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Goods v. McCumber

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 9, 2014

JEFFERY McCUMBER, et al., Defendants

Gregory Goods, Plaintiff, Pro se, REPRESA, CA.



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has applied to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff's complaint is presently before the court. After careful review, for the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.

I. Background

On November 4, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations by prison officials. (ECF No. 1.) According to the complaint, plaintiff's deadline for submitting a habeas corpus petition to the California Supreme Court was November 25, 2014. He alleges therein that prison officials repeatedly refused to allow him to make copies longer than 50 pages, and also refused to let him to copy his petition in piecemeal increments. As a result, plaintiff claimed an inability to make sufficient copies of his petition for timely filing with the state Supreme Court. The complaint sought injunctive relief and unspecified monetary damages.

Together with his complaint, plaintiff filed a motion for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the defendants " from denying plaintiff copying of Habeas Corpus writ of criminal conviction to further his legal proceedings." (ECF No. 3 at 2.) According to the moving papers, plaintiff's petition consisted of 169 pages of written documents and 200 pages of exhibits. (Id.) In a supporting declaration, plaintiff asserted that he provided staff with a written explanation of the need to make copies greater than 50 pages in length, to no avail. (ECF No. 3 at 6.)

On November 6, 2014, the undersigned issued findings and recommendations recommending, in pertinent part, that defendants be ordered to provide plaintiff with sufficient copies of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus to make a timely and complete submission with the California Supreme Court. (ECF No. 5.) On November 14, 2014, these findings and recommendations were adopted in full by the Hon. Troy L. Nunley. (ECF No. 6.) That same day, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Monica N. Anderson filed a statement with the court providing that " the Defendants made two copies of the Plaintiff's petition and accompanying exhibits, " and furnished him with these copies on November 10, 2014. (ECF No. 7.)

II. Legal Standard

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally " frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740, 96 S.Ct. 1848, 48 L.Ed.2d 338 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 89 S.Ct. 1843, 23 L.Ed.2d 404 (1969).

III. Analysis

Prisoners have a constitutionally-protected right of meaningful access to the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 52 L.Ed.2d 72 (1977). Copier access serves as a means of ensuring this right. See Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1089 (9th Cir. 1994) (" [I]t does not require sophisticated 'legal scholarship' to know that a plaintiff's access to the courts could be hindered seriously by an inability to make multiple, accurate copies of legal documents."); Gluth v. Kangas, 951 F.2d 1504, 1510 (9th Cir. 1991) (" Litigation necessarily requires some means of accurate duplication because the court and the parties need to refer to the same documents. Photocopying is a reasonable means of providing the necessary copies.").

A prisoner claiming that his right of access to the courts has been violated must show, first, that the limitations on access were unreasonable, and second, that inadequate access caused actual injury. Vandelft v. Moses, 31 F.3d 794, 797 (9th Cir. 1994). The Supreme Court has defined " actual injury" as " actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing ...

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