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Griffin v. White

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

June 21, 2018

ROBERT DEAN GRIFFIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL W. WHITE 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 Robert Dean Griffin, Jr., alleges that defendants violated his right to access the courts when they failed to provide him a legal document in time for him to file a personal restraint petition (“PRP”) before the statute of limitations expired. However, defendants have shown that plaintiff's judgment and sentence became final in 2005, meaning that the statute of limitations for a PRP expired over a decade ago. Plaintiff has thus not alleged an actual injury caused by defendants' alleged actions. Therefore, the Court recommends that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 41) be denied, that defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 44) be granted, and that plaintiff's action be dismissed. The Court also recommends denying plaintiff's motion to amend or alter the judgment (Dkt. 53).

         BACKGROUND and PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's case was transferred to this Court from the Eastern District of Washington in July of 2017. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, the operative complaint in this action, in March of 2018. Dkt. 31. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Thompson, a law librarian, failed to provide plaintiff with a copy of his amended judgment and sentence before the one-year statute of limitations to file a PRP expired. Id. He thus claims that he is now barred from filing a PRP challenging the judgment and sentence because of defendant Thompson's actions. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that he notified defendants White and Bennett about defendant Thompson's actions, but they both failed to take any action. Id.

         Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment in April of 2018. Dkt. 41. Defendants filed a response to that motion, as well as a cross-motion for summary judgment, in May of 2018. Dkt. 44. Defendants argue that plaintiff has not shown he has suffered a harm from defendant Thompson's alleged actions, and that he has not pled personal participation as to defendants White and Bennett. Id.

         Plaintiff has now also filed a motion to alter or amend (Dkt. 53), requesting the Court amend his judgment and sentence pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when there is no dispute over the material facts before the court and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Zweig v. Hearst Corp., 521 F.2d 1129, 1136 (9th Cir. 1975), overruled on other grounds by Hollinger v. Titan Capital Corp., 914 F.2d 1564 (9th Cir. 1990). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the evidence produced by the parties permits only one conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). To determine if summary judgment is appropriate, the court must consider whether particular facts are material and whether there is a genuine dispute as to the material facts left to be resolved. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Where there is a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, all other facts are rendered immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254 (“the judge must view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden”). However, when presented with a motion for summary judgment, the court shall review the pleadings and evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (citation omitted), and “a pro se complaint will be liberally construed . . . .” Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (other citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         I. First Amendment Right to Access the Courts

         Plaintiff's single claim for relief is that defendants restricted his access to the courts in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. However, because plaintiff claims his right to access to the courts has been violated, the Court interprets this as an allegation that his First and Fourteenth Amendment protections were violated, rather than his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment protections.

         Inmates have a “fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts.” Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). In Bounds, the Supreme Court held that the right of access imposes an affirmative duty on prison officials to assist inmates in preparing and filing legal papers, either by establishing an adequate law library or by providing adequate assistance from persons trained in the law. Id. at 828. In Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996), the Supreme Court held that a prisoner must show some actual injury resulting from a denial of access in order to allege a constitutional violation. Id. at 349.

         To establish that he suffered an actual injury, plaintiff must show “actual prejudice with respect to contemplated or existing litigation, such as the inability to meet a filing deadline or to present a claim.” Lewis, 518 U.S. at 348; Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415, (2002); Nevada Dep't of Corr. v. Greene, 648 F.3d 1014, 1018 (9th Cir. 2011); Phillips v. Hurst, 588 F.3d 652, 655 (9th Cir. 2009). “Failure to show that a ‘nonfrivolous legal claim has been frustrated' is fatal to ...


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