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Wahl v. Sutton

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

PETER GERARD WAHL, Plaintiff,
v.
SUTTON, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF NO. 41) FOURTEEN (14) DAY DEADLINE

          BARBARA A. MCAULIFFE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Findings and Recommendations

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Peter Gerard Wahl (“Plaintiff”) is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's third amended complaint against Defendant Sutton (“Defendant”) for deliberate indifference resulting from excessive custody, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         On April 16, 2018, the Court dismissed this action for failure to state a claim. (ECF Nos. 25, 26.) Plaintiff appealed. On August 21, 2018, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the action for further proceedings. The Ninth Circuit found that Plaintiff's due process claim was properly dismissed, but that, liberally construed, the allegations in the third amended complaint were sufficient to warrant ordering Defendant to file an answer with respect to Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim. (ECF No. 34.) The Ninth Circuit issued its mandate on September 12, 2018. (ECF No. 35.) The Ninth Circuit did not address the issues of absolute or qualified immunity.

         On November 14, 2018, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). By this motion, Defendant seeks to dismiss this action on the grounds that the third amended complaint fails to state a claim because Defendant is protected by absolute and qualified immunity. (ECF No. 41.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on January 11, 2019. (ECF No. 45.) Defendant filed a reply on January 16, 2019. (ECF No. 46.) The motion is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(1).

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that Defendant's motion to dismiss be granted.

         II. Summary of Relevant Allegations in the Third Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff, formerly confined at Wasco State Prison, brings suit against John Sutton, Warden of Wasco State Prison (“WSP”). Plaintiff alleges that on August 18, 2016, he was convicted for possession with intent to sell marijuana and sentenced to 16 months in prison. He was transported to WSP in September 2016.

         On November 30, 2016, the sentencing court ordered Plaintiff's sentence reduced to a misdemeanor with time deemed served. Plaintiff received a certified copy of the order with the sentencing court's seal on December 3, 2016. Plaintiff immediately began grievance processes on December 4, 2016, and Defendant Sutton was “grieved as well.” (ECF No. 22, p. 4.)

         Plaintiff learned, through post-release investigation, that the Clerk of Court did not notify Defendant until 21 days after court-ordered release. Defendant continued to hold Plaintiff as a state prisoner until December 29, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered severe psychological, emotional, and physical distress as a result of his confinement. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant knew or reasonably should have known through the prior grievances that Plaintiff was being held unlawfully, but Defendant took no steps to rectify the matter. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant exhibited callous indifference to Plaintiff's grievances. Plaintiff contends that the classification department was overburdened and understaffed during this period.

         Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment, along with damages.

         III. Scope of Remand

          Upon remand, the District Court must proceed on the terms of the Ninth Circuit's mandate. Stacy v. Colvin, 825 F.3d 563, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2016). The District Court may, however, decide anything not foreclosed by the mandate, so long as the District Court does not take actions that contradict it. Id. at 568; Firth v. United States, 554 F.2d 990, 993-94 (9th Cir. 1977) (“. . . a mandate is controlling as to all matters within its compass, while leaving any issue not expressly or impliedly disposed of on appeal available for consideration by the trial court on remand.”). Furthermore, while the “law of the case” doctrine limits district court reconsideration of issues previously determined, the ...


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