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Coleman v. Virga

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 3, 2019

ROBERT COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
T. VIRGA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel, with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on the amended complaint filed September 5, 2017, as to defendants Curren, Haring, Hinrichs, Lynch, Virga, Walcott and Wright. (ECF No. 13.)

         Pending before the court is the motion to dismiss filed on behalf of defendants Haring, Hinrichs, Lynch, Walcott, Wright and Virga. (ECF No. 41.) Defendant Curren has not been served.

         In his opposition, plaintiff voluntarily dismisses defendants Curren, Wolcott and Wright. (ECF No. 47 at 12.) On May 10, 2019, the undersigned recommended dismissal of defendant Curren based on plaintiff's failure to provide documents for service of defendant Curren. (ECF No. 45.) Accordingly, the May 10, 2019 findings and recommendations are vacated. Defendants Curren, Wolcott and Wright are dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a).

         Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint for failing to state potentially colorable claims for relief, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants also move to dismiss plaintiff's claims on the grounds that they are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Finally, defendants move to dismiss the claims on the grounds of qualified immunity.

         For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned recommends that defendants' motion be granted.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         This action proceeds on the amended complaint filed September 5, 2017. (ECF No. 13.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 1, 2017, that contains several exhibits. (ECF No. 12.) In the September 5, 2017 amended complaint, plaintiff refers to the exhibits attached to the September 1, 2017 amended complaint. As discussed herein, some of the exhibits attached to the September 1, 2017 are incorporated by reference.

         The September 5, 2017 amended complaint identifies defendant Virga as the Warden of California State Prison-Sacramento (“CSP-Sac”), where the alleged deprivations occurred. (ECF No. 13 at 7.) The September 5, 2017 amended complaint identifies defendant Haring as a Facility Sergeant. (Id. at 7.) The September 5, 2017 amended complaint does not describe the duties of defendants Hinrich and Lynch. However, exhibits attached to the September 1, 2017 amended complaint, to which plaintiff refers, indicate that defendant Hinrichs is a Correctional Counselor and defendant Lynch is the Appeals Coordinator, Defendants Hinrich, Lynch and Virga

         Plaintiff alleges that he requires single cell housing based on mental illness. (ECF No. 13 at 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges that in 2004, prison psychologist Dias requested that plaintiff receive single cell status for mental health reasons. (Id. at 4.) Prison officials at California State Prison-Centinella denied this request. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the failure of prison staff to accommodate his need for special housing based on his mental health contributed to the deterioration of his mental health. (Id.) As a result of the deterioration of his mental health, plaintiff was placed in the Crisis Treatment Center (“CTC”) of various prisons for suicidal ideation/suicide attempts and was involuntarily medicated for three years. (Id. at 5.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in 2013, defendants Hinrich, Lynch and Virga denied his requests for single cell housing on the grounds that plaintiff did not have a history of in-cell physical or sexual violence against a cellmate. (Id. at 2-3.) In other words, defendants Hinrich, Lynch and Virga denied plaintiff's request for single cell housing without regard to plaintiff's mental health needs. Plaintiff alleges that these defendants failed to consider his mental health needs pursuant to a “practice or custom.” (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff appears to claim that this was a policy or practice of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), because he alleges that in 2016, CDCR Secretary Kernan issued a memorandum clarifying that prison staff were to consider, among other things, inmate mental health when considering whether to grant single cell status.[1] (Id. at 3; ECF No. 12 at 32-34.)

         Defendant Haring

         Plaintiff alleges that in September 2011, he was housed in a cell containing side-by-side beds pursuant to a policy carried out by defendant Virga requiring certain disabled inmates to be housed only in cells with side-by-side beds. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that side-by-side beds aggravate his mental illness. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that he expressed his housing concerns to defendant Haring. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that defendant Haring refused to move him from the cell even after plaintiff warned him that the housing arrangement would be harmful to his mental disorder. (Id. at 7-8.)

         III. Res Judicata

         “Res judicata challenges may properly be raised via motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).” Thompson v. Cty. of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245, 253 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Scott v. Kuhlmann, 746 F.2d 1377, 1378 (9th Cir. 1984).

         A. Legal Standards

         Generally, the preclusive effect of a prior judgment is referred to as res judicata. Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008); Robi v. Five Platters, Inc., 838 F.2d 318, 321 (9th Cir. 1988). Res judicata includes both claim preclusion and issue preclusion. Americana Fabrics, Inc. v. L & L Textiles, Inc., 754 F.2d 1524, 1529 (9th Cir. 1985); Robi, 838 F.2d at 321.

         Claim preclusion “bars litigation in a subsequent action of any claims that were raised or could have been raised in the prior action. . . . The doctrine is applicable whenever there is (1) an identity of claims, (2) a final judgment on the merits, and (3) identity or privity between parties.” Owens v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 713 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Ninth Circuit has identified four factors that should be considered by a court in determining whether successive lawsuits involve an identity of claims:

(1) whether rights or interests established in the prior judgment would be destroyed or impaired by prosecution of the second action;
(2) whether substantially the same evidence is presented in the two actions;
(3) whether the two suits involve infringement of the same right; and
(4) whether the two suits arise out of the same transactional nucleus of facts. See C.D. Anderson & Co. v. Lemos, 832 F.2d 1097, 1100 (9th Cir.1987); accord Headwaters Inc. v. United States Forest Serv., 399 F.3d 1047, 1052 (9th Cir. 2005); Littlejohn v. United States, 321 F.3d 915, 920 (9th Cir. 2003). “The central criterion in determining whether there is an identity of claims between the first and second adjudications is whether the two suits arise out of the same transactional nucleus of facts.” Owens, 244 F.3d at 714.

         Similarly, issue preclusion bars “successive litigation of an issue of fact or law actually litigated and resolved in a valid court determination essential to the prior judgment, whether or not the issue arises on the same or different claim.” New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 749 (2001). “A party invoking issue preclusion must show:

(1) the issue at stake is identical to an issue raised in the prior litigation;
(2) the issue was actually litigated in the prior litigation; and
(3) the determination of the issue in the prior litigation must have been a critical and necessary part of the judgment in the earlier action.” Littlejohn, 321 F.3d at 923. The “actually litigated” requirement is satisfied where the parties “have a full and fair opportunity to litigate the merits of the issue.” Id.

         B. Discussion

         Defendants argue that plaintiff raised the same claims he now raises against defendant Haring in Coleman v. CDCR, et al., 2:13-cv-1021 JAM KJN P. On March 6, 2017, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed 13-1021 with prejudice. (See 13-1021, ECF No. 131.) Defendants contend that a voluntary dismissal with prejudice is a final judgment on the merits. See Overby v. International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local Chapter Eight, 2018 WL 7200662 at *8-9 (D. Ore. 2018) (a dismissal with prejudice in federal court general constitutes a final judgment on the merits for ...


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