(PC) Brackett v. Wendell et al

Filing 86

ORDER and FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Jeremy D. Peterson on 5/8/2024 GRANTING 81 Motion to Amend, DENYING 85 Motion For Hearing and DIRECTING the Clerk to file the 81 -1 Proposed Amended Complaint on the docket. P laintiff's Amended Complaint has been screened and the court has found his Fourteenth Amendment claims cognizable. It is further RECOMMENDED that the 79 Motion to Dismiss be denied and the 82 Motion to Strike be denied. Referred to Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. Objections due within 14 days after being served with these Findings and Recommendations. (Kyono, V)

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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 DEMOND CHARLES BRACKETT, 12 13 14 15 16 17 Plaintiff, v. WENDELL ANDERSON, Case No. 2:21-cv-02282-KJM-JDP (PC) ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S REQUEST FOR A HEARING, GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND, AND SCREENING THE AMENDED COMPLAINT Defendant. ECF Nos. 81 & 85 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 19 THAT DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO STRIKE BE DENIED AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFF’S SPEEDY TRIAL CLAIM 20 ECF Nos. 79 & 81 21 OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS 18 22 23 24 Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee proceeding without counsel, brought this case in December 25 2021. ECF No. 1. After several iterations of the complaint, the court found that plaintiff alleged 26 cognizable Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against defendant Wendell Anderson. ECF 27 Nos. 38 & 60. All other claims and defendants were dismissed. Id. Defendant has appeared and 28 filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 79. The motion generally argues that plaintiff failed to 1 1 exhaust his administrative remedies and failed to plead his claims adequately. Shortly thereafter, 2 plaintiff filed both a motion to amend and a proposed amended complaint. ECF No. 81. 3 Defendant moves to strike the proposed amended complaint. ECF No. 82. Because I find that 4 leave to amend is warranted, I recommend denying defendant’s motion to dismiss and motion to 5 strike. I will also screen plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint.1 6 I. Motion to Amend and Motion to Strike 7 On February 8, 2024, plaintiff filed a motion to amend and a proposed amended 8 complaint. ECF No. 81. Plaintiff argues that errors in his prior complaint were brought to his 9 attention by defendant’s motion to dismiss, including accidently leaving some areas of the 10 complaint blank. Id. at 7. In lieu of filing an opposition to plaintiff’s motion to amend, defendant 11 filed a motion to strike the proposed amended complaint. ECF No. 82. Defendant argues that the 12 court’s May 1, 2023 order and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 both bar plaintiff’s proposed 13 amended complaint. ECF No. 82. Because the motion to strike presents arguments as to why 14 plaintiff should not be allowed to amend his complaint, I will address both motions together. 15 16 a. Legal Standards Rule 15(a)(2) directs that a court “should freely give leave [to amend a complaint] when 17 justice so requires.” Courts generally should be liberal in allowing a party leave to amend. 18 Sonoma Cnty. Ass’n of Retired Emples. v. Sonoma Cnty., 708 F.3d 1109, 1117 (9th Cir. 2013). 19 Leave to amend should be denied only where there is strong evidence of “undue delay, bad faith 20 or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments 21 previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the 22 amendment, [or] futility of amendment . . . .” Id. (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 23 (1962)) (alteration in original). Of these considerations, prejudice to the opposing party receives 24 the greatest weight. Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). 25 26 27 28 Rule 12(f) authorizes a court to strike “from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). “[T]he function 1 Plaintiff has also filed a request for a hearing. ECF No. 85. There is no need for a hearing currently; therefore, the motion is denied. 2 1 of a Rule 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise 2 from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial.” Sidney-Vinstein v. 3 A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983). Motions to strike are generally viewed with 4 disfavor; they are usually denied unless the allegations in the pleading have no possible relation to 5 the controversy and could prejudice one of the parties. See 5A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal 6 Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d 1380; see also Spencer v. Lopez, No. 1:20-cv-01203-JLT-BAK 7 (SKO) (PC), 2022 WL 1712961, at *4 (E.D. Cal. May 27, 2022) (“Where no [] prejudice is 8 demonstrated, motions to strike may therefore be denied even though the offending matter was 9 literally within one or more of the categories set forth in Rule 12(f).”) (internal citations and 10 11 12 quotation marks omitted). b. Analysis After reviewing the submissions of the parties, I find that, pursuant to Federal Rule of 13 Civil Procedure 15(a), plaintiff should be given leave to file an amended complaint. See 14 Eminence Capital, LLC, 316 F.3d at 1051 (“Rule 15 advises the court that leave shall be freely 15 given when justice so requires. This policy is to be applied with extreme liberality.”) (quotations 16 omitted); Lira v. Herrera, 427 F.3d 1164, 1176 (9th Cir. 2005) (noting that leave to amend 17 “should be granted more liberally to pro se plaintiffs”). 18 I also recommend that defendant’s motion to strike be denied. Defendant does not explain 19 how the factual allegations against him, as presented in the proposed amended complaint, are 20 “redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous,” as required for an order granting his Rule 21 12(f) motion. In addition, defendant fails to demonstrate that he will be prejudiced by the 22 additional factual allegations in the proposed amended complaint. And although I previously 23 instructed plaintiff that no further amendments would be accepted, here there is no indication that 24 plaintiff is seeking to amend his complaint in bad faith and, given the liberality of the applicable 25 legal standard, I find it appropriate to allow amendment. See Park v. Welch Foods, Inc., No. 26 5:12-cv-06449-PSG, 2014 WL 1231035, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2014) (“Any doubt concerning 27 the import of the allegations to be stricken weighs in favor of denying the motion to strike.”). 28 3 1 2 3 II. Screening a. Screening and Pleading Requirements A federal court must screen a prisoner’s complaint that seeks relief against a governmental 4 entity, officer, or employee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify any cognizable 5 claims and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a 6 claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is 7 immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1), (2). 8 A complaint must contain a short and plain statement that plaintiff is entitled to relief, 9 Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its 10 face,” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility standard does not 11 require detailed allegations, but legal conclusions do not suffice. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 12 662, 678 (2009). If the allegations “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere 13 possibility of misconduct,” the complaint states no claim. Id. at 679. The complaint need not 14 identify “a precise legal theory.” Kobold v. Good Samaritan Reg’l Med. Ctr., 832 F.3d 1024, 15 1038 (9th Cir. 2016). Instead, what plaintiff must state is a “claim”—a set of “allegations that 16 give rise to an enforceable right to relief.” Nagrampa v. MailCoups, Inc., 469 F.3d 1257, 1264 17 n.2 (9th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (citations omitted). 18 The court must construe a pro se litigant’s complaint liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 19 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam). The court may dismiss a pro se litigant’s complaint “if it 20 appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which 21 would entitle him to relief.” Hayes v. Idaho Corr. Ctr., 849 F.3d 1204, 1208 (9th Cir. 2017). 22 However, “‘a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements 23 of the claim that were not initially pled.’” Bruns v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 24 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). 25 26 b. Analysis The court previously found that plaintiff stated viable access to courts and access to 27 counsel claims based on allegations that defendant had “instituted a policy at the Yuba County 28 Jail of depriving inmates on suicide watch, of which plaintiff was one, of access to their counsel, 4 1 legal mail, telephone rights, and court visits.” ECF No. 47 at 2. Plaintiff now seeks to narrow his 2 complaint. See ECF No. 81. The proposed amended complaint alleges that defendant caused 3 plaintiff to miss four specific court appearances. Id. at 3-4. For the reasons stated in the prior 4 order, this claim is cognizable. See Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977); Sands v. Lewis, 5 886 F.2d 1166, 1169-70 (9th Cir. 1989). The complaint additionally alleges that defendant 6 violated plaintiff’s speedy trial right under the Sixth Amendment by not allowing him to go to 7 court. Id. at 5. This claim is not cognizable, and I recommend it be dismissed without leave to 8 amend. 9 10 Plaintiff has not informed this court whether his criminal case has been resolved, but his claim fails under either the Younger or Heck abstention doctrines. 11 It is well established that federal courts should not intervene with state cases absent 12 extraordinary circumstances. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) (“Since the beginning of 13 this country’s history Congress has, subject to few exceptions, manifested a desire to permit state 14 courts to try state cases free from interference by federal courts.”). The Younger abstention 15 doctrine is premised upon a fundamental “public policy against federal interference with state 16 criminal prosecutions.” Id. at 43. Here, plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law because he may 17 pursue his speedy trial claim in the state court proceeding (if the proceeding is still on-going). 18 Plaintiff’s request for a speedy trial should be presented to the state court where his trial is 19 pending; this court should not interfere. 20 If, however, plaintiff’s state court proceedings are no longer ongoing, this court cannot 21 award him damages in this § 1983 action because he has not demonstrated that his conviction or 22 sentence has been invalidated. If this court were to grant a judgment in favor of plaintiff, it would 23 imply that his state court conviction is invalid, therefore making his request for damages 24 inappropriate and subject to dismissal. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); Thomas v. 25 Pugh, 9 F. App’x 370 (6th Cir. 2001) (finding a pre-trial detainee’s § 1983 claim that he was 26 denied a speedy trial to be barred by Heck); Munywe v. Peters, No. 3:20-cv-05431BJR-JRC, 2022 27 WL 2975010, at *6 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 24, 2022) (dismissing the plaintiff’s speedy trial claim 28 because it called into question the validity of the plaintiff’s underlying conviction and was 5 1 therefore Heck-barred); Gibbs v. Contra Costa Cnty., 2011 WL 1899406, at *3 (N.D. Cal. May 2 19, 2011) (dismissing a speedy trial claim because such claim “necessarily implies” the invalidity 3 of the plaintiff’s conviction and such conviction has not been reversed or invalidated). More fundamentally, even if this court construed plaintiff’s claim as one sounding in 4 5 habeas, the claim would still fail. The Ninth Circuit has held that the Younger abstention 6 principle applies where a petitioner seeks pre-conviction habeas relief. See Carden v. Montana, 7 626 F.2d 82, 83 (9th Cir. 1980). Generally speaking, abstention principles require a district court 8 to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a habeas petition that asserts a speedy trial claim as an 9 affirmative defense to state prosecution. See id. at 84 (finding no irreparable injury in waiting 10 until after trial to assert speedy trial claim); Brown v. Ahern, 676 F.3d 899, 900, 903 (9th Cir. 11 2012) (“[W]hen a state does avail itself of the abstention doctrine as a defense to the exercise of 12 federal habeas jurisdiction, that doctrine requires dismissal of a habeas petition that prematurely 13 raises a Speedy Trial defense to state prosecution.”). A speedy trial claim does not, in and of 14 itself, constitute an extraordinary circumstance necessitating pre-trial habeas consideration. See 15 Brown, 676 F.3d at 901. 16 III. Motion to Dismiss 17 In light of plaintiff’s amended complaint, defendant’s motion to dismiss should be denied 18 as moot. Indeed, two of defendant’s arguments; exhaustion and failure to state a claim for denial 19 of access to counsel, appear to no longer be at issue in the amended complaint. 20 IV. Conclusion 21 Accordingly, it is ORDERED that: 22 1. Plaintiff’s motion to amend, ECF No. 81, is granted. 23 2. The Clerk of Court is directed to docket the proposed amended complaint, ECF No. 24 25 26 27 81-1, on the docket. 3. Plaintiff’s amended complaint has been screened and the court has found his Fourteenth Amendment claims cognizable. 4. Plaintiff’s motion for a hearing, ECF No. 85, is denied. 28 6 1 Further, it is RECOMMENDED that: 2 1. Defendant’s motion to dismiss, ECF No. 79, be denied. 3 2. Defendant’s motion to strike, ECF No. 82, be denied. 4 3. Plaintiff’s claim for a speedy trial right violation be dismissed without leave to amend. 5 These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge 6 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days 7 after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written 8 objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned 9 “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” Any response to the 10 objections shall be served and filed within fourteen days after service of the objections. The 11 parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to 12 appeal the District Court’s order. Turner v. Duncan, 158 F.3d 449, 455 (9th Cir. 1998); Martinez 13 v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 14 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 Dated: May 8, 2024 17 JEREMY D. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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