden, Corcoran; (7) M. Martel; (8) C. Pliler, Warden, California State Prison, Sacramento (Sacramento); and (9) S. Kernan, Undersecretary of Operations, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Plaintiff alleges the following:

The CDCR has a grievance system for prisoners seeking to challenge their treatment or conditions of confinement. An inmate must first seek informal relief by filing his grievance with a staff member who provides a written response. If the inmate is dissatisfied with the response he may pursue successive levels of formal review. (Compl. at 7, 8.) Plaintiff has filed many inmate grievances and appeals and very seldom receives a response. (Id. at 8, 9.) No copies or receipts are provided to an inmate, so prison officials, frequent subjects of complaints, can destroy them with impunity. (Id. at 9, 10.) Defendants have intentionally misplaced or destroyed inmate appeals. (Id. at 8.)

Plaintiff is housed with the general population in the 3A facility at Corcoran. The 3A law library has computer and print resources; however, the print collection is not maintained by staff and is not accessible to inmates. The 3A facility has been on modified program or lockdown since May 14, 2006 as a result of failed attempts to peacefully integrate various prison groups. (Id. at 11, 12.) Physical access to the law library is denied during modified program or lockdown. Inmates are allowed to request materials in a program called paging. Plaintiff has submitted more than thirty requests for legal materials and received no response. Library staff do not visit units as required by prison policy. Under these conditions Plaintiff can not "make legal copies, get legal supplies, research case law or have access to the courts in any way." (Id. at 12.)

Plaintiff's access to the library's resources are hampered even when there is no lockdown or modified program in effect. Defendant Rosenthal has caused the entire library system at Corcoran to fall into disarray. Rosenthal has mental problems and disabilities that leave him unable to carry out his duties as the Senior Librarian. The Defendants are aware of Rosenthal's incompetence, but have failed to correct the situation. (Id. at 16.)

The Defendants are aware that the print materials and paging system are constitutionally inadequate. (Id. at 17.) The Defendants have generally failed to provide Plaintiff with access to an adequate law library or assistance from persons trained in the law and have thus violated his right to access the courts. (Id. at 12.) More specifically, Plaintiff was denied the right to access the courts while prosecuting this action. Plaintiff failed to meet multiple filing deadlines even though he mailed his documents well in advance of those deadlines. (Id. at 14.) "Plaintiff advised ...

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