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William Gray v. Dewayne Arvel Shedd

June 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge


Pending before the Court are the following motions: (1) Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 43; (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, Dkt. 56; (3) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. 50; (4) Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, Dkt. 55; (5) Plaintiff's Motion in Limine, Dkt. 36; (6) Plaintiff's Motion Regarding Sufficiency of Answers and Objections of Defendant, Dkt. 39; (7) Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Production of Documents and Discovery, Dkt. 42; and (8) Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery, Dkt. 44. Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument. D. Idaho Loc. R. 7.1(b).


Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) and currently incarcerated at Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. The Court reviewed his Amended Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A and authorized him to proceed on his claim that Defendant Shedd, a prison paralegal, violated his constitutional right of access to the courts. (Initial Review Order, Dkt. 21 at 6.) All other claims and defendants were dismissed. (Id. at 8-9.)

Plaintiff alleges that he attempted to pursue a civil rights case in Idaho state court but was stymied by Defendant's actions. Plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint, Case No. CV-OC-09-07363, in Ada County Court on April 20, 2009. That case was dismissed on April 28, 2010 because Plaintiff had failed to timely serve the defendants as required by Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 4(a)(2). (Mtn. to Dismiss, Dkt. 43-1, Ex. B.)

Plaintiff later filed this action, asserting that Defendant Shedd caused the failure of service by refusing to mail a copy of the complaint to the state court defendants by certified mail. (Am. Compl., Dkt. 18 at 18-19.) Defendant now moves for dismissal, arguing that Plaintiff did not suffer an actionable injury to his right of access to the courts because certified mailing is not an acceptable method for service of process pursuant to the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. (Mtn. to Dismiss at 5-8.) Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing for the first time that the "certified mailing denial might not have been the sole cause" of his inability to bring his civil rights claims in state court. (Plaintiff's Opposition to Mtn. to Dismiss, Dkt. 49 at 2.) Plaintiff also moves to amend his complaint to allege that Defendant Shedd refused to personally serve the state court defendants with the summons and complaint upon Plaintiff's request. (Mtn. to Amend, Dkt. 56 at 5-6.) Essentially, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend to assert claims that his case was "dismissed for lack of service, without specific distinction as to methods of service." (Plaintiff's Reply in Supp. of Mtn. to Amend, Dkt. 58 at 3.)


1. Standard of Law

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss "does not need detailed factual allegations," it must set forth "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. 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." Id. at 570. 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. Id. at 556. 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. Id. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id. at 557 (alteration omitted).

The Supreme Court has identified two "working principles" that underlie Twombly. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id. "Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 678-79. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Id. at 679. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

2. Analysis

As an initial matter, Plaintiff contends that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss should be construed as a motion for summary judgment because Defendant attached two documents to his Motion. (Plaintiff's Opposition at 1-2.) "However, facts subject to judicial notice may be considered on a motion to dismiss." Mullis v. United States Bankr. Ct. for the Dist. of Nev., 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987). Under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, the Court may take judicial notice "of the records of state agencies and other undisputed matters of public record" without transforming a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Disabled Rights Action Comm. v. Las Vegas Events, Inc., 375 F.3d 861, 866 n.1 (9th Cir. 2004). Defendant asks the Court to take judicial notice of (1) the Idaho state court repository webpage and (2) the Ada County Court order dismissing Plaintiff's earlier lawsuit.

The dismissal order, found at Exhibit B to Defendant's Motion, is a proper subject of judicial notice, and the Court grants Defendant's request with respect to that Exhibit. Although the Court does not take judicial notice of the repository webpage, that does not alter the Court's ultimate conclusion in this matter. Therefore, Defendant's Motion is appropriately treated as a motion to dismiss, rather than a motion for summary judgment.

The Court now turns to Plaintiff's access to courts claim. Inmates have a constitutional right to access the courts. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977). Bounds "guarantees no particular methodology but rather the conferral of a capability-the capability of bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or conditions of confinement before the courts." Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 356 (1996). Moreover, in order to demonstrate a viable access to courts claim, Plaintiff must show that he suffered an actual injury as a result of the alleged denial to access. Id. at 350-51. "[A]n inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury simply by establishing that his prison's law library or legal assistance program is subpar in some theoretical sense." ...

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