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Whitehead v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 2, 2019

Cassius Clayton Whitehead, Plaintiff,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Cassius Clayton Whitehead's Second Motion to File Supplemental Claims. (Doc. 90.) Plaintiff's original Motion to Supplement asked the Court to allow him to add allegations that Arizona Department of Corrections Officer P. Dudley confiscated his and another inmates' legal documents, in violation of his constitutional rights to access the courts and in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right to file grievances and federal lawsuits. (Doc. 60-1 at 2, 4-5.) In addition, Plaintiff claimed that ADC Director Charles L. Ryan implemented and enforced Department Order 902.10.1.3, which is a retaliatory policy against inmates who assist other inmates to file grievances and litigate claims against ADC staff. Id. at 5. On January 22, 2019, the Court issued an Order denying Plaintiff's original Motion to Supplement without prejudice. (Doc. 86.) The Court indicated that Plaintiff may be able to remedy the disparities in the supplement through amendment. Id. Plaintiff has since filed the instant Motion to Supplement addressing these disparities. (Doc. 90.) The Court has reviewed Plaintiff Motion to Supplement (Doc. 90), Defendants' response (Doc. 92), and Plaintiff's reply (Doc. 96) and will grant Plaintiff's motion (Doc. 90). The Court will order Defendants Dudley and Ryan to respond to the Count Four, First Amendment retaliation and access-to-court claims, and will permit limited discovery on the events surrounding the confiscation of legal paperwork in Plaintiff's possession.

         I. Procedural History

         a. First Amended Complaint

         After the Court screened Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, three claims remained. In Count Two, Plaintiff raises a threat-to-safety claim against Defendants Torres, Barnes, and Morrison relating to his work on a hazmat crew. (Doc. 26 at 10-13.) In Count Three, Plaintiff raises a § 1983 claim alleging that Defendants Ryan, Pratt, and Corizon engaged in a practice or custom of denying medical care to prisoners to save money. Id. at 14-16. Count Four includes a four-part claim: three claims of First Amendment retaliation against Defendants Randall, Leonard, and Torres, and a threat-to-safety claim against Defendant Leonard. Id. at 17-20. Count Four alleges that the Defendants engaged in a pattern of preventing and interfering with Plaintiff's ability to pursue federal claims, access the courts, and to assist others in doing so. Id.

         The Court set August 14, 2018 as the deadline to amend pleadings. (Doc. 44.) Prior to this deadline, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Join Additional Parties (Doc. 59) and a Motion to Supplement his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 60), seeking to add claims against both CO Dudley and Defendant Ryan for retaliation and for preventing access to the courts. (Doc. 60-1.)

         The Court denied both motions without prejudice. (Doc. 86.) The Court indicated that Plaintiff's amendment shared a common legal issue with Count Four of the First Amended Complaint, and supplementation may be appropriate if Plaintiff could remedy the deficiencies in the supplemental pleading. Id. at 5. Specifically, for his access-to-courts claim, Plaintiff needed to show that he suffered actual injury from Defendants' actions. Id. at 8. Furthermore, to remedy his First Amendment retaliation claim, Plaintiff needed to demonstrate that the retaliatory action failed to advance a legitimate penological interest. Id. On February 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant Second Motion to File Supplemental Claims (Doc. 90) with his lodged proposed supplement (Doc. 91).

         b. Plaintiff's Supplemental Motion

          Plaintiff's Supplemental Motion alleges that CO Dudley and Defendant Ryan retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment right to file his own, and assist others in filing, administrative grievances and federal suits against ADC officials. (Doc. 90 at 3.) Plaintiff also alleges that in theory the ADC's policy is designed to allow inmates to assist one another legally, but in reality ADC Department Order 902.10.1.3 limits an inmate's ability to access to legal documents to help filing administrative and federal grievances for other inmates. Id. at 3-4. Specifically, the Order “does not permit inmates to be in possession of other inmates['] legal material.” (Doc. 92-1 at 2; Doc. 90 at 2.) Defendant Ryan's enforcement of this policy is a First Amendment violation and is retaliatory because it prevents assistance by jailhouse lawyers and is not related to a legitimate penological goal. Id. at 3-5.

         Plaintiff claims that on August 4, 2018, CO Dudley searched, seized, and confiscated legal paperwork in Plaintiff's possession, including a draft of his First Amended Complaint in this matter. (Doc. 90 at 2.) The seizure also included legal paperwork belonging to another prisoner, Charles Lee, for whom Plaintiff was assisting in filing a federal claim. (Doc. 90 at 2.) CO Dudley told Plaintiff that none of the legal paperwork would be returned. (Doc. 90 at 2.) Plaintiff filed a grievance based on the seizure, and Defendant Ryan responded that Plaintiff's documents were seized pursuant to ADC Department Order 902. (Doc. 92-1 at 2; Doc. 90 at 2.)

         At this time, Plaintiff claims the ADC policy mandated CO Dudley to “return the legal materials to the owner regardless of whether or not disciplinary action was taken.” (Doc. 90 at 4.) The materials were never returned to Plaintiff and he alleges that CO Dudley indicated he never intended to return the paperwork.

         Plaintiff's asserts that CO Dudley and Defendant Ryan's retaliatory actions chilled his First Amendment right to file grievances and speak out against constitutional violations, and did not further any legitimate correctional objective. Id. at 3. Furthermore, the ADC's policy that inmates are not permitted to be in the possession of other inmates' legal documents hampered Plaintiff's constitutional right to access to the courts on behalf of inmate Charles Lee. Id. at 4-5.

         c. Defendant's Response

         Defendants Leonard, Morrison, Randall, and Torres (collectively “Defendants”) argue that the Court should deny Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement because it will cause undue delay and prejudice Defendants. (Doc. 92. at 3.) Defendants note that the supplement not only adds new defendants; it includes actions which occurred much later than the initial claims. Id. Furthermore, Discovery has concluded, and adding the additional claim will force reopening of discovery, causing prejudice to defendants and undue delay. Id. at 4. Defendants contend that permitting the additional claims at trial will also prejudice a jury against them for incidents that were unrelated to them. Id.

         In addition, Defendants make a confusing argument that Plaintiff has not demonstrated he has exhausted the supplemental claims because Plaintiff did not include the allegations in his First Amended Complaint. Id. at 4-5. But Defendants concede that he could not add these allegations at that time because the issues were still in the administrative grievance process. Id. at 5. Moreover, even if the Court considered Plaintiff's claims exhausted as to the confiscated legal property, Defendants argue that ...

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