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Langston v. Swarthout

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 27, 2014

WALTER SHANE LANGSTON, Petitioner,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, Respondent.

ORDER

CAROLYN K. DELANEY, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge for all purposes. ECF Nos. 4, 14; see 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Local Rule 305(a). Pursuant to this court's order dated September 26, 2013, this case is stayed pending resolution of petitioner's unexhausted claims in state court. ECF No. 32.

Presently pending before the court are the following motions: (1) petitioner's January 9, 2014 "motion of injunction relief to compel for the department of correction to follow court order" (ECF No. 42); (2) petitioner's January 13, 2014 "injunction relief supplement motion" (ECF No. 43); and (3) petitioner's February 3, 2014 motion for reconsideration of the court's September 26, 2013 order staying this action (ECF No. 48). For the reasons discussed below, petitioner's motions for injunctive relief will be denied, and petitioner's motion for reconsideration will be granted.

I. Motions for Injunctive Relief

On January 9, 2014, petitioner filed a document styled as a "motion of injunction relief to compel for the department of correction to follow court order" in which petitioner requests an order that he receive an "Olsen Review." ECF No 42 at 2. Petitioner also indicates that he has "repeatedly requested the staff members to follow the court order... dated September 26, 2013, an order giving in all confidence, that petitioner would be allowed to have access to the law library and access to his legal documents." Id. at 1-2. In his January 13, 2014 "supplement motion, " petitioner indicates that his "request for interviews for legal material" have been denied and requests that "this court... order that retaliation stop" because "petitioner cannot meet the September 26, 2013 deadline imposed by the court." ECF No. 43. It appears from petitioner's motions that petitioner is unable to access either or both the law library and his legal materials pertaining to this action. The court ordered respondent to respond to petitioner's arguments. ECF No. 44. On February 5, 2014, respondent timely opposed petitioner's motion to compel (ECF No. 47) and on February 19, 2014, petitioner replied thereto (ECF No. 49). Petitioner's requests and respondent's oppositions will be addressed in turn below.

A. Olsen Review

With regard to petitioner's request for an order that he receive an Olsen review, petitioner indicates that he is unable to support his statements to the court regarding his medical condition without an Olsen review. ECF No. 42 at 2. Petitioner is entitled under state law to view any non-confidential portions of his administrative file, access known in the California prison system as an "Olsen review." Here, petitioner does not indicate that he has sought an Olsen review of his medical file using prison procedures. Thus, petitioner's request will be denied. Petitioner should not file a motion for an Olsen review until he avails himself of and exhausts the ordinary procedures for accessing his medical file and has in fact been denied.

B. Access to Law Library

Petitioner also moves the court for an order requiring California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to grant him access to the law library and access to his legal documents. ECF Nos. 42, 43. Such a request is, in effect, a request for injunctive relief. Respondent opposes petitioner's motion, arguing that petitioner "should seek relief through administrative avenues within the Department of Corrections or a civil action under U.S.C. § 1983." ECF No. 47 at 2.

As a threshold matter, the court notes that, contrary to petitioner's assertion, nothing in the court's September 26, 2013 order indicates a ruling that petitioner be allowed access to the law library and his legal documents. See ECF No. 42 at 1-2. Likewise, the September 26, 2013 order does not indicate a specific deadline by which petitioner must complete his exhaustion process in state court. Rather, the September 26, 2013 order states that "the court will not indefinitely hold the petition in abeyance, " and "[ f ] ollowing final action by the state courts, petitioner will be allowed thirty days within which to notify the court that he has completed his exhaustion process in state court." ECF No. 32 at 12 (emphasis added).

Here, petitioner's motions include allegations against parties who are not named in this action. To the extent petitioner seeks injunctive relief against the California Department of Corrections and Officer L. Perez, the court is unable to issue an order against individuals who are not parties to an action pending before it. See Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc. , 395 U.S. 100, 112 (1969).

A preliminary injunction should not issue unless necessary to prevent threatened injury that would impair the court's ability to grant effective relief in a pending action. "A preliminary injunction... is not a preliminary adjudication on the merits but rather a device for preserving the status quo and preventing the irreparable loss of rights before judgment." Sierra On-Line, Inc. v. Phoenix Software, Inc. , 739 F.2d 1415, 1422 (9th Cir. 1984). A preliminary injunction represents the exercise of a far reaching power not to be indulged except in a case clearly warranting it. Dymo Indus. v. Tapeprinter, Inc. , 326 F.2d 141, 143 (9th Cir. 1964). "The proper legal standard for preliminary injunctive relief requires a party to demonstrate that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.'" Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky , 586 F.3d 1109, 1127 (9th Cir.2009), quoting Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc. , 555 U.S. 7 (2008). In cases brought by prisoners involving conditions of confinement, any preliminary injunction "must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct the harm." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2).

An inmate has a constitutionally protected right of meaningful access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith , 430 U.S. 817, 820-21 (1977). However, there is no freestanding constitutional right to law library access for prisoners. See Lewis v. Casey , 518 U.S. 343, 350-51 (1996). Instead, law library access serves as one means of ensuring the constitutional right of access to the courts. See id. at 351. "[T]he Constitution does not guarantee a prisoner unlimited access to a law library. Prison officials of necessity must regulate the time, manner, and place in which library facilities are used." Linquist v. Idaho State Bd. of Corrections , 776 F.2d 851, 858 (9th Cir. 1985). A prisoner claiming that his right of access to the courts has been (or will be) violated due to inadequate library access must show that: 1) access was (or will be) so limited as to be unreasonable, and 2) the inadequate access caused (or will cause) actual injury. Vandelft v. Moses , 31 F.3d 794, 797 (9th Cir. 1994).

A prisoner cannot make conclusory declarations of injury in alleging his access to the courts has been impeded. That is, it is not enough for an inmate to show some sort of denial of access and leave it at that. He must also show "actual injury" from the denial or delay of ...


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