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Dunomes v. Erickson

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

May 20, 2019

Larry Darnell Dunomes, Plaintiff,
Ian Erickson et al., Defendants.


          J. Richard Creatura, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Larry Darnell Dunomes, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated when he was denied copies in the prison law library. However, plaintiff has not alleged any actual injury as a result of defendants' actions. Having reviewed and screened plaintiff's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court declines to serve plaintiff's complaint because plaintiff has yet to plead sufficient facts to demonstrate that defendants violated his constitutional rights. However, the Court provides plaintiff leave to file an amended pleading by June 20, 2019, to cure the deficiencies identified herein.


         Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Clallam Bay Corrections Center (“CBC””), alleges that on February 7, 2018, defendant Ian Erickson, the CBCC law librarian, denied plaintiff legal copies for “court purposes and for personal recorded copy.” Dkt 6 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Yvette Stubs, the CBCC legal liaison, “did not try to resolve these issues.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that “[a]t this very present time it is impossible to receive copies here at CBCC's law library without paying for them at that instant.” Id.

         Plaintiff requests monetary damages. Id. at 4.


         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), the Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must “dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint: (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. at (b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998).

         In order to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege that: (1) he suffered a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) the violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state law. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). The first step in a § 1983 claim is therefore to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). To satisfy the second step, a plaintiff must allege facts showing how individually named defendants caused, or personally participated in causing, the harm alleged in the complaint. See Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981).

         Plaintiff's complaint does not sufficiently allege these claims, which will result in dismissal of his case if not corrected in an amended complaint.

         I. Access to the Courts

         Plaintiff contends that defendants violated his right to access to the courts when plaintiff was denied access to copies free of charge at the CBCC law library. Dkt. 6.

         Prisoners 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 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 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 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). The right of access to the courts is limited to non-frivolous direct criminal appeals, habeas corpus proceedings, and § 1983 cases. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353 n. 3, 354-55. “Failure to show that a ‘nonfrivolous legal claim has been frustrated' is fatal to [an access to courts] claim.” Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1155 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Lewis, 518 U.S. at 353 & n. 4).

         Plaintiff has not alleged any actual injury in this complaint. There are no allegations that plaintiff was denied access to the courts in a non-frivolous direct criminal appeal, habeas corpus proceeding, or § 1983 case, nor are there allegations showing that plaintiff had a legal claim frustrated by the actions of the named defendants. To succeed on an access to the courts claim, plaintiff must allege in more specific terms what type of claim he was ...

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