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Daniels v. Sherman

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 10, 2017

STU SHERMAN, Defendant.


         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Norman Gerald Daniels, III is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges he was denied access to the law library at his institution because Defendant Stu Sherman, the Warden of the institution, declined to make the accommodations Plaintiff requested to make the computers in the law library more accessible.

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on September 6, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint alleges facts that are substantially similar to those in a complaint Plaintiff filed on April 9, 2012 in Daniels v. Allison, Case No. 1:12-cv-00545-LJO-GSA, which was dismissed with prejudice on February 21, 2014. The facts are also similar to those in a second complaint Plaintiff filed on September 6, 2016 in Daniels v. Sherman, Case No. 1:16-cv-01313-EPG (the “1313 case”). The 1313 case was related to this case on October 21, 2016.

         On October 17, 2016, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause why this action should not be dismissed as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The Court provided Plaintiff two extensions of time to respond to the Order to Show Cause and his response was due on February 17, 2017. The Court provided Plaintiff with an explanation of the res judicata doctrine and also explained what Plaintiff should do to respond to the Order to Show Cause. (ECF No. 13.) Plaintiff did not file a response to the Order to Show Cause in this case, although he did file a response to a parallel order to show cause in the 1313 case and referenced this case therein. The Complaint is now before the Court for screening.

         On October 6, 2016, Plaintiff consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and no other parties have made an appearance. (ECF No. 8.) Therefore, pursuant to Appendix A(k)(4) of the Local Rules of the Eastern District of California, the undersigned shall conduct any and all proceedings in the case until such time as reassignment to a District Judge is required. Local Rule Appendix A(k)(4).


         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).

         A complaint is required to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to >state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

         “[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S.Ct. 285 (1976).


         A. Plaintiff's Complaint in Daniels v. Allison, Case No. 1:12-cv-00545-LJO-GSA (the “545 Case”)

         In an amended complaint filed on January 10, 2013, Plaintiff alleged that he was incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran, California (“SATF”). Plaintiff named, among other defendants, Kathleen Allison, the acting warden of SATF. He alleged that the computers in the prison law library had not been modified to make them accessible to disabled inmates. In particular, Plaintiff wanted the law library computers to use software that would magnify the text in Microsoft Word. Plaintiff alleged that the current magnifying device, an Optelec magnifier with dictation capabilities, was not an adequate accommodation for vision-impaired inmates. Plaintiff asked that, among other things, all inmate accessible computers be “loaded with the appropriate software as to allow access to visually impaired inmates, ” that all prison staff “be required to take se[n]sitivity training, ” that printer ink and paper be given to disabled inmates at their wholesale cost, and that computers be made available to disabled inmates during all non-emergency situations. Plaintiff also asked for ten million dollars in compensatory damages.

         On September 19, 2013, the assigned Magistrate Judge issued findings and recommendations recommending that the amended complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Magistrate Judge identified potential claims arising out of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and denial of access to courts. After analyzing each of these respective theories, however, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff had failed to state any claims and recommended that the case be dismissed. Plaintiff filed objections to the Findings and Recommendations. On February 21, 2014, the District Judge assigned to the case adopted the Findings and Recommendations in full, dismissed the case with prejudice, and found that the dismissal should constitute a strike under the “three-strikes” provision in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Final judgment was entered in the case shortly thereafter.

         B. The ...

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