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Ward v. Valadez

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 16, 2019

LEONARD EUGENE WARD, Plaintiff,
v.
M. H. VALADEZ et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [DOC., 47.]

          HON. WILLIAM V. GALLO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On September 6, 2018, Plaintiff Leonard Eugene Ward filed a Complaint against the named Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for various civil and constitutional rights violations during his incarceration in California state prison. Plaintiff also alleges various state tort claims. Defendants have moved to dismiss this lawsuit based on the running of the statute of limitations. For the reasons discussed below, this Court RECOMMENDS that Defendants' motion to dismiss be GRANTED and the Complaint be DISMISSED without leave to amend.

         I. Background

         Ward was sentenced on July 24, 2009, to a total term of fifty years-to-life and was thereafter incarcerated at Centinela State Prison. In October 2013, the California Superior Court vacated his sentence and resentenced him to a total term of eleven years. Plaintiff was released from prison on July 21, 2015, but now alleges that he should have been released as early as May 2014. Plaintiff alleges Defendants incorrectly calculated the time he should have served by not giving him credit for good time or work time, not giving him credit under California Penal Code section 667, and failing to properly calculate the time he actually served. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Griffin, Alfaro, Galindo, Santana, and Bowen were case records administrators or correctional counselors who incorrectly calculated his sentence; Defendants Palacio, Valadez, Johnson, Favila, Allen, and Voong reviewed Plaintiff's prison appeals regarding his sentence; Defendants Martinez and Taylor-Garcia worked on both his sentence calculation and appeals; and Defendants Santana and Denault transferred him to CSP-Centinela despite a favorable classification score. While incarcerated in January of 2015, Plaintiff filed Inmate/Parolee Appeals (CDCR Form 602) seeking relief from his continued detention. Those petitions were denied at the “third level” of review on July 31, 2015.

         While still in prison, Plaintiff filed an initial government claim with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB) on April 7, 2015. In his claim, Plaintiff alleged that he had been over-detained. Plaintiff identified the dates of the incident as “10-11-13 until 4-7-15 and continues.” On April 21, 2015, the VCGCB advised Plaintiff that his claim was not accepted because he had not paid the filing fee or otherwise requested a waiver of the filing fee. On May 7, 2015, Plaintiff resubmitted his claim with a fee waiver. On May 15, 2015, the VCGCB denied any timely claims and advised Plaintiff to file a late claim application as to any late claims. On May 25, 2015, Plaintiff resubmitted his claim. On June 12, 2015, the VCGCB acknowledge receipt of Plaintiff's claim, and agreed to treat the claim as a late claim. On July 21, 2015, the VCGCB advised Plaintiff that staff was recommending that his claim be denied, and he was released the same day. The VCGCB formally denied the late claim on August 20, 2015 and rejected the claim itself. (Letter dated Aug. 28, 2015, Lodgment 47-1 at 21.) The VCGCB notified Plaintiff that he would need to petition the appropriate court for an order relieving him from the denial of his late claim.

         Plaintiff filed a second government claim with a late application on February 19, 2016. On April 21, 2016, the VCGCB notified Plaintiff that the staff was recommending that the late claim petition be denied. The VCGCB formally denied the late claim on May 19, 2016 and rejected the claim. (Letter dated May 27, 2016, Lodgment 47-1 at 36.) The VCGCB again notified Plaintiff that he would need to petition the appropriate court for an order relieving him from the denial of his late claim.

         Plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against various California officials in July 2016. Plaintiff later moved the court to dismiss the case without prejudice in June 2017 because the Complaint did not name the proper defendants. In September 2018, Plaintiff commenced the instant action. The Complaint alleges various injuries under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 starting on November 1, 2013 at Centinela state prison. These federal claims include a conspiracy to violate civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, violation of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments by over-incarceration through failing to accurately calculate his time and credits, retaliation against his First Amendment rights for filing grievances, violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, and the Fifth Amendment's guaranty of due process and Sixth Amendment's Right to Counsel at “critical court proceedings.” Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, Plaintiff also alleges supplemental state tort claims of false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue that (1) the face of the Complaint demonstrates that Plaintiff's federal claims are barred by the statute of limitations and were not tolled; (2) Plaintiff failed to timely comply with the Government Claims Act and his claims under state law are also barred; and in the alternative, that (3) Plaintiff failed to state facts sufficient to support a claim against Defendant Denault; (4) Plaintiff cannot state a claim under the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments.[1]

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motions to Dismiss

         On a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations, the Court must assess whether “the running of the statute is apparent on the face of the complaint.” Huynh v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 465 F.3d 992, 997 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Jablon v. Dean Witter & Co., 614 F.2d 677, 682 (9th Cir. 1980) (“When a motion to dismiss is based on the running of the statute of limitations, it can be granted only if the assertions of the complaint, read with the required liberality, would not permit the plaintiff to prove that the statute was tolled.”)). Because the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, the “defendant has the burden of proving the action is time-barred.” Grisham v. Philip Morris, Inc., 670 F.Supp.2d 1014, 1020 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (citation omitted).

         B. Statute of Limitations in Section 1983 Actions; Tolling; Accrual

         Where the running of the statute of limitations is apparent on the face of the complaint, dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper. Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1993). Because § 1983 contains no specific statute of limitations, federal courts apply the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007); Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004); Maldonado v. Harris, 370 F.3d 945, 954 (9th Cir. 2004). The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California is two years. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1. The rules of tolling are also taken from state law. Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 543 (1989); Wallace, 549 U.S. at 394; TwoRivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 992 (9th Cir. 1999).

         Unlike the length of the limitations period and tolling rules, however, “the accrual date of a § 1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by reference to state law.” Wallace, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007); Hardin, 490 U.S. at 543-44 (holding that federal law governs when a § 1983 cause of action accrues). “Under the traditional rule of accrual . . . the tort cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations begins to run, when the wrongful act or omission results in damages.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 391; see also Maldonado, 370 F.3d at 955 (“Under federal law, a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.”). “[T]he standard rule [is] that [accrual occurs] ...


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