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Chapa v. MCSO Employee B0738

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department C

June 25, 2013

RALPH JOHN CHAPA, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
MCSO EMPLOYEE B0738, Defendant/Appellee.

Not for Publication -Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. CV2011-021566 The Honorable John Christian Rea, Judge

Ralph John Chapa Phoenix Plaintiff/Appellant in propria persona

William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney Phoenix by Joseph I. Vigil, Deputy County Attorney Attorneys for Defendant/Appellee

MEMORANDUM DECISION

PETER B. SWANN, Presiding Judge

¶1 Ralph John Chapa appeals the superior court's order dismissing his complaint with prejudice under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the case to allow Chapa the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 In 2011, Chapa, an inmate in custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO"), submitted numerous Inmate Institutional Grievance Appeal Forms to the MCSO. His grievances included allegations that the MCSO "refused [him] services in filing" documents with the court on his behalf, and that the MCSO was denying him access to the courts. An MCSO representative responded to Chapa's grievances by stating that "with a few exceptions, " Inmate Legal Services at the MCSO "does not file motions for inmates represented by counsel."

¶3 In December 2011, Chapa filed a complaint in the superior court against Defendant, an MCSO employee. Chapa alleged that by refusing to file his documents with the courts, Defendant had deprived him of his rights under the Arizona Constitution, including: due process of law, petition and assembly, "the administration of justice, " privileges and immunities, and the right to communicate with the courts and aid in his own defense. Also in December 2011, Chapa filed a "Motion for TRO [temporary restraining order] and a Preliminary Injunction, Court Intervention, [and] Court Orders, " claiming that Defendant was "unlawfully . . . deciding what [he could] research" and "restricting [his] acces[s] to the court." The court denied the motion.

¶4 In January 2012, Defendant moved to dismiss Chapa's complaint. Defendant contended that Chapa's complaint "fail[ed] to provide any facts to support his claim that any of his constitutional rights have been violated." Further, Defendant argued that Chapa "does not have a constitutional right to act as his own attorney while he is being represented[.]" Defendant pointed out that Chapa had appointed counsel for the criminal case relating to his imprisonment yet still "want[ed] to be able to file his own motions and communicate directly with the judge in his criminal case[.]"

¶5 Chapa filed a response to the motion to dismiss. Chapa attached numerous exhibits illustrating his attempts to have the MCSO mail motions and correspondence to the court, to obtain paper to prepare for his defense, and to obtain legal reference materials. The exhibits showed that the MCSO mailed letters for Chapa to his attorney and to the Arizona Supreme Court, but refused to mail numerous documents to the superior court, including motions and letters related to his criminal case, on the grounds that Chapa was represented by an attorney.

¶6 On February 2, 2012, the superior court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, without explanation, in an unsigned minute entry. Chapa appealed. In August 2012, we suspended the appeal and revested jurisdiction in the superior court for the entry of a signed, appealable order. The superior court entered such an order in October 2012 and specified that the dismissal was with prejudice. Thereafter, we reinstated the appeal. We have jurisdiction under A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21(A)(1) and -2101(A)(1).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶7 We review the trial court's dismissal of a complaint de novo. Coleman v. City of Mesa, 230 Ariz. 352, 355, ¶ 7, 284 P.3d 863, 866 (2012). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss an action for "[f]ailure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" if the pleading does not comply with Rule 8. Ariz. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Cullen v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 218 Ariz. 417, 419, ¶ 7, 189 P.3d 344, 346 (2008). Arizona follows the notice pleading standard under Rule 8, which requires "Arizona courts [to] evaluate a complaint's well-pled facts, [so] mere conclusory statements are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Cullen, 218 Ariz. at 419, ΒΆ ...


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