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Warren v. Management and Training Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 5, 2016





         Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. Given the shortage of district judges and staff, this Court addresses only the arguments, evidence, and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this Court’s inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to reconsider consent to conduct all further proceedings before a Magistrate Judge, whose schedules are far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

         Civil trials set before Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from inside or outside the Eastern District of California.


         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). Similarly, when a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis but § 1915A does not apply, the court “shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines” that the action “is frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Pierce v. San Francisco Exam'r, No. 15-CV-06051-EMC, 2016 WL 2851649, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 16, 2016) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)). If an action is dismissed on one of these three basis, a strike is imposed per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mereconclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). While a plaintiff’s allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Id.


         1. Procedural Posture

         Plaintiff Christopher J. Warren is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Plaintiff filed his complaint on June 20, 2016. Doc. 1. On July 1, 2016, he filed an amended complaint. Doc. 6, First Amended Complaint (“FAC”).[1] Plaintiff alleges that Management and Training Corporation (“MTC”) and three of its individual employees (Craig Apker, Geogiana Puentes, and Jesse Bernal) are liable under California’s Bane Act (Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1) because they forced him to make copies of copyrighted materials, in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 506 and his First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff raises no federal causes of action.[2]

         2. Plaintiff’s Allegations

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at federal prison in Taft, California, which is operated by Defendant Management and Training Corporation (“MTC”). FAC at Ct. R. 9. Defendant Apker is warden of the prison. Id. His allegations are based on the period of time where he was “hired” by MTC staff to act as “the inmate copy clerk” on February 1, 2014. Id. at Ct. R. 11. He states that his job duties included making copies for various employees at the facility, including Defendants Bernal (his unit manager) and Puentes (the associate warden). Id. Part of his job included copying entire books for staff members. Id. While he was “slightly concerned” about this practice, he was told that it was acceptable because the copies “fell under the exceptions to copyright protection statutes because it was ‘educational’ and for the ‘social cause of rehabilitation.’” Id. at Ct. R. 12. He alleges that Puentes ordered him to make “hundreds upon hundreds of copies of entire textbooks, ” that these orders were documented, and that this was done with “the knowledge, permission and oversight” of Bernal. Id.

         Between June and November of 2014, Plaintiff enrolled in a class on intellectual property. Id. at Ct. R. 13. In this class, “it became clear to him that MTC was violating title 17 as part of the MTC COMMON PRACTICE.” Id. Plaintiff reports that he raised the issue “no less than three times” with three different staff members. Id. at 14. The first “stopped the practice for herself” but told him to “do as your [sic] told, your [sic] an inmate, it’s not on you.” Id. The second told him that he had “warned” MTC about the fact that “someone could get in trouble, ” but advised Plaintiff to “keep doing what you are doing-you don’t have a choice.” Id. The third responded by threatening “to get the Major-the highest ranking member of a security apparatus in the prison to come and ‘enforce’ so that inmates do ‘what they are told by staff per policy.’” Id.

         Plaintiff subsequently quit his position as copy clerk and attempted to transfer to another facility several times “to get separation from him at his MTC keepers for fear of retaliation, fear that the would get caught and attempt to blame the inmates - the Plaintiff for their own misconduct.” Id. at Ct. R. 14-15. These attempts were denied, apparently based on internal policy considerations. Ct. R.15.

         In March of 2016, less that year after he quit his position as copy clerk, Plaintiff filed an “administrative remedy request”[3] with the Bureau of Prison’s general counsel, and notified him of the alleged copyright law violations, and requested a transfer from MTC care. Id. at Ct. R. 16. Bernal was subsequently observed “raiding the Satellite Camp copy room.” Id. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was informed that all of the order forms documenting the copying practices were missing and the copy room was being closed “indefinitely.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that these forms “are the one document that that shows the liability of their staff members and company.” Id. at Ct. R. 17. He also claims that MTC “has shredded pallets and pallets of evidence, keeping only 3 boxes of copied books as the ‘evidence of their internal investigation.’” Id. His request for transfer was denied on April 4, 2016. Id. at Ct. R. 16. Plaintiff filed a second request on April 10, 2016, in which he alleged that MTC was conducting a “cover-up. On April 19, 2016 he filed a third request, wherein he stated claims for retaliation. Id. These requests were denied on April 29, 2016. Id. A fourth request, filed April 30, 2016, was also denied. Id. at Ct. R. 17. On June 6, 2016 he filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act with the BOP. Id.

         Plaintiff reports that MTC has since changed their photocopying practices “to include copyright notices and higher-authority sign offs before copying can be done.” Id. He also reports that MTC has begun working with publishers to obtain licenses to use materials. Id. However, he claims that since this time he has “now suffered intolerable work and living environments, retaliation, deprivation of civil rights and emotional distress.” Id. at Ct. R. 24.

         Plaintiff now brings two claims against Defendants for violation of the Bane Act, which are premised on violations of his constitutional rights, ...

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