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Clowers v. Mims

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 5, 2015

TROY LEON CLOWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
MARGARET MIMS, et al., Defendants

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT

GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a Fresno County Jail inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

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). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, " none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A. 534 U.S. 506 , 512 (2002); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz , 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. 122 F.3d 1251 , 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, an inmate in the Fresno County Jail, brings this civil rights action against the Fresno County Sheriff, Fresno Police Chief Dyer, and Fresno Police Officer B. Freer. Plaintiff claims that he is being denied access to the law library while in jail, and also alleges conduct relating to his arrest.

A. Access to Courts

Because states must ensure indigent prisoners meaningful access to the courts, prison officials are required to provide either (1) adequate law libraries, or (2) adequate assistance from persons trained in the law. Bounds v. Smith , 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). Under prior law, Bounds was treated as establishing "core requirements, " such that a prisoner alleging deprivation of the Bounds minima need not allege actual injury to a state constitutional claim. Sands v. Lewis , 886 F.2d 1166, 1171 (9th Cir. 1989). Recent Supreme Court precedent abolishes such approach, however, providing that all inmate claims for interference with access to the court include "actual injury" as an element. Casey v. Lewis , 518 U.S. 343 (1996).

To establish a Bounds violation, prisoner must show that his prison's law library or legal assistance program frustrated or impeded his ability to pursue a nonfrivolous legal claim. Casey, supra , 518 U.S. 343, 347. The right of access does not require the State to "enable the prisoner to discover grievances" or to "litigate effectively once in court." The Casey court further limits the right of access to the courts, as follows:

Finally, we must observe that the injury requirement is not satisfied by just any type of frustrated legal claim... Bounds does not guarantee inmates the wherewithal to transform themselves into litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions to slip-and-fall claims. The tools it requires to be provided are those that the inmates need in order to attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Impairment of any other litigating capacity is simply one of the incidental (and perfectly constitutional) consequences of conviction and incarceration.

Casey , 518 U.S. at 346.

Here, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief. Although Plaintiff alleges that he is denied access to the law library and having difficulty in defending himself in his criminal case, there are no allegations or indications that Plaintiff is representing himself. Any concerns with Plaintiff's criminal defense should be addressed to his defense counsel. If Plaintiff is indeed representing himself (and has had such representation ordered by the court), he should clearly allege so. Further, ...


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