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Cunningham v. Davidson

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 16, 2018

BRADLY CUNNINGHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
MELISSA DAVIDSON, an individual; MICHELLE DODSON, an individual; DENISE FJORDBECK, an individual; and JANE OR JOHN DOES 1-20; all in their individual capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Bradly Cunningham is a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary. At the times relevant to this complaint, Defendant Melissa Davidson was the Oregon Department of Corrections (“ODOC”) law library coordinator, Defendant Michelle Dodson was an executive assistant at ODOC, and Defendant Fjordbeck was a Senior Assistant Attorney General with the Oregon Department of Justice who represented Defendants Davidson and Dodson in earlier state actions brought by Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants intercepted, read, and copied his mail, including privileged mail between him and his attorney.

         ECF 2. The Court construes Plaintiff's complaint as bringing a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting violations of his rights under the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

         On September 5, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF 28) and a motion to stay discovery pending resolution of their motion for summary judgment (ECF 30). On September 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting additional time for discovery to support his response to Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ECF 44. On October 24, 2017, the Court granted limited discovery relating to whether Plaintiff's complaint was time-barred, precluded under the doctrine of res judicata, or barred for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Following this limited discovery, Plaintiff filed a supplemental response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, to which Defendants replied. Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment, as well as Plaitniff's two motions to compel (ECF 24 and 39) and a motion for leave to file an amended complaint (ECF 60).

         STANDARDS

         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Clicks Billiards Inc. v. Sixshooters Inc., 251 F.3d 1252, 1257 (9th Cir. 2001). Although “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment, ” the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 255 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue for summary judgment on five alternative grounds:

(1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust all of his available administrative/grievance remedies as to his claim in his civil rights complaint before filing this action against Defendants;
(2) Plaintiff's claim is barred by statute of limitations;
(3) Plaintiff's claim in his civil rights complaint is barred by the doctrine of res judicata or claim preclusion; . . . [(4)] Defendant Denise Fjordbeck is shielded from liability by the doctrine of absolute immunity; and [(5)] Defendants are shielded from liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity.

         Because the Court finds that this action can be resolved in its entirety on grounds (2), (3) and (4), this Order does not reach the questions of administrative exhaustion and qualified immunity.

         A. Res judicata and Statute of Limitations

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff's complaint is barred under the doctrine of res judicata, because Plaintiff has already litigated a claim based on facts nearly identical to those alleged in this case. The doctrine of res judicata bars plaintiffs from relitigating controversies that have been decided on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction. Actions must be dismissed under the doctrine of res judicata where “(1) the same parties, or their privies, were involved in the prior litigation, (2) the prior litigation involved the same claim or cause of action as the later suit, and ...


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