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Ray v. MacDonald

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 13, 2013

Edward Vincent Ray, Jr., Plaintiff,
James MacDonald, et al., Defendants.


G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Edward Vincent Ray, Jr., who is a California inmate confined in the La Palma Correctional Center (LPCC)[1], a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) facility in Eloy, Arizona, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. [2] (Doc. 1, 2.) Plaintiff also filed a motion for injunctive relief, a declaration, and a motion to expedite his motion for injunctive relief. (Doc. 4, 5, 7.) The Court will dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim with leave to amend and will deny the motions.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The statutory fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id . (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "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 . "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 1951.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler , 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id . (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam )).

If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) ( en banc ). The Court should not, however, advise the litigant how to cure the defects. This type of advice "would undermine district judges' role as impartial decisionmakers." Pliler v. Ford , 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Lopez , 203 F.3d at 1131 n.13 (declining to decide whether the court was required to inform a litigant of deficiencies). The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim, but because the Complaint may possibly be saved by amendment, the Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

III. Complaint

Plaintiff alleges two counts for violation of his First Amendment mail rights. Plaintiff sues the following LPCC employees: Warden James MacDonald; Mailroom Supervisor Gary L. Ralston; Donald Justus, Jr.; and Ashlee Pratt. Plaintiff seeks injunctive, compensatory, and punitive relief.


Plaintiff (Plaintiff or Ray Jr.) and his son, Edward V. Ray, III (Ray III), each filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the Northern District of California challenging their respective California state convictions. See Ray v. Cate, No. C-10-1582 (Ray Jr.); Ray v. Cate, No. C-11-1604 (Ray III). Both were convicted in some of the same robberies, but each was also convicted of offenses for which the other was not. See Ray, No. C-10-1582, doc. 27. On December 2, 2011, the District Court for the Northern District of California designated the habeas cases as related. Id.[3] Both habeas cases remain pending.

Except as otherwise indicated, Plaintiff alleges, or attachments to the Complaint or the motion for injunctive relief reflect, the following facts: on December 29, 2009, the CDCR authorized, via Form 1074, correspondence between Plaintiff and Ray III. (Doc. 5, Ex. B.) At the time, Plaintiff was incarcerated in Solano State Prison in Vacaville, California, and Ray III was incarcerated in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Oklahoma. (Doc. 5 at 3.) On August 29, 2012, Ray III was transferred to LPCC. (See Doc. 5, Ex. D.) On November 6, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to LPCC, but assigned to a different unit than his son. (Id.)

On November 19, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an "Inmate/Parolee Request for Interview, Item or Service" (Inmate Request) to LPCC mail room staff. (Doc. 5, Ex. D.) Plaintiff reported that his son was also at LPCC and that he believed that his mail was being mixed up with his son's and asked mail room staff to verify their inmate numbers to avoid mix-ups. (Id.)

On December 5, 2012, Plaintiff submitted another Inmate Request to mail room staff. In this Inmate Request, Plaintiff stated that he and his son had been approved to correspond via Form 1074 and that they had an "active pending case, " but that he was not receiving mail from his son.[4] (Doc. 5, Ex. E.) Plaintiff asked for an explanation for delays in receiving mail from his son, when they were both held at LPCC, and asserted that LPCC was violating California prison regulations. (Id.) About the same time, Plaintiff submitted another Inmate Request to Defendant Ralston's attention in which Plaintiff accused Ralston of violating Plaintiff's constitutional rights by intercepting his mail. (Doc. 5, Ex. F.) In a response dated December 7, 2012, Ralston told Plaintiff to submit another Form 1074, which he provided to Plaintiff. (Id.) It is unclear whether Ralston knew of the prior approval or whether that approval remained in effect despite Plaintiff's transfer from Solano.

On December 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Inmate Appeal concerning the Inmate Requests submitted on November 19 and December 5 and 7, 2012. (Doc. 5, Ex. G.) On December 19, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an Inmate Request to Warden MacDonald asking why MacDonald had not responded to his Inmate Appeal. (Doc. 1, Ex. 1; 5, Ex. G.) In a January 7, 2013 response, MacDonald stated that Plaintiff continued to violate policy by inserting "your son's mail into yours, " directed Plaintiff to stop the practice, and warned Plaintiff that he would lose his inmate-to-inmate mail privileges. (Doc. 1, Ex. 1.) On January 8, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a request for supervisor review stating that MacDonald's response made no sense and that Plaintiff had been sending his son documents pertaining to their related pending cases.[5] (Id.) Although not without ambiguity, MacDonald apparently referred to Plaintiff's inclusion of legal pleadings or filings with his correspondence.

On January 7, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an Inmate Request to D. Doty, which was referred to Ralston. (Doc. 1, Ex. 3.) In it, Plaintiff complained that California prison regulations required that mail be delivered to an inmate as soon as possible, but not later than seven days from receipt of the mail. (Id.) Plaintiff asserted that his "legal mail" from California had taken more than the seven days to be delivered and asked that the delay in delivery of mail be rectified. (Id.) On January 9, 2013, Ralston responded that legal mail was processed every day that it was received, that it had priority, and that it could take 3-5 days to receive mail from the post office. (Id.) Ralston also noted that delays before mail arrived at LPCC were beyond LPCC's control. ...

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