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Wood v. Young

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

September 4, 2019

KEVIN YOUNG, et al., Defendants.


          Marsha J. Pechman United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Objections (Dkt. No. 102) to the Report and Recommendation of the Honorable Brian A. Tsuchida, United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 99.) Having reviewed the Report and Recommendation, the Objections, the Response (Dkt. No. 103) and all related papers, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation and GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.


          The relevant facts and procedural background are set forth in detail in the Report and Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 99.) Plaintiff now raises numerous objections, contending the Report and Recommendation erred in finding: (1) Plaintiff was not harmed by being denied legal envelopes (Dkt. No. 102 at 2-10); (2) Defendant Prosecutor Matthew Baldock has immunity for his alleged actions (Id. at 13); (3) Defendants did not act with punitive intent when taking Plaintiff's furniture (Id. at 17-18); (4) Plaintiff's claims regarding Defendants' efforts to enforce a Snohomish County Superior court order are barred by Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45-46 (1971); (5) the Defendant mental health professionals were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's mental health care needs (Id. at 19); and (6) even if Defendant MHP Mirra Merkel covered up a grievance Plaintiff filed against her, Plaintiff failed to demonstrate how this act put him at substantial risk of suffering serious harm, a necessary element of his deliberate indifference claim (Id. at 20).


          I. Legal Standard Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, the Court must resolve de novo any part of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation that has been properly objected to and may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         II. Motion to File an Over-Length Brief

          As an initial matter, Plaintiff requests ten additional pages to object to the Report and Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 101.) Motions seeking approval to file an over-length brief may be filed as soon as possible but no later than three days before the underlying motion or brief is due, shall be noted for consideration for the day on which it is filed, shall be no more than two pages in length, and shall request a specific number of additional pages. LCR 7(f). Plaintiff has complied with the local rule in requesting his over-length brief. The Court therefore GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion.

         III. Plaintiff's Objections

         A. Access to the Courts and Right to Counsel

          Plaintiff contends that pursuant to a Snohomish County Superior Court Order (the “Snohomish Order”) issued in a pending criminal case, the prosecutor, Defendant Matthew Baldock, and several of the Defendant prison officials, violated Plaintiff's right to meaningful access to the courts by denying Plaintiff access to (1) legal envelopes addressed to various attorneys, the Honorable James L. Robart, and the Washington State Bar Association and (2) attorneys representing Plaintiff in his other criminal cases. (Dkt. No. 8.) The Snohomish Order, issued after another inmate alleged Plaintiff had recruited him to kidnap and murder witnesses in his pending rape case, restricted Plaintiff's “use of [the] telephone, visitation privileges, use of [the] library, and mail privileges” to only allow contact with “defense counsel and/or persons with their firm.” (Dkt. No. 73, Declaration of Matthew Baldock (“Baldock Decl.”), Ex. C at 3.) The order was later changed to allow Plaintiff to have contact with “any court and any attorney.” (Id., Ex. E at 3.) The original Order was signed by Plaintiff's defense attorney in the Snohomish County case. (Id.)

         In his Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Tsuchida recommended dismissing Plaintiff's claims, finding that, pursuant to Ninth Circuit precedent, DPA Baldock and Defendant prison officials enjoy absolute immunity from liability under Section 1983 for their roles in interpreting and enforcing the Snohomish Order, Plaintiff failed to allege any actual injury resulted from the denial of envelopes, and his challenges to the validity of the Snohomish Order are barred by the Younger doctrine. (Dkt. No. 99 at 21-24, 27 (quoting Younger, 401 U.S. at 45-46.)

         Plaintiff now objects to each of these points, arguing: Defendants cannot be immune from Section 1983 liability for denying Plaintiff legal envelopes addressed to Judge Robart because this “violat[ed] or thwart[ed]” the Snohomish Order and, additionally, the order “was obtained outside of Mr. Baldock['s] capacity as a prosecutor, ” because Defendant Baldock promoted an order that was not “facially valid” (Dkt. No. 102 at 12-13, 17); Plaintiff was injured when Defendants failed to give him a legal envelope on time to provide Defendants with the required notice of his Motion for Default, which led the Court to deny his motion (Id.; Dkt. No. 22); and the Snohomish Order prevented him from accessing his counsel in his other pending criminal cases, including defense counsel Colleen Hartl, and as a result was unable to “initiate talks” in order to gain a plea deal in his pending criminal case in King County. (Dkt. No. 102 at 14, 18.)

         Plaintiffs objections fail to undermine the analysis in the Report and Recommendation. First, contact with anyone other than Plaintiff's defense counsel or staff is plainly barred by the Snohomish Order; this includes Judge Robart. (See Baldock Decl., Ex. C at 3, Ex. E. at 3.) And, as discussed at length in the Report and Recommendation, Defendant Baldock has absolute immunity for his advocacy in support of the Snohomish Order. (Dkt. No. 99 at 23); Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village, 723 F.2d 674, 678 (9th Cir. 1984). Further, denial of Plaintiff's Motion for Default is not evidence of harm because Plaintiff has not demonstrated he would have been granted a default judgment, especially given that Defendants answered the Amended Complaint less than two weeks after Plaintiff's Motion, and ...

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