Daniels v. Sherman

Filing 26

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of Dismissal and Request to Allow Merger 23 , be Denied ; referred to Judge Ishii, signed by Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean on 8/30/2019. Objections to F&R due 30-Day Deadline (Martin-Gill, S)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 NORMAN GERALD DANIELS, III, 12 Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 STU SHERMAN, et al., 15 Defendants. Case No. 1:16-cv-01313-AWI-EPG (PC) FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING THAT PLAINTIFF’S “MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF DISMISSAL AND REQUEST TO ALLOW MERGER” BE DENIED (ECF NO. 23) 16 17 Norman Gerald Daniels, III (“Plaintiff”), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma 18 19 pauperis, commenced this action by filing a Complaint against Stu Sherman (“Defendant”), 20 Warden of California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison Corcoran (“SATF”), 21 on September 6, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) The Court dismissed Plaintiff’s action with prejudice on 22 March 20, 2017, on res judicata grounds. Plaintiff now seeks relief from that judgment through 23 his “Motion for Reconsideration of Dismissal and Request to Allow Merger.” (ECF No. 23.) For 24 the following reasons, it is recommended that the motion be denied. 1 25 26 As the Court’s original judgment was entered before the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Williams v. King, 875 F.3d 500 (9th Cir. 2017), no district judge was previously assigned to this case. Because Plaintiff seeks relief from a dispositive ruling, the Court does not rule on Plaintiff’s motion directly; it instead enters findings and recommendations to the newly-assigned District Judge. 1 27 28 1 I. 1 BACKGROUND 2 Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint against Defendant on September 6, 3 2016. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleged that Defendant declined to make certain accommodations to 4 improve the accessibility of the computers in the law library at SATF. Plaintiff consented to 5 magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Plaintiff also filed another action 6 that same day, Daniels v. Sherman, 1:16-cv-01312-EPG (the “1312 case”), containing allegations 7 that were substantially similar to the instant matter. The allegations in both the instant matter and 8 the 1312 case were substantially similar to another case Plaintiff filed on April 9, 2012, Daniels v. 9 Allison, Case No. 1:12-cv-00545-LJO-GSA (the “545 case”), which was dismissed with prejudice 10 by District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. The Court issued an Order for Plaintiff to show cause (“OSC”) in both the instant matter 11 12 and the 1312 case why the cases should not be dismissed on res judicata grounds. (ECF No. 16 in 13 the instant matter; ECF No. 9 in the 1312 case). The Court explained the res judicata doctrine in 14 detail and explained what Plaintiff needed to do to respond to the OSC. (Id.) Plaintiff responded 15 to the OSC on January 17, 2017. (ECF No. 17.) 16 On March 20, 2017, the Court dismissed the instant matter and the 1312 case on res 17 judicata grounds, finding that the allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint were substantially similar to 18 those in the 545 case. (ECF No. 18 in the instant matter; ECF No. 14 in the 1312 case). Plaintiff 19 did not appeal the dismissal in the instant matter.2 On March 6, 2019, Plaintiff filed a “Motion for Reconsideration of Dismissal, and 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 Plaintiff did appeal the 1312 judgment. At the time the Court entered the judgment in that matter on March 10, 2017, the Eastern District of California Local Rules allowed a magistrate judge to handle all proceedings through final judgment when the plaintiff consented and before the Defendants made an appearance. In Williams v. King, 875 F.3d 500 (9th Cir. 2017), the Ninth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) requires the consent of all plaintiffs and all defendants named in the complaint, regardless of whether those defendants had appeared in the action, before jurisdiction may vest in a magistrate judge. Id. at 501. Thus, on appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed the Court as to the 1312 judgment, finding that the magistrate judge lacked jurisdiction to enter the final judgment against Plaintiff, as not all parties (as the Ninth Circuit defined that term) had consented. Daniels v. Sherman, No. 17-15705 (9th Cir. Feb. 23, 2018). The Court subsequently issued Findings and Recommendations recommending that Plaintiff’s case be dismissed on res judicata grounds. And the District Judge subsequently adopted same. (ECF No. 29 in the 1312 case). Though Plaintiff does not raise the argument, the Court has considered whether the Williams decision renders its original judgment in this matter void. The Court concludes that it does not. See McCrea v. Adams, 2018 WL 5999638 (E.D. Nov. 15, 2018) adopted by McCrea v. Adams, 1:09-cv-00850-DAD-SKO (E.D. Cal. Jan. 10, 2019) (finding that, prior to Williams, there was at least arguable basis for magistrate jurisdiction when the plaintiff consented but before defendants had appeared). 2 1 Request to Allow Merger.” (ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of the March 20, 2017 2 judgment in which the Court found that the res judicata doctrine barred his case. He claims that 3 his “inability to meaningfully access…equipment” has caused him to err on several occasions in 4 this suit and that this lack of access to equipment deprives him of meaningful access to the 5 Courts. (Id. at p. 2.) Plaintiff further argues that there is another issue in this case concerning the 6 request for a lap top computer that is “wholly separate from the original Case No. 1:12-cv-00545- 7 LJO GSA PC, which was screened out with prejudice.” (Id. at p. 4.) Additionally, Plaintiff asks 8 that “this case be reopened under error and surprise due to [his] disability as a special 9 circumstance.” (Id.) Finally, in addition to relief from judgment, Plaintiff moves the Court to 10 “merge” this Complaint with another case he filed in this District, Daniels v. Sherman, 1:18-CV- 11 01420-BAM (PC). 12 II. LEGAL STANDARDS 13 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60, a court may relieve a party from a final 14 judgment for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) 15 newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in 16 time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or 17 extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; or (5) 18 any other reason that justifies relief.” Motions under Rule 60(b) “must be made within a 19 reasonable time—and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) no more than a year after the entry of the 20 judgment or order or the date of the proceeding.” Rule 60(c)(1). 21 Relief under Rule 60 “is to be used sparingly as an equitable remedy to prevent manifest 22 injustice and is to be utilized only where exceptional circumstances…” exist. Harvest v. Castro, 23 531 F.3d 737, 749 (9th Cir. 2008). “A motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent 24 highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly discovered 25 evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law,” and it 26 may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could 27 reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.” Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos 28 Pharma GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 880 (9th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks and citations 3 1 omitted) (emphasis in original). As for Rule 60(b)(4), “Federal courts considering Rule 60(b)(4) 2 motions that assert a judgment is void because of a jurisdictional defect generally have reserved 3 relief only for the exceptional case in which the court that rendered judgment lacked even an 4 ‘arguable basis’ for jurisdiction.” United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, 559 U.S. 260, 271 5 (2010) (citation omitted). 6 III. 7 ANALYSIS The Court will recommend that Plaintiff’s motion be denied. Plaintiff argues that he is 8 entitled to relief from the judgment because of “error and surprise.” As for error, Plaintiff appears 9 to question the Court’s res judicata analysis. He contends that this case contains a request for a 10 lap top that was not present in the case in which judgment was originally entered against his 11 meaningful access claims: Daniels v. Allison, Case No. 1:12-cv-00545-LJO-GSA. The Court 12 rejects this argument for several reasons. 13 First, to the extent premised upon “error” or surprise,” Plaintiff’s motion for 14 reconsideration is untimely. Under Rule 60, motions for reconsideration for “mistake” or 15 “surprise” must be made “no more than a year after the entry of the judgment.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 16 Rule 60(c)(1). Here, Plaintiff waited nearly two years to file his motion for reconsideration. 17 Second, the Court stands by the res judicata analysis contained in its March 20, 2017 18 Order, which it incorporates here by reference. “The elements necessary to establish res judicata 19 are: ‘(1) an identity of claims, (2) a final judgment on the merits, and (3) privity between 20 parties.’” Headwaters, Inc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., 399 F.3d 1047, 1052 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation 21 omitted). 22 The allegations in this case and the ones preceding it involved an identity of claims: the 23 allegations of all three cases arise out of the same nucleus of facts and allege violations of the 24 same right. The cases are based on the institution’s failure to make a series of requested 25 accommodations involving law library computers for disabled inmates. In all three cases, Plaintiff 26 alleges the same accommodations have been denied and asks for the same relief. Moreover, final 27 judgment was entered in the original case after it was dismissed for failure to state a claim. 28 Finally, all of Plaintiff’s complaints involve the same parties. While the Defendant in the original 4 1 545 case, Katherine Allison, is different from the Defendant in this case and the 1312 case, all 2 Defendants were named because of their positions as Warden at SATF. Because Plaintiff’s claims 3 against these Defendants are premised upon their positions as Warden, their interests in the 4 litigation are identical. Id. at 1052-53. (“Privity…is a legal conclusion ‘designating a person so 5 identified in interest with a party to former litigation that he represents precisely the same right in 6 respect to the subject matter involved.’”) (citation omitted). 7 Third, a motion for relief from judgment is not designed to remedy legal errors by the 8 court. The appeals process is the preferred method of correcting legal errors. “[I]t is not proper to 9 grant relief under’ 60(b) ‘if the aggrieved [party] could have reasonably sought the same relief by 10 means of appeal.’” Inland Concrete Enterprises, Inc., v. Rune Kraft, 318 F.R.D. 383, 407 (C.D. 11 Cal. Aug. 24, 2016) (citation omitted). Plaintiff could have appealed the Court’s March 20, 2017 12 judgment. His failure to do so precludes his argument that alleged legal error warrants relief from 13 judgment here. 14 Fourth, Plaintiff fails to explain how “surprise” warrants relief from judgment here; the 15 Court issued an Order for Plaintiff to show cause why his case should not be dismissed on res 16 judicata grounds, explained the res judicata doctrine in detail in its OSC in the related 1312 case, 17 and afforded Plaintiff ample time to respond to the OSC. And as for Plaintiff’s disability, while 18 the Court is sympathetic to Plaintiff’s plight, the Court is not persuaded that this is the kind of 19 “exceptional circumstance” necessary to justify relief from judgment. Whether Plaintiff is 20 disabled has no bearing on the res judicata analysis. And the Court has made efforts to ensure 21 these proceedings are fair to Plaintiff as detailed above. 22 IV. CONCLUSION 23 Accordingly, for the reasons set for forth herein, the Court HEREBY RECOMMENDS 24 that Plaintiff’s “Motion for Reconsideration of Dismissal and Request to Allow Merger” (ECF 25 No. 23.) be denied. 26 These findings and recommendations are submitted to the district judge assigned to the 27 case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within thirty days after being 28 served with these findings and recommendations, Plaintiff may file written objections with the 5 1 Court. such a document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and 2 Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified time 3 may result in the waiver of rights on appeal. Wilkerson v. Wheeler, 772 F.3d 834, 839 (9th Cir. 4 2014) (quoting Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th Cir. 1991)). 5 IT IS SO ORDERED. 6 7 Dated: August 30, 2019 /s/ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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