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Johnson v. Gonzalez

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 22, 2017

LACEDRIC W. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ISAAC GONZALEZ, et al., Defendants.

         OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE IN THIRTY DAYS

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING THAT DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR COSTS AND STAY BE DENIED (ECF No. 23)

         Plaintiff LaCedric W. Johnson is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The case is currently proceeding on the Second Amended Complaint (the “SAC”) filed by Plaintiff on April 22, 2016. (ECF No. 13.) The SAC names Defendants Isaac Gonzalez and A. Martinez and alleges federal and state claims for denial of access to courts in violation of the First Amendment. In particular, the SAC alleges that the Defendants searched Plaintiff's cell on September 18, 2012 and destroyed documents related to several different state and federal cases that Plaintiff was litigating at the time.

         On December 12, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion for Costs and Request for Stay under Rule 41(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants contend that Plaintiff previously filed identical claims in state court, voluntarily dismissed the state case, and proceeded to file the present case in federal court. Defendants ask the Court to require Plaintiff to pay the costs they incurred in litigating the state case and to place a stay on the present case until those costs are paid.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in Fresno County Superior Court. (Defendants' Request for Judicial Notice, Exh. A, ECF No. 24 (the “State Complaint”).) The State Complaint named correctional officers I. Gonzalez and A. Martinez as defendants and alleged that on September 18, 2012, both defendants searched his property and confiscated or destroyed property relating to “Ninth Circuit Case No. 11-16994, 12-16655, U.S.D.C. Eastern District of California Case No. 2:08-CV-1609-KJM-KJN, U.S.D.C. Northern District of California Case No. 12-0720 JST, and a state appeal SC36915, A136223, S204477.” (State Complaint ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleged two causes of action against defendants: one for conversion and one for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         The State Complaint was served and the defendants filed a demurrer. On December 12, 2013, the demurrer was sustained on the IIED claim but overruled on the conversion claim.

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 29, 2014, he was subjected to a strip search by a group of correctional officers in the shower. Defendants Gonzalez and Martinez were not among the correctional officers. Plaintiff alleges that he was then pepper-sprayed and beaten by the correctional officers, that he was hog-tied, and that the officers placed a hood over his head to prevent decontamination from the pepper-spray. This conduct is the subject of a separate complaint that Plaintiff filed in Johnson v. Frauenheim et al., Case No. 1:14-cv-01601-LJO-SKO on October 10, 2014.[1] Plaintiff initiated at least one of the staff complaints in the CDCR appeals process for Johnson v. Frauenheim on March 20, 2014.

         On April 23, 2014, Fresno County Superior Court dismissed the State Complaint after Plaintiff filed a request to voluntarily dismiss the action. Plaintiff then filed his initial complaint in this case on July 28, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) His complaint in the current case alleges that on September 18, 2012, Defendants I. Gonzalez and A. Martinez searched his property and confiscated or destroyed documents relating to several court cases.

         II. REQUESTS FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE

         Both parties have requested that the Court take judicial notice of a variety of documents. Defendants ask the Court to take judicial notice of the State Complaint, the order regarding the demurrer to the State Complaint, and the order granting voluntary dismissal of the State Complaint. Plaintiff asks the Court to take judicial notice of the complaint he filed in Johnson v. Frauenheim, et al., case no. 1:14-cv-01601-LJO-SKO. Neither party objects to the requests for judicial notice and all the records for which notice is sought are public court records maintained by either the U.S. District Court or Fresno County Superior Court.

         Courts may take judicial notice of facts “not subject to reasonable dispute” when they are either: “(1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201. The Court takes judicial notice of the requested documents. U.S. v. Corinthian Colls., 655 F.3d 984, 999 (9th Cir. 2011) (courts may “take judicial notice of ‘matters of public record'”). The Court notes, however, that its ability to take judicial notice of these records is limited to notice of the existence of these records and the proceedings described therein-the Court cannot judicially notice disputed facts within those documents. For example, the Court may take judicial notice of the facts that Plaintiff filed complaints in Johnson v. Frauenheim and in the Fresno County Superior Court case, but may not assume the truth of any of the facts alleged in those complaints. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 690 (9th Cir. 2001) (“when a court takes judicial notice of another court's opinion, it may do so ‘not for the truth of the facts recited therein, but for the existence of the opinion, which is not subject to reasonable dispute over its authenticity'”), quoting S. Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Wah Kwong Shipping Group Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426-27 (3d Cir. 1999).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Under Rule 41(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff may be required to pay the costs incurred in prior litigation against the same defendants:

If a plaintiff who previously dismissed an action in any court files an action based on or including the same claim against ...

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