United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a state prisoner without counsel, brings this civil rights
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various California
laws. Defendant Williams seeks dismissal of plaintiff's
state-law claims against her. ECF No. 21. Defendant Blackwell
seeks dismissal of all claims against her. Id. For
the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss must be
granted in part and denied in part.
alleges that, on February 17, 2016, he submitted various case
documents in an active federal civil rights case to prison
officials to be mailed to Ellis Law Group, a local law firm,
because he was inquiring whether the managing partner of the
firm had any interest in taking over the case. ECF No. 10 at
4. He further claims that defendant Williams, the mailroom
supervisor at CSP-Solano, and some as-yet unidentified
defendants, opened the envelope containing the documents,
removed some, urinated on the rest, and then sent them to the
law office. Id. at 5.
motion for extension of time filed in that federal case,
plaintiff revealed that his brother was an employee of Ellis
Law Group. Id. The state deputy attorney general
representing defendants in the case then contacted defendant
Blackwell, a lieutenant at CSP-Solano, to tell her that
plaintiff had violated the regulations concerning
confidential mail. Id.
March 18, 2016, Blackwell called plaintiff into her office
and told him he could no longer correspond confidentially
with Ellis Law Group because he was not represented by the
firm. Id. at 5-6. She told plaintiff that the state
attorney had informed her that plaintiff was a
“frequent filer” of lawsuits against prison
employees. Id. at 5. Plaintiff responded that his
actions complied with California Code of Regulations, title
15, § 1341. Id. Blackwell allegedly
“threatened to draft a false rule violation report
against plaintiff if he continued to correspond with
Ellis.” Id. at 6. Blackwell then allegedly
returned to plaintiff a piece of mail that was “legal
in nature, ” which he had attempted to confidentially
mail to Ellis Law Group. Id.
to the complaint, plaintiff's brother, a law student and
employee at Ellis Law Group, had been providing free
paralegal services to plaintiff, “such as research and
access to various court dockets and filings.”
Id. Plaintiff asserts that he had never mailed
anything other than legal documents in active cases to Ellis
Law Group. Id. Plaintiff claims that his
“litigating capacity was significantly impaired
by” Blackwell's refusal to allow him to send
confidential mail to Ellis Law Group. Id. at 7.
administrative appeal documents plaintiff has appended to his
complaint reveal that prison authorities determined that
plaintiff had been attempting to circumvent prison
regulations concerning confidential legal mail by sending
mail confidentially to his brother at the Ellis Law Group
even though the brother was not an attorney or a licensed
paralegal and the law firm did not represent plaintiff.
Id. at 35-36. An appeals reviewer contacted the
managing partner of the firm, Mark Ellis, who stated that
plaintiff's brother was not a paralegal, was not
providing legal services to plaintiff in connection with the
firm, and that no one at the firm had provided legal services
to plaintiff. Id.; id. at 46 (email from
Mark Ellis stating that “neither this firm nor any of
its staff including [plaintiff's brother] David are
providing or have ever provided formal legal advice or
services to [plaintiff] within the scope of an
alleges that Blackwell violated his First Amendment rights,
violated the Bane Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code
§ 52.1), and negligently inflicted emotional distress in
violation of California law. He alleges that Williams
intentionally inflicted emotional distress in violation of
California law, violated the Bane Act, and violated his First
Amendment rights. Defendants seek dismissal of all but the
First Amendment claim against Williams.
The Motion to Dismiss
seek dismissal of plaintiff's complaint under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A complaint may be
dismissed under that rule for “failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state
a claim, a plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). A claim has “facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard
is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but
it requires more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
purposes of dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
generally considers only allegations contained in the
pleadings, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters
properly subject to judicial notice, and construes all
well-pleaded material factual allegations in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Chubb Custom Ins. Co.
v. Space Sys./Loral, Inc., 710 F.3d 946, 956 (9th Cir.
2013); Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir.
under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on either: (1) lack of a
cognizable legal theory, or (2) insufficient facts under a
cognizable legal theory. Chubb Custom Ins. Co., 710
F.3d at 956. Dismissal also is appropriate if the complaint
alleges a fact that necessarily defeats the claim.
Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228-1229 (9th
pleadings are held to a less-stringent standard than those
drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
93 (2007) (per curiam). However, the Court need not accept as
true unreasonable inferences or conclusory legal allegations
cast in the form of factual allegations. See Ileto v.
Glock Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing
Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624
(9th Cir. 1981)).
Constitutional Claims Against Blackwell
raises two constitutional claims against defendant Blackwell:
(1) that Blackwell unlawfully opened his mail and refused to
process it as confidential and (2) that Blackwell interfered
with his mail to retaliate against him for having filed
lawsuits against prison employees. Defendant argues that
plaintiff has failed to state a claim on both counts.
alleges that Blackwell denied him his “confidential
correspondence rights.” ECF No. 10 at 7. This