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Snyder v. Allison

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 5, 2019

ROBERT SNYDER, CDCR #AC-9136, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN ALLISON, CDCR Secretary; A. MONDET, RJD Education Supervisor; C. TISCORNIA, Facility A Librarian, Donovan State Prison, Defendants.

          ORDER: 1) DENYING MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 65(B) [ECF NO. 2] AND 2) DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(B)

          Hon. Larry Alan Burns Chief United States District Judge.

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Robert Snyder, currently incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) in San Diego, California, is proceeding pro se in this civil action filed on September 9, 2019, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”). Unlike most prisoners, Snyder did not file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) together with his Complaint, and instead remitted the $400 filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) to commence a civil action a week later on September 18, 2019. See ECF No. 4, Receipt No. CAS115493. Snyder has also filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) (ECF No. 2), and has since submitted his own separate “Declaration of Details” (“Pl.'s Decl.”) and the declaration of a fellow prisoner in support. (See ECF Nos. 6, 8.) But the docket has yet to show that Snyder has requested that the Clerk issue a summons, “present[ed] a summons to the clerk for signature and seal” pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(b), or has yet executed service of either his Complaint or TRO upon any of the named Defendants. See Boudette v. Barnette, 923 F.2d 754, 757 (9th Cir. 1991) (absent a specific request and court order that the U.S. Marshal effect service on their behalf pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(c)(3), persons who prepay civil filing fees “remain[] responsible for timely service.”); Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987) (“Before a . . . court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the procedural requirement of service of summons must be satisfied.”).

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         In both his Complaint, Motion for TRO, and Declaration, Snyder challenges the constitutional sufficiency of the “make-shift ‘library'” at RJD and the “craftily arranged moveable barriers” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) and RJD officials have constructed to “thwart” his access to the courts and “research[] claims” in the “3-5 active cases” he has pending. See Compl. at 4-6, TRO at 7-8; Pl.'s Decl. at 4-9.

         In his Complaint, Snyder contends Kathleen Allison, an Undersecretary employed by the CDCR, A. Mondet, a supervisor of RJD's Education Department, and Chloe Tiscornia, RJD's Facility A Librarian, have all interfered with his ability to litigate his “numerous complaints” by generally impeding his access to computers, providing a “sparse collection of law books” in a small, poorly ventilated and overcrowded space, and by planning to “remove [R]D's] A-Facilit[y's] library & only allow A-Facility inmates access 1 day a week at the Central Library.” Compl. at 4-6.

         In his Declaration, Snyder's allegations are both broader and more narrow. For example, Snyder broadly claims “[t]he amount of deceit invested in keeping inmates from educating themselves in the law (inside CDCR prisons) is staggering, ” and complains that RJD librarians “pass the buck” and blame their supervisors for “numerous overly-restrictive customs, ” designed to “cheat[] inmates out of any real chance at obtaining relief.” Pl.'s Decl. at 2, 9, 13, 15. But more specifically, Snyder complains that the Facility A library has no bathroom or water fountain, id. at 13, does not provide “paper clips, tape or white-out, ” id. at 12, and is often closed due to staff “shortages” and “meetings” which are announced via “cursory memos.” Id. at 4-5, 14.[1] As a result, Snyder claims inmates with “quickly approaching legal deadline[s]” are required to pre- arrange “ducat pass[es], ” id. at 5, and must use a “worthless” library paging service when the institution is “supposedly experiencing some sort of security concern” and which permits photocopying, but no access to the “Lexis Nexis© Interactive Database.” Id. at 7. In sum, Snyder avers these impositions result in insufficient “time inside the library” and access to legal materials that are “either outdated or too non[-]user friendly.” Id. at 15.

         In terms of relief, Snyder seeks an emergency injunction “via a temporary command mechanism to resolve library restrictions, ” “permanent injunctive relief via decree to ensure daily library access, ” and an unspecified amount of monetary damages. Compl. at 8. In his TRO, Snyder more specifically asks that Defendants be “restrained and enjoined from destroying Facility-A's library program at [R]D].” TRO at 14.

         III. Screening of Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         A. Standard of Review As a preliminary matter, the Court must conduct an initial review of Snyder's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, because he is a prisoner and seeks “redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Section 1915A “mandates early review-‘before docketing [] or [] as soon as practicable after docketing'-for all complaints ‘in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.'” Chavez v. Robinson, 817 F.3d 1162, 1168 (9th Cir. 2016). The mandatory screening provisions of § 1915A apply to all prisoners, no matter their fee status, who bring suit against a governmental entity, officer, or employee. See, e.g. Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446-47 (9th Cir. 2000). “On review, the court shall … dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, ” if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Olivas v. Nevada ex rel. Dept. of Corr., 856 F.3d 1281, 1283 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).

         B. Access to the Courts

         As summarized above, Snyder contends Defendants are “intentionally hampering” his First Amendment right to access to the courts “by causing physical law library/law materials access to be reduced and restricted down to nearly nothing.” Compl. at 4.

         Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977), limited in part on other grounds by Lewis, 518 U.S. at 354. Because states must ensure indigent prisoners meaningful access to the courts, Bounds held that prison officials were required to provide either: (1) adequate law libraries, or (2) adequate assistance from persons trained in the law. Bounds, 430 U.S. at 828. Bounds was interpreted to establish “core requirements, ” and a prisoner alleging deprivation of those core requirements was not required to also allege actual injury in order to a state constitutional claim. See e.g., Sands v. Lewis, 886 F.2d 1166, 1171 (9th Cir. 1989).

         However, Lewis abolished that approach in 1996; and ever since, in order to state a claim of a denial of the right to access the courts, a prisoner must establish that he has suffered “actual injury, ” a jurisdictional requirement derived from the standing doctrine. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349. An “actual injury” is “actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim.” Id. at 348 (citation and internal quotations omitted). The right of access does not require the State to “enable the prisoner to discover grievances, ” or even to “litigate effectively once in court.” Id. at ...


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