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Ray v. MacDonald

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 21, 2019

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


          G. Murray Snow, Chief United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants James MacDonald, Gary L. Ralston, Donald Justus Jr., and Ashlee Pratt's Second Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 173). For the following reasons, the Court will deny the motion.


         In December 2017, this Court issued an order that granted Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in part. Specifically, the Court granted the motion for Defendant Pratt as to Plaintiff's First Amendment claims, and for Defendant Justus as to all claims. (Doc. 96). In May 2018, the Court subsequently reinstated Defendant Justus because new evidence emerged that he was involved with processing inmates' letters during the relevant time period. (Doc. 142). After additional discovery was conducted, Defendants filed a second Motion for Summary Judgment that raises many of the same arguments as their first. Because issues of material fact remain, the Court will deny the motion.

         I. Legal Standard

         The purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit will preclude the entry of summary judgment, and the disputed evidence must be “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Parties opposing summary judgment are required to “cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record” establishing a genuine dispute or “show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         II. Analysis

         A. Factual Background

         The four named Defendants in this matter worked for the private-prison corporation CoreCivic at the La Palma Correctional Center (“La Palma”), in Eloy, Arizona. Defendant James MacDonald served as the Warden of the facility, Defendant Gary Ralston was the mailroom supervisor, and Defendants Ashlee Pratt and Donald Justus worked as mailroom clerks.

         In 2007, Plaintiff Edward Vincent Ray Jr. (“Ray”) and his son (“Ray III”) were convicted of some of the same crimes in the Northern District of California. Following those convictions, they were both incarcerated at the same facility in Oklahoma. There, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation authorized correspondence between Defendant and his son via a Form 1074 (“2009 Form”). In August 2012, Plaintiff's son was transferred to La Palma. Two months later, Plaintiff was also transferred to La Palma. As with the Oklahoma facility, inmates incarcerated at La Palma are subject to the California Code of Regulations and must obtain a 1074 form to correspond with other inmates. Ray and Ray III were able to correspond freely until Ray was transferred to La Palma.

         For the first few weeks at La Palma, Ray did not realize that his mail to his son was being withheld and speculated that the mailroom may have mixed up their mail because they had the same name. On November 22, Ray wrote to the mailroom to clarify that he and his son “had an approved CDCR 1074 form to write to each other.” (Doc. 179 Ex. 14). Ray began to worry for his son's safety and did not received any correspondence from Ray III. (Doc. 179, Ex. 3).

         On December 1, Ray spoke with his daughter on the phone, and she informed Ray that his son had sent letters to him, and that his son had not received his letters. Four days later, Ray submitted another form to the mailroom, complaining about the seizure of his mail, and noting that he had prior approval to send his son mail. Two days after that, Ray received returned letters that he had written to his son, along with an empty envelope that was addressed to the mailroom staff. Becoming increasingly frustrated with the staff, Ray sent a third form to the mailroom pleading that they stop withholding his mail, noting that he was trying to communicate with his son about their pending habeas petitions, and claiming the guards were “interfering with my active pending legal case that also involves my son/co-defendant.” (Doc. 179, Ex. 28). Defendant Ralston simply responded, “Submit a 1074 for Approval.” (Id.). So, Ray then submitted a second 1074 Form for approval. (Doc. 179, Ex. 1).

         A few days later, Ray discussed the mail seizure issue with Warden MacDonald in person. Ray states that he showed Warden MacDonald his 2009 Form that approved contact between him and his son. Warden MacDonald told Ray to file a grievance, so Ray did on December 10. In that grievance, Ray attached his 2009 Form, and sent copies to both Warden MacDonald and the mailroom. Nine days later, Ray had not received a response from Warden MacDonald, so he sent an additional form requesting a response. In that form, Ray again noted that he and his son “were already approved to correspond via CDCR 1074 form.” (Doc. 179, Ex. 35). On January 8, Ray again pleaded with Defendant MacDonald to allow him to correspond with his son. On the same day, Ray submitted a form to Ralston, notifying him that Ray would name him in a lawsuit unless he allowed him to send letters to his son. ...

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