United States District Court, E.D. California
TERRENCE L. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
HIGH DESERT STATE PRISON, et al, Defendants.
M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court
plaintiffs request for competency determination hearing
(Docs. 85, 87).
is requesting a competency determination under Rule 17(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the appointment of
a guardian ad litem. Rule 17(c)(2) provides that:
A minor or an incompetent person who does not have a duly
appointed representative may sue by a next friend or by a
guardian ad litem. The court must appoint a guardian ad litem
- or issue another appropriate order - to protect a minor or
incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.
California law, “‘a party is incompetent if he or
she lacks the capacity to understand the nature or
consequences of the proceeding, or is unable to assist
counsel in the preparation of the case.’”
AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Yeager, 143 F.Supp.3d 1042
(E.D. Cal. 2015) (quoting Golden Gate Way, LLC v.
Stewart, No. 09-04458, 2012 WL 4482053, at *2 (N.D. Cal.
Sept. 28, 2012). “A party proceeding pro se in a civil
lawsuit is entitled to a competency determination when
substantial evidence of incompetence is presented.”
Allen v. Calderon, 408 F.3d 1150, 1153 (9th Cir.
2005). A district court will abuse its discretion where it
fails to hold a competency hearing or otherwise consider the
claim of incompetence prior to dismissing an action where
there is sufficient evidence of a party’s incompetence.
See id. at 1153-54.
support of his motion, plaintiff submits a declaration and
some medical records. In his declaration, plaintiff states
that due to his mental and emotion state, it is hard for him
to focus and it takes him a long time to read, write and
process documents. He states he is under the care of
psychiatric doctors, and is part of the Enhanced Outpatient
Treatment Program (EOP). He has been diagnosed with
schizoaffective bipolar disorder and a learning disability.
He also states he has difficulties with the access to the
prison law library. The medical records plaintiff provides
indicate he has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder,
antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality
disorder. In August 2003, his GAF score was 50. In 2015,
plaintiff was considered a danger to himself due to attempted
suicide, and was ordered involuntarily administered
psychotropic medication for a year. The medication order,
however, was not renewed in July 2015, and has expired.
undersigned does not find the information plaintiff provides
to the court to be substantial evidence of his incompetence.
A diagnosis of schizoaffective bipolar disorder is not
equivalent to a determination that the individual is
incompetent. Plaintiff was involuntarily medicated as a
result of a risk of suicide, not because he was unable to
understand and cooperate with his treatment. In addition, the
involuntary medication order expired prior to
plaintiff’s request for a competency order, which does
not supports his claim of incompetence. Plaintiff has been an
active participant in this litigation, and his pleadings are
sufficiently clear to indicate he understands these
proceedings and is able to articulate his claims and
position. He understands enough about this action, for
instance, to request additional time for responding when
necessary. Indeed, even in his moving papers, plaintiff does
not argue he is unable to understand these proceedings, only
that he is a slow reader. It appears to the court that
plaintiff’s chief complaint is not that he is actually
incompetent, but that he has had insufficient access to the
prison law library in order to complete his opposition to the
defendants’ motion for summary judgment. This has been
an on going issue in this case, and plaintiff has received
several extensions of time to file his opposition. However,
frustration over access to the law library is not a showing
that plaintiff is incompetent and is unable to understand
these proceedings and prosecute this case.
oppose the motion for incompetency determination, arguing
plaintiff has not provided sufficient evidence of
incompetence. Defendants suggest the proper remedy would be
to provide plaintiff with additional time in which to respond
to the motion for summary judgment. The undersigned agrees.
However, the motion for summary judgment has been pending for
well over a year. Plaintiff has requested and received
several extensions of time to file his opposition. In fact,
the prior order granting plaintiff’s last request
informed plaintiff that further extensions would not likely
be granted, and the court requested defendants do what they
could to make sure plaintiff was not being blocked from
library use. It was after this last order that plaintiff
filed his request for a competency determination.
that background, and the additional information plaintiff
provided in his motions for competency hearing, the court
will allow another extension of time. However, the court is
not able or willing to prolong this case indefinitely.
Plaintiff is required to file his opposition to the pending
motion for summary judgment within 30 days of the date of
this order, or the court will address the motion without his
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff’s motion for competency determination
hearing (Docs. 85, 87) are denied; and
2. Plaintiffs opposition to defendants’ motion for
summary judgment shall be filed within 30 days of the ...