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Gregory v. County of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 14, 2014

PATRICIA A. GREGORY, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, WILLIAM D. GORE, SHERIFF, COUNSELOR JENNIFER MONTIEL, and DOES I through XX, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

The matter before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint ("Motion to Dismiss"), filed by all Defendants. (ECF No. 22).

I. Background

On April 29, 2013, Plaintiff Patricia A. Gregory ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint in this Court. (ECF No. 1). On October 15, 2013, the Court issued an Order granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. (ECF No. 16). On January 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, which is the operative pleading. (ECF No. 21).

A. Allegations of the First Amended Complaint

"On March 13, 2011, [Plaintiff], a family law attorney, was placed on inactive status and charged [in a California State Bar trial court] with misappropriation of $112, 000 in [client] trust funds. Plaintiff filed a motion for review based upon perjured testimony of the clients, prosecutorial misconduct and trial court error." Id. ¶ 14.

On September 29, 2011, Plaintiff was charged in San Diego County Superior Court with 11 felony charges alleging that Plaintiff embezzled funds from client accounts. Id. ¶ 15. On January 23, 2012, Plaintiff signed a plea bargain/no contest to one felony and two misdemeanor counts because Plaintiff "feared [her former] clients' false statements would be believed at a criminal trial, " "Plaintiff was intimidated by her attorney who constantly reminded her that she was facing 20 years in prison if the case went to trial, " and Plaintiff "was led to believe that she would not be incarcerated and she would be obligated to only pay $50 per month in restitution." Id. ¶ 19.

"On February 24, 2012, [Plaintiff] was sentenced to one year in [Las Colinas Women's Jail] based on the large amount of fees at issue." Id. ¶ 24. "Several days after [Plaintiff]'s incarceration [began], she began to request the use of the Las Colinas law library." Id. Plaintiff used the law library to "prepare appeals for the sentencing and state bar rulings [recommending that Plaintiff be disbarred]." Id. Plaintiff made four visits to the law library, over a ten-day period, each visit lasting approximately two hours. Id. "Then, without notice or reason, her requests for library time went unanswered." Id. Plaintiff submitted "Inmate Request forms" on March 12, 2012 and March 14, 2012, seeking law library access. Id. ¶¶ 25-26.

On April 1, 2012, Plaintiff received "a notice that the Law Library had been replaced by a legal research service." Id. ¶ 27. "The legal research service limited inmate requests to only ONE per calendar month and only FIVE questions could be asked each month." Id. "This service was woefully deficient...." Id.

On April 18, 2012 and April 30, 2012, Plaintiff sent handwritten letters to the Supreme Court of California "explaining that she was incarcerated and unable to comply with procedures, fearful that she would miss the deadline for submitting a petition for writ of review [of the State Bar proceeding]." Id. ¶ 30; see also id. ¶ 31. On April 24, 2012, May 4, 2012, and June 4, 2012, a deputy clerk with the Supreme Court of California wrote to Plaintiff stating that, "[t]o consider your petition, we require the petition to be in the proper form." Id ¶¶ 30, 32; see also id. ¶ 33. On June 15, 2012, Plaintiff sent another letter to the Supreme Court of California. Id. ¶ 34. "On June 28, 2012, the [Supreme Court] clerk acknowledged Plaintiff's letter of June 15, 2012, however the deadline for submitting a petition had pas[sed]." Id. "The lack of a law library, lack of research materials and lack of the tools needed to draft and make copies of a petition caused Plaintiff to miss the deadline for filing a writ of petition to the Supreme Court regarding the underlying ruling of her criminal conviction and restitution order." Id.

"Defendants... violated Plaintiff's First, Sixth and Fourteenth amendment rights causing actual injury to Plaintiff." Id. ¶ 8. "Defendants interfered with [Plaintiff's] ability to file an appeal of her sentencing and her appeal of the State Bar ruling because they shut her out from all access to legal information for over 60 days. [Plaintiff] was trying to collaterally attack the criminal judgment with a reversal of the State Bar ruling." Id. ¶ 34.

On August 10, 2012, Plaintiff was released from custody. Id. ¶ 3.

"Once Plaintiff was denied access to petition the Supreme Court of California for review of the State Bar's ruling, she was permanently disbarred." Id. ¶ 56. "The issue of outstanding unpaid legal fees was not adjudicated in the State Bar's ruling.... Once the State Bar's ruling became final, that ruling acted as res judicata as to the subsequent amount of criminal restitution ordered and supported the length of the criminal sentencing." Id. "Plaintiff never had the opportunity to petition the Supreme Court for a review of this administrative ruling yet constitutionally she is entitled to collaterally attack the criminal judgment. Plaintiff had a constitutional right to access the courts in order to properly address this crippling ruling, a right that was cruelly denied by the arbitrary acts of Defendants." Id.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, the First Amended Complaint seeks declaratory relief, compensatory damages in the amount of $250, 000 against each Defendant, and punitive damages in the amount of $250, 000 against each Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 57-59. The requested damages "represents the damages ...


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