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Garcia v. Lacey

California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

November 12, 2014

GUILLERMO GARCIA, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
B.A. LACEY et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Tuolumne County No. CV57059. Donald Segerstrom, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Guillermo Garcia, in pro. per., for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Jonathan L. Wolff, Misha D. Igra and Joanna B. Hood, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendants and Respondents.

OPINION

Kane, J.

Appellant Guillermo Garcia, a California prison inmate, filed a pro se civil lawsuit against a prison warden and other correctional staff (including respondents B.A. Lacey, J. Kavanaugh, P. Quinn, H. Lackner, D. Foston, M. Baldwin, F. Chavez, D. Wattle, J. Tennison, and C. Koenig).[1] In response to the lawsuit, respondents filed a motion under the provisions of the vexatious litigant law (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 391–319.8)[2] seeking to have appellant declared a vexatious litigant, require him to post security and subject him to a prefiling order. The trial court granted all of the relief sought in respondents’ motion and, when appellant failed to furnish security, the trial court dismissed appellant’s action. Appellant now appeals from the judgment of dismissal. In his appeal, appellant asserts the trial court erred in determining that he was a vexatious litigant. We agree with appellant and, accordingly, reverse the judgment below.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On October 31, 2011, appellant filed his civil complaint against respondents in Tuolumne County Superior Court case No. CV–57059. Appellant

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checked the boxes on the form pleading for general negligence and intentional tort, but no supporting facts were alleged. Nearly one month later, without leave of the court, appellant filed a document that purported to be the attachments to the complaint.[3] The allegations contained in the attachments included that respondents allegedly entered appellant’s prison cell on several occasions and confiscated or damaged his personal property without cause (such as his typewriter, reading glasses, shoes and magazines), made false “write ups” against appellant to justify such actions, disclosed that appellant was convicted of child molestation, and/or allowed, failed to prevent, concealed or condoned such harassing conduct, and/or otherwise had a conspiratorial role in the above incidents by failing to properly process appellant’s grievances.

On June 28, 2012, respondents filed their motion to declare appellant a vexatious litigant and for other relief under the vexatious litigant law. In connection with the motion, respondents filed a request for judicial notice of court records, which allegedly reflected that appellant had brought and lost nine pro se civil litigations within the preceding seven-year period. In regard to their request that appellant be required to furnish security, respondents argued that no reasonable probability existed for appellant’s causes of action to succeed on the merits because, among other things, there was a failure to adequately comply with the government claims statute (Gov. Code, § 900 et seq.) with respect to all but two of the named respondents and, furthermore, appellant’s complaint was allegedly vague, conclusory and generally insufficient to state a cause of action.

On August 10, 2012, appellant filed opposition to respondents’ motion, claiming, among other things, that respondents failed to demonstrate that he was a vexatious litigant because several of the prior cases alluded to by respondents did not qualify as “litigations” that were “finally determined adversely” against appellant for purposes of the vexatious litigant law. (§ 391, subd. (b)(1).) Appellant also objected to the request that security be furnished, arguing that respondents had failed to establish that his claims had no reasonable probability of success.

Following the hearing of the motion on August 16, 2012, the trial court issued its order granting respondents’ motion. The trial court found that appellant was a vexatious litigant under section 391, subdivision (b)(1), because, according to the court’s order, appellant brought five or more unsuccessful litigations in propria persona in the preceding seven years. The trial court further held that appellant ...


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