Smiley v. Salinas Valley State Prison Mailroom and Records Dept

Filing 15

ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Signed by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton on 6/22/17. (Certificate of Service Attached) (kcS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/22/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 DERRAN SMILEY, Plaintiff, 8 9 Case No. 17-cv-01208-PJH ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND v. SALINAS VALLEY STATE PRISON MAILROOM AND RECORDS DEPT, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Defendant. 12 13 14 Plaintiff, a state prisoner, has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. DISCUSSION 15 16 STANDARD OF REVIEW 17 Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners 18 seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 19 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and 20 dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief 21 may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such 22 relief. Id. at 1915A(b)(1),(2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. 23 Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). 24 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement 25 of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not 26 necessary; the statement need only '"give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim 27 is and the grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) 28 (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed 1 factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds’ of his 'entitle[ment] 2 to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the 3 elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to 4 raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 5 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state 6 a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The United States Supreme 7 Court has recently explained the “plausible on its face” standard of Twombly: “While legal 8 conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual 9 allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). 12 To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential 13 elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was 14 violated, and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the 15 color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 16 LEGAL CLAIMS 17 Plaintiff alleges that prison officials improperly read his legal mail. 18 Prison officials may institute procedures for inspecting “legal mail,” e.g., mail sent 19 between attorneys and prisoners, see Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 576-77 (1974) 20 (incoming mail from attorneys), and mail sent from prisoners to the courts, see Royse v. 21 Superior Court, 779 F.2d 573, 574-75 (9th Cir. 1986) (outgoing mail to court). But 22 “prisoners have a protected First Amendment interest in having properly marked legal 23 mail opened only in their presence.” Hayes v. Idaho Correctional Center, 849 F.3d 1204, 24 1211 (9th Cir. 2017). See also O'Keefe v. Van Boening, 82 F.3d 322, 325 (9th Cir. 1996) 25 (the opening and inspecting of "legal mail" outside the presence of the prisoner may have 26 an impermissible "chilling" effect on the constitutional right to petition the government). 27 However, prison officials may open and inspect mail to a prisoner from courts 28 outside the prisoner’s presence because mail from courts, as opposed to mail from a 2 1 prisoner’s lawyer, is not “legal mail.” Hayes, 849 F.3d 1204 at 1211; Keenan v. Hall, 83 2 F.3d 1083, 1094 (9th Cir. 1996), amended, 135 F.3d 1318 (9th Cir. 1998). With minute 3 exceptions, correspondence from a court to a litigant is a public document. See Martin v. 4 Brewer, 830 F.2d 76, 78 (7th Cir. 1987). 5 Plaintiff states that prison officials opened a letter sent from the California 6 Supreme Court, outside of plaintiff’s presence. As noted above, mail sent from the court 7 to a prisoner is not legal mail. In addition, the letter sent by the California Supreme Court 8 was sent on August 19, 2016, and contained the address of the prison and the case 9 number, “S236826”. However, the California Supreme Court neglected to put plaintiff’s name or his prison identification number on the envelope. Complaint at 15. Prison 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 officials told plaintiff that the envelope was opened in order to ascertain who it should be 12 directed to. Complaint at 12. 13 Nor has plaintiff identified what was in the envelope. The California Supreme 14 Court docket does not identify what was sent to plaintiff on August 19, 2016. On August 15 18, 2016, the California Supreme Court received a motion from plaintiff regarding his 16 pending habeas petition, so it is possible that the mail was related to that motion or just 17 an acknowledgment that the court received the motion. 18 Plaintiff has not presented a cognizable claim because mail sent from the courts is 19 not legal mail. To the extent prison officials violated a prison regulation, that does not 20 present a constitutional claim. The complaint is dismissed with leave to amend to provide 21 more information. Plaintiff may also wish to describe or provide a copy of what he 22 received from the California Supreme Court. 23 CONCLUSION 24 1. The complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend in accordance with the 25 standards set forth above. The amended complaint must be filed no later than July 24, 26 2017, and must include the caption and civil case number used in this order and the 27 words AMENDED COMPLAINT on the first page. Because an amended complaint 28 completely replaces the original complaint, plaintiff must include in it all the claims he 3 1 wishes to present. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). He may 2 not incorporate material from the original complaint by reference. Failure to file an 3 amended complaint may result in dismissal of this case. 4 2. It is the plaintiff's responsibility to prosecute this case. Plaintiff must keep the 5 court informed of any change of address by filing a separate paper with the clerk headed 6 “Notice of Change of Address,” and must comply with the court's orders in a timely 7 fashion. Failure to do so may result in the dismissal of this action for failure to prosecute 8 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). 9 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 22, 2017 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge 13 14 \\candoak.cand.circ9.dcn\data\users\PJHALL\_psp\2017\2017_01208_Smiley_v_Salinas_Valley_State_Prison_Mailroom_and_Recor ds_D_(PSP)\17-cv-01208-PJH-dwlta.docx 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 1 2 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 3 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 4 5 DERRAN SMILEY, Case No. 17-cv-01208-PJH Plaintiff, 6 v. CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE 7 8 SALINAS VALLEY STATE PRISON MAILROOM AND RECORDS DEPT, 9 Defendant. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. 12 13 14 15 16 That on June 22, 2017, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office. 17 18 19 Derran Smiley ID: F28162 Salinas Valley State Prison P.O. Box 1050 Soledad, CA 93960-1050 20 21 22 Dated: June 22, 2017 23 24 Susan Y. Soong Clerk, United States District Court 25 26 27 28 By:________________________ Kelly Collins, Deputy Clerk to the Honorable PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON 5

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