(PC) McElroy v. Warden et al

Filing 8

ORDER and FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes on 6/2/2021 DENYING #4 Motion to Appoint Counsel; ORDERING Clerk to randomly assign this matter to a District Judge; and RECOMMENDING #5 Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis be denied; the court find plaintiff accrued three strikes under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g) prior to filing this action; and this court order plaintiff to pay the $400 filing fee in order to proceed with this action. Assigned and referred to Judge John A. Mendez. Objections due within 14 days after being served with these findings and recommendations. (Henshaw, R)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 LATWAHN MCELROY, 11 No. 2:21-cv-00642 DB P Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 WARDEN, et al., ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 14 Defendants. 15 Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 16 17 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that defendants medically misdiagnosed him, prescribed him 18 medication he did not need, and failed to provide effective emergency medical treatment. 19 Presently before the court is plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 5) and his 20 motion to appoint counsel (ECF No. 4). For the reasons set forth below, the court will 21 recommend that the motion to proceed in forma pauperis be denied and deny the motion to 22 appoint counsel. IN FORMA PAUPERIS 23 I. 24 In Forma Pauperis Statute The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) permits a federal court to authorize 25 26 the commencement and prosecution of any suit without prepayment of fees by a person who 27 submits an affidavit indicating that the person is unable to pay such fees. However, 28 //// 1 1 [i]n no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action . . . [in forma paupers] if 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 may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. 2 3 4 5 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 This “three strikes rule” was part of “a variety of reforms designed to filter out the bad claims [filed by prisoners] and facilitate consideration of the good.” Coleman v. Tollefson, 135 S. Ct. 1759, 1762 (2015) (quoting Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 204 (2007) (brackets in original)). If a prisoner has “three strikes” under § 1915(g), the prisoner is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis unless he meets the exception for imminent danger of serious physical injury. See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1052 (9th Cir. 2007). To meet this exception, the complaint of a “three-strikes” prisoner must plausibly allege that the prisoner was faced with imminent danger of serious physical injury at the time his complaint was filed. See Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1189 (9th Cir. 2015); Andrews, 493 F.3d at 1055. II. Has Plaintiff Accrued Three Strikes? A review of actions filed by plaintiff reveals that plaintiff is subject to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) and is precluded from proceeding in forma pauperis unless he was, at the time the complaint was filed, under imminent danger of serious physical injury. Judges have previously found that plaintiff has accrued at least three strikes. See McElroy v. CHCF, 2:18-cv-00455TLN-EFB (E.D. Cal. May 22, 2019); McElroy v. CHCF Chief Classifications Services, 2:17-cv01739-JAM-KJN (E.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 2017); McElroy v. Turner, No. 2:12-cv-1182-CMK (E.D. Cal. Aug. 13, 2012). The court takes judicial notice of those cases and plaintiff’s prior filings described therein. MCIC Indem. Co. v. Weisman, 803 F.2d 500, 505 (9th Cir. 1986) (A court may take judicial notice of its own records and the records of other courts). Those cases include: (1) McElroy v. Gebbmedin, No. 1:08-cv-0124-LJO-GSA (E.D. Cal. Dec. 11, 2008) (order dismissing action for failure to state a claim); (2) McElroy v. Schultz, No. 1:08-cv-0179-OWWMJS (E.D. Cal. Apr. 30, 2010) (order dismissing action for failure to state a claim); (3)McElroy 28 2 1 v. CDC, 2:08-cv-0733-HWG (E.D. Cal. June 3, 2009) (order dismissing action for failure to state 2 a claim); (4) McElroy v. Ground, No. 1:13-cv-483-MJS (E.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2013) (order 3 dismissing action for failure to state a claim). The strikes described all occurred prior to 4 plaintiff’s initiation of the present action on April 9, 2021. 5 III. Does Plaintiff Meet the Imminent Danger Exception? 6 Because plaintiff has accrued three strikes, plaintiff is precluded from proceeding in forma 7 pauperis in this action unless he is “under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” 28 U.S.C. 8 § 1915(g). The availability of the imminent danger exception turns on the conditions a prisoner 9 faced at the time the complaint was filed, not at some earlier or later time. See Andrews, 493 10 F.3d at 1053. “[A]ssertions of imminent danger of less obviously injurious practices may be 11 rejected as overly speculative or fanciful.” Id. at 1057 n.11. Imminent danger of serious physical 12 injury must be a real, present threat, not merely speculative or hypothetical. To meet his burden 13 under § 1915(g), an inmate must provide “specific fact allegations of ongoing serious physical 14 injury, or a pattern of misconduct evidencing the likelihood of imminent serious physical injury.” 15 Martin v. Shelton, 319 F.3d 1048, 1050 (8th Cir. 2003). “Vague and utterly conclusory 16 assertions” of harm are insufficient. White v. Colorado, 157 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 17 1998). That is, the “imminent danger” exception is available “for genuine emergencies,” where 18 “time is pressing” and “a threat . . . is real and proximate.” Lewis v. Sullivan, 279 F.3d 526, 531 19 (7th Cir. 2002). The court has reviewed plaintiff’s complaint. (ECF No. 1.) Therein plaintiff alleges that 20 21 defendants wrongly diagnosed him with a medical condition and prescribed unnecessary 22 medication. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff also states defendants did not provide him effective medical 23 urgent care. (Id. at 4.) These allegations fail to show that he was under imminent threat of 24 serious physical injury at the time he filed the complaint. Accordingly, the court finds that 25 plaintiff does not meet the imminent danger exception described in § 1915(g) and should only be 26 allowed to proceed with this action if he pays the filing fee. 27 //// 28 //// 3 1 MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL 2 Plaintiff has filed a motion for the appointment of counsel. (ECF No. 4.) Therein, he 3 argues counsel should be appointed because the case is factually complex, his imprisonment 4 will limit his ability to conduct an investigation, a trial will likely involve conflicting testimony 5 better suited for an experienced attorney, he is unable to effectively present his claims due to his 6 lack of legal training, and he believes his case has merit. (Id. at 4-5.) 7 The United States Supreme Court has ruled that district courts lack authority to require 8 counsel to represent indigent prisoners in § 1983 cases. Mallard v. United States Dist. Court, 490 9 U.S. 296, 298 (1989). In certain exceptional circumstances, the district court may request the 10 voluntary assistance of counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 11 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991); Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1335-36 (9th Cir. 1990). 12 The test for exceptional circumstances requires the court to evaluate the plaintiff’s 13 likelihood of success on the merits and the ability of the plaintiff to articulate his claims pro se in 14 light of the complexity of the legal issues involved. See Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 15 1331 (9th Cir. 1986); Weygandt v. Look, 718 F.2d 952, 954 (9th Cir. 1983). Circumstances 16 common to most prisoners, such as lack of legal education and limited law library access, do not 17 establish exceptional circumstances that would warrant a request for voluntary assistance of 18 counsel. 19 In the present case, the court does not find the required exceptional circumstances. 20 Plaintiff’s arguments in support of his motion allege nothing more than circumstances common to 21 most inmates. Additionally, though plaintiff may claim that he is likely to succeed on the merits, 22 the court is unable to determine plaintiff’s likelihood of success on the merits at this stage of the 23 proceedings. Accordingly, the court will deny the motion without prejudice. 24 //// 25 //// 26 //// 27 //// 28 //// 4 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 3 1. That plaintiff’s motion for the appointment of counsel (ECF No. 4) is denied; and 4 2. The Clerk of the Court is directed to randomly assign this matter to a District Judge. 5 Further, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 6 1. Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 5) be denied; 7 2. The court find plaintiff accrued three strikes under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) prior to filing 8 this action; and 9 3. The court order plaintiff to pay the $400 filing fee in order to proceed with this action. 10 These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the United States District Judge 11 Assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within fourteen days 12 after being served with these findings and recommendations, plaintiff may file written objections 13 with the court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings 14 and Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified 15 time may result in a waiver of the right to appeal the district court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 16 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 17 Dated: June 2, 2021 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 DB:14 DB:1/Orders/Prisoner/Civil.Rights/R/mcel0642.3strikes+31 28 5

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