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Hayes v. Zmuda

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 1, 2019

MICHAEL T. HAYES, Plaintiff,


          B. Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge.

         Pending before the Court in this civil rights matter are several motions filed by the parties, including (1) Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. 45), (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 55), and (3) Plaintiff's Motion to Review Amended Civil Rights Complaint of 3/29/2019 (Dkt. 56)-which the Court construes as including a motion for leave to amend-as well as Plaintiff's proposed third amended complaint (Dkt. 57).

         Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record and that oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1. Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order denying Plaintiff's motion to amend, granting Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, denying as moot Defendants' alternative motion for summary judgment, and denying as moot Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, this case will be dismissed with prejudice.

         1. Plaintiff May Not Further Amend the Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Plaintiff previously was allowed to proceed on claims that, as set forth in his First Amended Complaint (Dkt. 22), Defendants Zmuda, Ramirez, Phillips, and Shedd violated Plaintiff's right to access the courts. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants deprived Plaintiff of legal materials necessary for Plaintiff to pursue his Shoshone County successive post-conviction action, resulting in the dismissal of that action in state court. (Dkt. 31 at 7-8.) Because the Shoshone County case was the basis of the First Amended Complaint's only plausible access-to-courts claim against each of these four Defendants, the Court instructed Plaintiff to file a Second Amended Complaint limited to those four claims and Defendants. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, but- contrary to the Court's instruction-it included additional claims. (See, e.g., Dkt. 33 at 14-15, 25-26, citing federal and state criminal statutes and asserting claims of false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty interests.) The Court need not address these additional claims, because their inclusion in the Second Amended Complaint violated the Court's previous order.

         As for the claims upon which Plaintiff was allowed to proceed-the four access-to-courts claims with respect to the Shoshone County case-the Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants' actions between July 4, 2015 and May 27, 2016 violated his right of access and caused the dismissal of that case. (Id. at 14-25.)

         Defendants have now filed their motion to dismiss. Defendants argue that the Second Amended Complaint fails to state an access-to-courts claim under Rule 12(b)(6) because the Second Amended Complaint-considered along with judicially-noticeable state court documents-does not plausibly allege that (1) Plaintiff suffered an actual injury to his right of access or (2) Defendants' actions caused any such injury. (Dkt. 45 at 9-14.)

         Defendants' motion to dismiss relies, as expected, on Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and the allegations therein-that Defendants' actions from July 2015 to May 2016 caused the dismissal of his Shoshone County post-conviction case. Defendants point out in their opening brief that, according to Plaintiff's own allegations in the Second Amended Complaint, he had access to his Shoshone County post-conviction case file for more than a year after the Shoshone County Court (1) notified Plaintiff that the petition was subject to dismissal and (2) ordered him to respond to that notice. Nonetheless, Plaintiff did not file anything in that post-conviction action for twenty-two months after he received the notice, when he filed a motion for appointment of counsel. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's failure to timely respond to the notice of intent to dismiss, despite having access to his legal materials until July 2015, caused the dismissal of the post-conviction action; they also argue that Plaintiff's filings in the post-conviction action show that he “ably argued the merits” of that case and, therefore, has not shown actual injury. (Dkt. 45-1 at 14.)

         Plaintiff responded to Defendants' motion to dismiss, asserting for the first time that “all [his] Shoshone County Post-Conviction Relief case files” were confiscated by prison officials on April 10, 2014-instead of on July 4, 2015, as alleged in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint; thus, according to Plaintiff, he was unable to file a timely response to the Shoshone County Court's notice of intent to dismiss because the seizure of his legal materials occurred during the 20-day response period. (Dkt. 52 at 20; see also Id. at 4-6.) In their reply in support of the motion to dismiss, Defendants correctly note that the Second Amended Complaint does not include the April 2014 allegation. Defendants argue that “Plaintiff cannot defeat Defendants' Motion [to Dismiss] simply by changing his factual allegations to suit his purposes.” (Dkt. 54 at 3.)

         It was only after Defendants filed their reply that Plaintiff submitted his proposed third amended complaint. In this proposed pleading, Plaintiff alleges that his case file for his successive post-conviction petition was confiscated on April 10, 2014, shortly after he filed the petition in Shoshone County Court. The proposed third amended complaint also attempts to name an additional Defendant and includes allegations of events going as far back as 2007. (Dkt. 57 at 14; see also Dkt. 56 at 1.)

         A. Standards of Law Regarding Leave to Amend

         Amendments to pleadings are governed by Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The courts “should freely give leave when justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), and the rule's “policy of favoring amendments to pleadings should be applied with extreme liberality.” Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1135 (9th Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Several factors guide the Court's consideration of whether to grant leave to amend, including whether amendment would be futile, whether allowing amendment would cause undue delay and undue prejudice to the party opposing amendment, and whether the request to amend is based on bad faith or a dilatory motive. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Whether to allow amendment is within the Court's discretion, and that discretion is especially broad where, as here, the plaintiff has already amended the complaint. Griggs v. Pace Am. Grp., Inc., 170 F.3d 877, 879 (9th Cir. 1999).

         B. The Court Will Deny Leave to Amend

         The Court concludes that leave to amend should be denied. First, amendment would be futile. For the same reasons explained below with respect to the Second Amended Complaint, those access-to-courts claims that are reasserted in the proposed third amended complaint are subject to dismissal because Plaintiff does not plausibly allege that he suffered an actual injury to his right of access as a result of Defendants' actions.

         Amendment is also futile because the proposed third amended complaint does not sufficiently set forth the underlying post-conviction claims that Plaintiff was allegedly frustrated from pursuing. A prisoner asserting an access-to-courts claim must allege more than that prison officials' actions caused the loss of a claim. The prisoner also must set forth the elements of that lost claim with the level of detail that would be necessary “just as if it were being independently pursued.” Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 417 (2002).

         Plaintiff's proposed amendment fails to do so. Specifically, the amendment does not set forth any “sufficient reason” why Plaintiff's successive state post-conviction petition was permissibly filed under Idaho law, which prohibits successive petitions unless the petitioner establishes such a reason. Idaho Code § 19-4908. Also, though the proposed amendment identifies Plaintiff's lost post-conviction claims (Dkt. 57 at 14-15), it does not contain any factual support for those claims, let alone allegations with the level of detail required by Christopher v. Harbury.[1]

         The Court also notes that the proposed newly-modified claim-based on the April 2014 allegation and substituting that date in place of the July 4, 2015 allegation-is subject to dismissal for the additional reason that it is untimely. See Idaho Code § 5-219 (two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions); see also Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 280 (1985) (holding that state statute of limitation for personal injury actions governs § 1983 actions), abrogated on other grounds by Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & ...

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