Harrison v. Linde, et. al.

Filing 90

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney on 1/30/2015 RECOMMENDING that defendants' 79 motion for summary judgment be granted. Referred to Judge Kimberly J. Mueller; Objections due within 14 days. (Yin, K)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 CARL F. HARRISON, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 No. 2:13-cv-1510 KJM CKD P v. FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS LINDE, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 17 18 I. Introduction 19 This pro se prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 proceeds on the 20 complaint filed July 31, 2013 against defendants Linde and Simpson.1 (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff 21 claims that defendants violated his First Amendment right to access the courts, as they disposed 22 of his legal documents while an appeal in his federal habeas case was pending. (Id.) Before the court is defendants’ May 5, 2014 motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 23 24 79.) Plaintiff has filed an opposition. (ECF No. 85.) Having carefully reviewed the record and 25 the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that defendants’ motion be granted. 26 //// 27 28 1 Plaintiff’s claims against two other defendants were severed and are the subject of a separate action. (ECF No. 46.) 1 1 II. Summary Judgment Standard 2 Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there “is no genuine 3 dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. 4 Civ. P. 56(a). A party asserting that a fact cannot be disputed must support the assertion by 5 “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, 6 electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for 7 purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials. . .” Fed. R. 8 Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). 9 Summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 10 against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element 11 essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See 12 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an 13 essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” 14 Id. 15 In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not 16 establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual 17 dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at 18 trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce 19 the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.’” 20 Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee’s note on 1963 21 amendments). 22 In resolving the summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be 23 believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the 24 facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 25 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party’s 26 obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards 27 v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff’d, 810 F.2d 898, 902 28 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party “must do more than 2 1 simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record 2 taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 3 ‘genuine issue for trial.’” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted). 4 III. Facts 5 The following facts are undisputed2: 6 Plaintiff is a state prisoner who, at all relevant times, was housed at Mule Creek State 7 Prison. In 1994, a Fresno jury convicted plaintiff of multiple counts of sexual offenses against 8 minors, for which plaintiff was sentenced to 121 years in prison. In the years that followed, 9 petitioner challenged his convictions through direct appeals and successive petitions for writs of 10 habeas corpus in the California courts. 11 In January 2003, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District 12 Court for the Eastern District of California, invoking 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).3 Petitioner raised 46 13 claims for relief in his original and amended petitions. The matter was litigated on the merits, and 14 thousands of pages of arguments and evidence were entered into the record. In February 2009, 15 the district court denied all claims in plaintiff’s petition in a 66-page memorandum opinion and 16 order. At the conclusion of the order, the district court noted that plaintiff could not proceed with 17 an appeal of the judgment “absent a certificate of appealability,” which the district court declined 18 to issue as it found no denial of a constitutional right.4 Judgment was entered and the case closed. 19 Several weeks later, defendants Correctional Sergeant Linde and Correctional Officer 20 Simpson confiscated twelve boxes of plaintiff’s personal property from his cell at MCSP. The 21 boxes contained legal papers and reading and writing materials. Plaintiff asserts, and the court 22 assumes for purposes of the motion, that the boxes contained legal materials relating to Harrison 23 2 24 See ECF No. 79-2 (Defendants’ Statement of Undisputed Facts) and ECF No. 85 at 44-47 (Plaintiff’s Statement of Disputed Facts). 25 3 26 27 28 See docket of Harrison v. Mule Creek State Prison, Case No. 1:03-cv-5122 OWW WMW (E.D. Cal.). A court may take judicial notice of court records. See MGIC Indem. Co. v. Weisman, 803 F.2d 500, 505 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Wilson, 631 F.2d 118, 119 (9th Cir. 1980). 4 A certificate of appealability may issue under 28 U.S.C. § 2253 “only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). 3 1 v. Mule Creek State Prison and other claims that plaintiff intended to pursue in court. The parties 2 dispute the circumstances under which these materials were confiscated, inventoried, and 3 discarded on March 18, 2009. 4 On March 16, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit docketed plaintiff’s 5 appeal of the district court’s judgment.5 That day, the Ninth Circuit issued a letter to plaintiff 6 stating that “[a] briefing schedule will not be set until the court determines whether a certificate of 7 appealability should issue.” See Ninth Circuit Rule 22-1(e) (“Petitioners shall only brief issues 8 certified by the district court or the court of appeals.”). In making the determination whether a 9 certificate of appealability (COA) should issue, the Ninth Circuit had before it the entire record 10 that the district court relied on in making its findings. See Harrison, Dkt. Entry 3; Ninth Circuit 11 Rule 22-1(b) (“If the district court denies a COA in full in a § 2254 proceeding . . . , the district 12 court clerk shall forward the entire record to the court of appeals.”). On September 29, 2010, the Ninth Circuit denied plaintiff’s request for a certificate of 13 14 appealability. It did so without having requested briefing by the parties. On November 18, 2010, 15 the Ninth Circuit denied plaintiff’s motion to reconsider the denial of a COA, and ordered that 16 “no further filings” would be accepted in this “closed case.” 17 IV. Analysis 18 Inmates have a fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 19 518 U.S. 343, 346 (1996); Phillips v. Hust, 588 F.3d 652, 655 (9th Cir. 2009). The right of access 20 to the courts is merely the right to bring to court a grievance the inmate wishes to present, and is 21 limited to direct criminal appeals, habeas petitions, and civil rights actions. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 22 354. A prisoner alleging a violation of his right of access to the courts must demonstrate that he 23 has suffered “actual injury.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 349-50. The actual-injury requirement mandates 24 that an inmate “demonstrate that a nonfrivolous legal claim had been frustrated or was being 25 impeded.” Id. at 353. “Actual injury is a jurisdictional requirement that flows from the standing 26 doctrine and may not be waived. It is actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing 27 28 5 See docket of Harrison v. Mule Creek State Prison, Appeal No. 09-15492 (9th Cir.). 4 1 litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim.” Nevada Dept. of 2 Corrections v. Greene, 648 F.3d 1014, 1018 (9th Cir. 2011), citing Lewis, 518 U.S. at 343, 348 3 (internal quotation marks omitted). 4 Here, plaintiff has not created a genuine dispute of fact as to whether the destruction of his 5 legal materials caused him actual injury. Based on the voluminous record in his federal habeas 6 action, first the district court, and then the Ninth Circuit, denied petitioner a COA – both 7 effectively determining that petitioner did not present a “nonfrivolous legal claim” on appeal. 8 Although petitioner’s appeal was pending when his case materials were discarded, he did not miss 9 a deadline, or lose the opportunity to present a claim, as a result. Nor has plaintiff shown that he 10 was “actually injured” with respect to any potential, non-frivolous claim that had not been 11 litigated in the fifteen years since his conviction. 12 As plaintiff fails to make the necessary showing on the “actual injury” element of his 13 access-to-courts claim, the court need not reach whether there is a genuine dispute of fact as to 14 other elements, nor defendants’ argument that they are entitled to qualified immunity. 15 16 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that defendants’ motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 79) be granted. 17 These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge 18 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days 19 after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written 20 objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned 21 “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” The parties are 22 advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the 23 District Court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 24 Dated: January 30, 2015 _____________________________________ CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 25 26 27 2 / harr1510.sj 28 5

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