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Longshore v. Mason County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 13, 2018

CHARLES S. LONGSHORE, Plaintiff,
v.
MASON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          J. Richard Creatura United States Magistrate Judge.

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights matter has been referred to Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636 (b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Magistrate Judge Rules MJR 1, MJR 3, and MJR 4.

         Plaintiff Charles S. Longshore is a pretrial detainee who was temporarily housed as an intrastate boarder at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center (“SCCC”) when he filed this case. He alleges that defendants Sinclair and Campbell violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights, as well as his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, when they promulgated a Department of Corrections (“DOC”) policy that houses pretrial detainees in administrative segregation, allegedly depriving them of resources allowed convicted prisoners and restricting their ability to contact their attorneys. However, plaintiff has not shown that the policy placed him in housing that amounts to punishment in violation of due process, and he has not shown that others similarly situated are being treated preferentially in violation of equal protection. Further, he does not show that the distance of his transfer and his housing in administrative segregation has caused a substantial interference with his ability to access counsel. Therefore, the Court recommends defendants Sinclair and Campbell's motion to dismiss be granted. The state claims against defendants Sinclair and Campbell, as well as the federal and state claims against the remaining defendants, should move forward.

         In addition, plaintiff requests that the Court certify three state law questions to the Washington Supreme Court. However, because the questions of state law explicitly follow federal standards, the Washington Supreme Court is in no better a position to answer them than this Court, and so certification is inappropriate. Therefore, the Court recommends that plaintiff's motion to certify be denied.

         BACKGROUND and PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff initially filed this action in January of 2018. Dkt. 1. He states that, at the time he filed the complaint, he was a pretrial detainee who had been transferred to the custody of the DOC pursuant to an intrastate compact allowing county jails to transfer pretrial detainees out of their custody while retaining jurisdiction over them. See Dkt. 7. He alleges that defendants Sinclair and Campbell violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process because they promulgated a policy that placed him, as a pretrial detainee, in administrative segregation when the DOC took custody of him. Id. at pp. 11-12. He further alleges that defendants Sinclair and Campbell violated his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights because the policy placed him in more restrictive confinement than convicted prisoners, as well as other pretrial detainees still in custody at county jails. Id. at pp. 13-14. He finally alleges that the policy violates his Sixth Amendment guarantee to effective counsel because he is being held in custody farther from his attorney than if he was being held at the county jail, and because his placement in administrative segregation limits his contact with his attorney. Id. at p. 14.[1]

         After serving the complaint (Dkt. 9), defendants Sinclair and Campbell filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. 29). They argue that plaintiff has not shown that the DOC policy violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights because his housing in administrative segregation is not punitive and because he has not shown that he is being discriminated against in violation of equal protection. Id. They also argue that plaintiff's right to counsel has not been violated because the policy specifically provides that plaintiff be provided adequate access to his attorney. Id. Finally, defendants Sinclair and Campbell have included a motion to strike, requesting that the Court strike plaintiff's allegations that he was forbidden visitors when he was housed in DOC custody. Id.

         The other defendants in this case have filed an answer to plaintiff's complaint rather than a motion to dismiss. Dkt. 32.

         Plaintiff has also filed a motion to certify questions to the Washington Supreme Court. Dkt. 34. He argues that the three state grounds he raises against defendants Sinclair and Campbell have not been adequately illuminated by state court decisions, and so should be certified to the Washington Supreme Court for clarification. Id. Defendants Sinclair and Campbell oppose the motion, arguing that, if the District Court grants the motion to dismiss as to the federal claims against them, the state law claims will have no place in this suit and so certification to the Washington Supreme Court would be unnecessary. Dkt. 37.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure can be granted only if the complaint, with all factual allegations accepted as true, fails to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). Mere conclusory statements in a complaint and “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are not sufficient. Id.; Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108-09 (9th Cir. 2012). “Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Ballistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 570).

         While the Court must accept all the allegations contained in the Complaint as true, the Court does not have to accept a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. When a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his allegations must be viewed under a less stringent standard than allegations of plaintiffs represented by counsel. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), reh'g denied, 405 U.S. 948 (1972); Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc) (plaintiff should be afforded the “benefit of any doubt”).

         While the court can liberally construe a plaintiff's complaint, it cannot supply an essential fact an inmate has failed to plead. Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting Ivey v. Board of Regents of University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). The court need not accept as true unreasonable inferences or conclusory legal allegations cast in the form of factual allegations. See Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Defendants' ...


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