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Jones v. Caneda

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 15, 2020

GARLAND JONES, CDCR #F-47928, Plaintiff,


          Hon. Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Garland Jones, currently incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”), in San Diego, California, has filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Compl., ECF No. 1.

         Plaintiff claims two RJD correctional sergeants have “harassed” him, “diminished [his] ability to file legal documents, ” denied him access to the legal library, “disrupted [his] program, ” and attempted to “undermine” his “legal actions.” Id. at 2‒4. He has not prepaid the full civil filing fee required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); instead, he has filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) (ECF No. 2).

         I. Motion to Proceed IFP

         A. Standard of Review

         All persons, not just prisoners, may seek IFP status.” Moore v. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, 657 F.3d 890, 892 (9th Cir. 2011). Prisoners like Plaintiff, however, “face an additional hurdle.” Id.

         In addition to requiring prisoners to “pay the full amount of a filing fee, ” in “monthly installments” or “increments” as provided by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3)(b), the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) amended section 1915 to preclude the privilege to proceed IFP in cases where the prisoner:

. . . has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). “This subdivision is commonly known as the ‘three strikes' provision.” Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1116 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). “Pursuant to § 1915(g), a prisoner with three strikes or more cannot proceed IFP.” Id.; see also Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1052 (9th Cir. 2007) (hereafter “Cervantes”) (under the PLRA, “[p]risoners who have repeatedly brought unsuccessful suits may entirely be barred from IFP status under the three strikes rule[.]”). The objective of the PLRA is to further “the congressional goal of reducing frivolous prisoner litigation in federal court.” Tierney v. Kupers, 128 F.3d 1310, 1312 (9th Cir. 1997).

         “Strikes are prior cases or appeals, brought while the plaintiff was a prisoner, which were dismissed on the ground that they were frivolous, malicious, or failed to state a claim, ” Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1116 n.1 (internal quotations omitted), “even if the district court styles such dismissal as a denial of the prisoner's application to file the action without prepayment of the full filing fee.” O'Neal v. Price, 531 F.3d 1146, 1153 (9th Cir. 2008). When courts “review a dismissal to determine whether it counts as a strike, the style of the dismissal or the procedural posture is immaterial. Instead, the central question is whether the dismissal ‘rang the PLRA bells of frivolous, malicious, or failure to state a claim.'” El-Shaddai v. Zamora, 833 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Blakely v. Wards, 738 F.3d 607, 615 (4th Cir. 2013)). “When … presented with multiple claims within a single action, ” however, courts may “assess a PLRA strike only when the case as a whole is dismissed for a qualifying reason under the Act.” Hoffman v. Pulido, 928 F.3d. 1147, 1152 (9th Cir. 2019) (citing Washington v. L.A. Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 833 F.3d 1048, 1057 (9th Cir. 2016)).

         Once a prisoner has accumulated three strikes, section 1915(g) prohibits his pursuit of any subsequent IFP civil action or appeal in federal court unless he faces “imminent danger of serious physical injury.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Cervantes, 493 F.3d at 1051-52 (noting § 1915(g)'s exception for IFP complaints which “make[] a plausible allegation that the prisoner faced ‘imminent danger of serious physical injury' at the time of filing.”).

         B. Discussion

         The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's Complaint and finds it contains no “plausible allegations” to suggest he “faced ‘imminent danger of serious physical injury' at the time of filing.” Cervantes, 493 F.3d at 1055 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)). Instead, as described above, Plaintiff seeks to sue two RJD officials based on claims that they have all interfered with his ability to file and gather documentation he claims relevant to unspecified complaints and other “legal matters.” See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2‒4. These claims fail to plausibly meet § 1915(g)'s exception for imminent danger. See Cervantes, 493 F.3d at 1055-56 (plaintiff must allege to face a real, proximate and/or ongoing danger at the time of filing); Prophet v. Clark, No. CV 1-08-00982-FJM, 2009 WL 1765197, at *1 (E.D. Cal. June 22, 2009) (finding prisoner's access to the courts, interference with legal mail, and retaliation claims insufficient to satisfy § 1915(g) exception in cases of “imminent danger of serious physical injury”).

         And while Defendants typically carry the initial burden to produce evidence demonstrating a prisoner is not entitled to proceed IFP, Andrews, 398 F.3d at 1119, “in some instances, the district court docket may be sufficient to show that a prior dismissal satisfies at least one on the criteria under ...

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