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Lewis v. Enright

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

August 15, 2019

JUSTIN EDWARD LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD M ENRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE OR AMEND THE COMPLAINT

          THERESA L. FRICKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's filing of a civil rights complaint. Plaintiff has been granted in forma pauperis status in this matter and is proceeding pro se. In light of the deficiencies in several of the claims in the complaint discussed below, however, the undersigned will not direct service of the complaint at this time. Plaintiff, though, will be provided the opportunity to show cause why certain claims should not be dismissed or to file an amended complaint, on or before September 15, 2019.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff raises three claims in his complaint: (1) defendant Caleb Baird violated his right to equal protection by discriminating against him based on his race by imposing a significantly greater sanction against him for fighting than his white counterpart received for the same offense; (2) defendant Penny Sapp violated his right of meaningful access to the courts because the Jail library is generally deficient and he does not receive enough time in the library; (3) defendant Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad M. Enright violated his constitutional rights by charging him in district court for the same crime for which he already received a jail disciplinary sanction and “when no won [sic] read me my rights or took a statement from me.” Dkt. 1-1.

         DISCUSSION

         The Court must dismiss the complaint of a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis “at any time if the [C]ourt determines” that the action: (a) “is frivolous or malicious”; (b) “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted”' or (c) “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (b). A complaint is frivolous when it has no arguable basis in law or fact. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.3d 1221, 1228 (9th Cir. 1984).

         Before the Court may dismiss the complaint as frivolous or for failure to state a claim, though, it “must provide the [prisoner] with notice of the deficiencies of his or her complaint and an opportunity to amend the complaint prior to dismissal.” McGucken v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1055 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Sparling v. Hoffman Constr., Co., Inc., 864 F.2d 635, 638 (9th Cir. 1988); Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1449 (9th Cir. 1987). On the other hand, leave to amend need not be granted “where the amendment would be futile or where the amended complaint would be subject to dismissal.” Saul v. United States, 928 F.2d 829, 843 (9th Cir. 1991).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint must allege: (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and (2) the conduct deprived a person of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981). Section 1983 is the appropriate avenue to remedy an alleged wrong only if both of these elements are present. Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985).

         A. Equal Protection

         The Court finds plaintiff has stated sufficient facts to warrant a response from defendant with respect to his equal protection claim. However, because plaintiff's claims with respect to the prison library and against the Kitsap County Prosecutor are deficient, as explained below, the Court will not serve the complaint until plaintiff has had an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in his other claims. If plaintiff fails to show cause or file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies in the complaint as described below, the Court may recommend dismissal of the deficient claims and direct service of the complaint only with respect to plaintiff's equal protection claim.

         B. Access to Courts

         Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated because the Jail library is generally deficient and he does not receive enough time in the library. Dkt. 1-1. 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 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 his complaint. The complaint fails to allege facts showing plaintiff had a legal claim frustrated by defendant's actions. See Exmundo v. Kevorkian, 2009 WL 3416236, *3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 22, 2009) (holding litigating a case effectively is not a constitutionally protected right, and finding the plaintiff did not state an access claim when he alleged he had to secure ...


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