United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.
Rahsaan Coleman, an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison, filed this pro se prisoner civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
This action asserts claims based on Mr. Coleman's inability to access the law library with sufficient frequency when he had an upcoming deadline in the Ninth Circuit. To analyze the claims in the present action, it is necessary to recount a portion of Mr. Coleman's litigation history.
A. Events Leading Up To This Action
Mr. Coleman was convicted in 1998 in Contra Costa County Superior Court of voluntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a felon, with sentence enhancements. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison, plus a consecutive nine-year prison term. His conviction was affirmed, and various state habeas petitions were denied. See Coleman v. McGrath , No. C 04-4069 PJH, Docket # 27-1 at 6.
Mr. Coleman filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in 2004. See Coleman v. McGrath , No. C 04-4069 PJH, Docket # 1. One of the grounds upon which relief was sought was that his conviction was invalid because a state municipal court judge and superior court judge had failed to sign, record and file their oaths of office within the time prescribed by law. See Coleman v. McGrath , No. C 04-4069 PJH, Docket # 24 at 2. The district court dismissed the claim because it presented only a question of state law for which federal habeas relief was not available. Id. Eventually, the district court denied the habeas petition and denied a certificate of appealability in 2012. Coleman v. McGrath , No. C 04-4069 PJH, Docket # 53. The Ninth Circuit also denied a certificate of appealability, Coleman v. McGrath , Ninth Cir. No. 12-15767, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari in Coleman v. Lewis , U.S. S.Ct. No. 12-10601.
In late 2012, Mr. Coleman filed a civil rights action against two state court judges who had presided over portions of his criminal trial, and alleged that they had failed to sign, record and file their oaths of office within the time prescribed by law. See Coleman v. Brown , No. C 12-6291 EMC, Docket # 1. This Court dismissed the complaint as barred by the rule in Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477 (1994). See Coleman v. Brown , No. C 12-6291 EMC, Docket # 5. In its order of dismissal, the Court described the Heck rule and then explained why it barred Mr. Coleman's complaint.
Mr. Coleman claims that defendants violated his rights by causing his conviction in an allegedly unlawful trial - unlawful because defendants' oaths of office were defective. Although he alleges at one point that his complaint "is not challenging the criminal conviction or sentence, " he alleges in the next breath that he is "challenging the established state procedure itself which destroyed his rights to a fair trial." Docket # 1-1, p. 15. He requests that the Court issue an order vacating his sentence and conviction, and order a new trial for him. Id. at 18. Mr. Coleman's claims are squarely within the Heck rule because success on them would call into question the validity of his conviction and sentence from the Contra Costa County Superior Court. The complaint must be dismissed.
Id. at 2-3. The Court also explained that the "exclusive method for a state prisoner to challenge his state court conviction or sentence in federal court is by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, " noted that Mr. Coleman had already filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus, and explained that Ninth Circuit permission was necessary for him to file a second or successive habeas petition. Id. at 3.
Mr. Coleman filed a notice of appeal from the dismissal of Coleman v. Brown , No. C 12-6291. The Ninth Circuit referred the matter to this court to determine whether in forma pauperis status should continue for plaintiff on appeal or whether the appeal was frivolous or taken in bad faith. This Court determined that the appeal was frivolous and revoked Mr. Coleman's in forma pauperis status. Coleman v. Brown , No. C 12-6291 EMC, Docket # 10.
Meanwhile, things were happening in the appellate court. The Ninth Circuit had docketed the appeal, and sent out to Mr. Coleman a "case opening packet" and "docketing letter" for a pro se appeal on May 9, 2013. Coleman v. Brown , Ninth Cir. No. 13-15949, Docket # 1. The documents included directions for Mr. Coleman to file his opening brief by August 14, 2013, and explained how to seek an extension of deadlines. See Coleman v. Brown , Ninth Cir. No. 13-15949, Docket # 1-1 at 8 and Docket # 1-2 at 2. Mr. Coleman mailed his opening brief to the appellate court on July 23, 2013; the brief was received at the Ninth Circuit on July 30, 2013. Coleman v. Brown , Ninth Cir. No. 13-15949, Docket # 7-1 at 1 and # 7-2 at 37. On August 28, 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued an order in which it stated: "The district court has certified that this appeal is frivolous and has revoked appellant's in forma pauperis status. We deny appellant's motion to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal because we also find the appeal is frivolous." Coleman v. Brown , Ninth Cir. No. 13-15949, Docket # 8. The Ninth Circuit further ordered that, if Mr. Coleman "wishe[d] to pursue this appeal despite the court's finding that is it frivolous, " he had to pay the $455.00 filing fee within 21 days or the action would be dismissed for failure to prosecute. Id. When Mr. ...