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Hart v. Young

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 3, 2017

RICHARD HART, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, Richard Hart, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Therein, plaintiff asserts an access-to-courts claim under the First Amendment and a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. The gist of plaintiff's claims is that defendants violated his federal rights by discontinuing a leather-craft program and deliberately thwarting his appeals challenging its discontinuation.

         Defendants move to dismiss. Defendants argue that plaintiff did not have a liberty or property interest in the leather-craft program or in a particular grievance procedure. Further, defendants argue that plaintiff has not shown actual injury due to the allegedly improper processing of his grievances.

         Plaintiff has inadequately alleged that he had a liberty or property interest in the leather-craft program. Furthermore, plaintiff has inadequately alleged that defendants interfered with his ability to appeal the program's discontinuation. Accordingly, as discussed below, defendants' motion to dismiss should be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff is an inmate at California State Prison, Solano (“SOL”). (Compl. at 2 (ECF No. 1).) Defendant Young is the associate warden at SOL. (Id.) Defendant Cervantes is the appeals coordinator at SOL. (Id.)

         In late 2012, Young visited the “inmate handicraft leather program” at SOL's gymnasium, where plaintiff was present. (Id. at 3.) Young announced that she hated leather and that the tools in the gym made her cringe every time she saw them. (Id.) Plaintiff told Young that the program had been going on for many years and that there had been “no incidents of any kind . . . regarding the tools.” (Id.) Young responded, “The potential is still there.” (Id.) Shortly thereafter, Young persuaded the administration at SOL to cancel the program. (Id. at 4.)

         In November 2012, the handicraft manager, Mr. Balanon, informed plaintiff that the program had been discontinued. (Id.) Mr. Balanon also informed plaintiff that Associate Warden Wamble told him that “any appeals by the inmates should be directed directly to [Wamble], ” not Young. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed an informal appeal “known as a Form 22” with Wamble. (Id.) Thereby, plaintiff sought to find out whether Wamble had told Balanon that appeals had to be filed with Wamble. (Id.) Wamble never responded to the informal appeal.

         “After multiple attempts to contact . . . Wamble on this issue, ” plaintiff filed a formal appeal, or Form 602. (Id.) Therein, plaintiff asked “staff to answer [his] informal . . . request.” (Id.)

         After plaintiff filed the formal appeal, he had “a series of back and forth communications, rejections, and cancellation[s]” with defendant Cervantes. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Cervantes engaged in this back-and-forth to “harass, dissuade, and delay [his] attempts at appealing the arbitrary attack on the leathercraft program.” (Id.) Further, plaintiff alleges that Cervantes sought to “deflect responsibility” for the failure of SOL officials to comply with appeals procedures. (See id.) During this process, plaintiff frequently referenced his self-styled “Sixth Amendment Right to Access the Courts.” (Id.)

         Four months after plaintiff filed “his initial appeals, ” Wamble “issued a memorandum” responding to plaintiff's communications. (Id.) Apparently, this memorandum suggested alternatives to the leather-craft program. (See id. at 4-5.) Cervantes allowed plaintiff to treat this memorandum as an answer to “his appeal[s] from four months prior.” (Id. at 5.)

         “Plaintiff took this instruction and filed an appeal.” (Id.) “The . . . appeal was heard at the First Formal Level[] and the Second Formal Level . . . .” (Id.) The appeals examiners cited “budgetary concerns and space limitations” to justify the discontinuation of the leather-craft program. (Id.) However, throughout the appeals process, Young used the gym for “self-help programs.” (Id.) Ultimately, Young was “unsuccessful at gaining the space for her own personal agendas, and . . . the space is now being used to store toilet paper and soap.” (Id.)

         When plaintiff filed his appeal “to the Third Level of Review, the appeal was cancelled due to time constraints.” (Id.) “Plaintiff filed an appeal of the cancellation, and that too was denied.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Young “used her position of authority, and her personal and professional relationships with other administrative staff at [SOL], to pursue her personal agendas.” (Id.) Further, plaintiff alleges that “those same agents intentionally used their own positions of authority to deny plaintiff his right of access to the court.” (Id.) Additionally, plaintiff alleges that “he had a liberty interest in the handicraft leather program that was protected.” (Id.) According to plaintiff, Young's concern that the tools created a security issue was “irrational.” (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges ...

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