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Gonzales v. Lopez

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 10, 2013

O. LOPEZ, et. al., Defendants.


BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Gonzales ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the instant action in Kings County Superior Court on March 4, 2011. (ECF No. 1, p. 2.) Those defendants served with the complaint removed the action to this court on October 28, 2011. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's complaint is now before the Court for screening.

I. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at California State Prison, Corcoran where the alleged events occurred. Plaintiff names the following individuals as defendants: O. Lopez, B. Buenafe (erroneously sued as Brandy Burf aka Saunders), G. Esquivel (erroneously sued as Esquilel), J. Leal, K. Matta, T. Campbell (erroneously sued as Cano), W. Seuell (erroneously sued as Seull), K. Price, G. Hernandez, A. Encinas, R. Hernandez, and E. Magallanes.

Plaintiff alleges as follows: On October 26, 2010, Plaintiff attempted to obtain photo copies of three novels and ten ink drawing as exhibits. Plaintiff tried to mail his original art to use in his civil case, but Defendants Lopez and Saunders/Burf prevented Plaintiff from mailing the package. These defendants allegedly had motive to steal Plaintiff's art as retaliation because Defendant Lopez had accused Plaintiff of assault and Plaintiff had just filed a lawsuit against Defendant Saunders. (ECF No. 1, p. 7.)

Defendants Hernandez, Esquivel and Leal denied Plaintiff the opportunity to correspond with family and friends and organizations that sell or buy his art. Defendants are stopping Plaintiff from doing business and are giving his art to other inmates. On November 14, 2010, Defendant Hernandez stole three drawings. On September 22, 2010, Defendant Leal stole 7 drawings and 2 books and Defendant Esquivel stole one book and two drawings. Plaintiff alleges that these same kinds of mailings have been stolen repeatedly since he has been in his cell at Corcoran State Prison. Plaintiff claims that he is a professional artist. (ECF No. 1, p. 8.)

Plaintiff further alleges that on December 3, 2010, Defendant R. Cortez told the property officer to steal Plaintiff's package. Property officer John Doe was delivering mail items that day. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant K. Matta opened his legal mail in retaliation for filing lawsuits against staff and that Defendant Hernandez stole 20 stamps on November 14, 2010. (ECF No. 1, pp. 8-9.) On December 3, 2010, Defendant C. Hernandez sent Plaintiff's legal mail addressed to the Kings County Superior Court for filing a claim to a different inmate. On February 6, 2011, Plaintiff attempted to mail two drawings and a card, but Officer Nunez tore the envelope in half. (ECF No. 1, p. 10.)

Plaintiff claims that these defendants are retaliating against him for filing lawsuits. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with declaratory and injunctive relief.

III. Discussion

Plaintiff alleges that his rights have been violated by destruction and confiscation of his mail and artwork by officers at Corcoran State Prison between October 2010 and February 2011 in retaliation for pursuing lawsuits against correctional staff. These claims are duplicative of Plaintiff's claims in Gonzales v. J. Leal, et al., 1:10-cv-02154-AWI-MJS and are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. See Arizona v. California , 530 U.S. 392, 412, 120 S.Ct. 2304, 147 L.Ed.2d 374 (2000) (district court has the power to dismiss an action sua sponte on res judicata grounds); McClain v. Apodaca , 793 F.2d 1031, 1032-33 (9th Cir.1986) (federal court may examine res judicata effect of prior judgment sua sponte). Res judicata, or claim preclusion, prohibits lawsuits on "any claims that were raised or could have been raised" in a prior action. Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc. , 244 F.3d 708, 713 (9th Cir. 2001). Res judicata applies when there is "(1) an identity of claims; (2) a final judgment on the merits; and (3) identity or privity between parties." Id.

A. Identity of Claims

"Whether two events are part of the same transaction or series depends on whether they are related to the same set of facts and whether they could conveniently be tried together." Western Sys., Inc. v. Ulloa , 958 F.2d 864, 871 (9th Cir. 1992). In ...

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