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Barroca v. Hurwitz

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 28, 2018

HUGH HURWITZ, [1] et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, which the Court grants for reasons discussed below.


         Robert Barroca (“the Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, asserts in his Complaint (“Compl.”) various constitutional violations. The Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, was detained at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana from October 2005 through April 2011. Compl. at 3 ¶ 1. He is serving a 240-month prison sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in June 2005. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) at 2; Plaintiff's Opposition to the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) at 6. The conviction and sentence were subsequently affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. United States v. Barroca, 310 Fed.Appx. 69, 70 (9th Cir. 2008). The Plaintiff's Petitions for en banc review by the Ninth Circuit and for certiorari in the Supreme Court were denied on October 24, 2008 and February 23, 2009, respectively. United States v. Barroca, Nos. 98-10275, 05-10462 (9th Cir. Oct. 24, 2008); Barroca, 310 Fed.Appx. at 70, cert. denied, Barroca v. United States, 555 U.S. 1202 (2009).

         The crux of the Plaintiff's Complaint relates to his frustrations with the implementation of the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (“TRULINCS”) by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). See Compl. at 4 ¶ 4. He alleges that TRULINCS prevented him from timely filing his §2255 Habeas Petition (“Habeas Petition”). See Id. He further alleges that TRULINCS, which requires inmates, with limited exceptions, “to place a TRULINCS-generated mailing label on all outgoing postal mail, ” did not provide adequate space to include the full address of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. See id., Program Statement P5265.13, Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS) - Electronic Messaging (2/19/2009), Sec. 4.c., Plaintiff's Exhibit (“Pl's Ex.”) A. Consequently, the Plaintiff instead mailed the Petition to his sister, so that she could then mail it to the Court. Compl. at 6 ¶ 11. As a result, the Plaintiff's Habeas Petition was filed approximately six weeks late. See Order Dismissing the Petitioner's Motion for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 With Prejudice (“Ord. Denying Hab. Pet.”), United States v. Barroca, No. CR 94-0470 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 27, 2010). In dismissing the Plaintiff's Habeas Petition, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the Northern District of California, stated the following:

Standing in the way of [Barroca's] claim for relief under section 2255 is the one-year statute of limitations . . . . Barroca was required to file his petition within one year after his judgment of conviction became final. 28 USC § 2255(f)(1). A judgment of conviction becomes final upon denial of a petition for certiorari . . .
Barroca's judgment of conviction became final when the Supreme Court denied his certiorari petition on February 23, 2009. Barroca did not sign the instant § 2255 petition until March 22, 2010 and the petition was not filed with this court until April 6, 2010. Doc #782. Under either the date of filing or the date of his signature, Barroca's petition is untimely pursuant to 28 USC § 2255(f)(1) . . .
As it plainly appears from the record before the court that Barroca is not entitled to relief on his untimely petition, the petition is DISMISSED pursuant to Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.

Id. at 3-4.

         The Plaintiff then filed a Motion to Toll the Statute of Limitations and to Vacate Judgment. See Motion and Request for Statutory and Equitable Tolling of AEDPA's Statute of Limitations and Motion to Vacate (“Mot. to Toll”), United States v. Barroca, No. CR 94-0470 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2010). The Plaintiff's Motion was dismissed. See Order Dismissing Petitioner's Motion for Wirt of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ¶ 2255 With Prejudice, Denying Certificate of Appealability (“Ord. Denying Mot. to Toll”), United States v. Barroca, No. CR 94-0470 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2011). With respect to the mailing labels, the court found that

. . . the alleged inability to fit the Court's mailing address on the TRULINCS labels cannot serve as a basis for statutory tolling. Although Petitioner claims that the mailing address of the Court did not fit on the labels used by the TRULINCS program, the evidence establishes that the Court's mailing address did, in fact, fit on TRULINCS labels.[] Further, Petitioner's contention is belied by the fact that he was able to successfully file three separate pleadings with other districts in December 2009, at least two of which were served on parties using mailing addresses as long or longer than that of this Court.

Id. at 8 (footnote and citation omitted).

         Next, the Plaintiff sought relief by way of a Motion Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). See Motion for Relief from Judgment; Newly Discovered Evidence pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1)-(4); Request for Indicative Ruling Fed.R.Civ.P. 62.1; Request for Evidentiary Hearing (“Mot. for Relief from Judgment & Indic. Ruling”), United States v. Barroca, No. CR 94-0470 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2012). This Motion was also denied, and with respect to the TRULINCS issue, the court held:

In the previous motion to toll, [the Government] provided a declaration of a prison employee familiar with the TRULINCS system who stated that the address for the Court could indeed fit on the four lines generally allowed by the system, and that in addition, the system allowed addresses with up to six lines through the use of “Re:” and “Comments” lines . . . . The employee also stated that he had spoken with Petitioner about his problem and suggested abbreviating the Court's address if he was having difficulties, but that to his knowledge Petitioner never attempted to do so . . . .
Additionally, even if he were precluded from sending the filing to this Court, Petitioner does not provide the date he mailed the petition to his sister (whether it was sent within the limitations period), or explain why it took 37 days for the petition to reach her, and for her to mail it to this Court. He has not established entitlement to tolling for the entire 37 day period.

See Order Denying the Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment and for an Indicative Ruling (“Ord. Denying Mot. for Relief from Judgment & Indic. Ruling”) at 2-4, Barroca v. United States, No. CR 94-0470 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 11, 2013). The Plaintiff's subsequent Motion for Reconsideration was also denied. See Order Denying the Petitioner's Request for an Indicative Ruling, Request to Amend or Supplement Petition, and Motion for Relief from Judgment (“Ord. Denying Mot. to Alter & Amend”), Barroca v. United States, No. CR 94-0470 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2013), ECF No. 890. In relevant part, the court reasoned:

Petitioner . . . takes issue with this Court's holding that he offered no evidence to contradict the December 20, 2011 finding that this Court's address fit on the TRULINCS labels, and that the TRULINCS system thus did not prevent him from filing his habeas petition within the statute of limitations. Docket No. 889 at 7. Petitioner offers no new evidence or argument on this front, but merely repeats arguments he raised in his previous motion. See Docket No. 882. He argues, for example, that no one ever showed him how to abbreviate the Court's address to fit on a TRULINCS label. However, as noted in this Court's previous order, the two abbreviations included in the government's example label (“Attn:” and “CA”) are in general use, and it is not clear why Petitioner would specifically need someone to instruct him on how to use such abbreviations.[] See Docket No. 886 at 3. In any event, Petitioner raises no new point on this issue . . .
The only new information Petitioner offers in his motion only undermines his argument that he is entitled to equitable tolling. After concluding that he was not able to mail his habeas petition using the TRULINCS labels, Petitioner ultimately filed his petition by mailing it to his sister and having her send it to the court. In the January 11, 2013 order, this Court noted that Petitioner had not stated that he mailed the petition to his sister within the limitations period, nor did he explain why it took until 37 days after the limitations period for the petition to reach the Court. Docket No. 886 at 3-4. Petitioner now clarifies that he mailed his habeas petition to his sister after the statute of limitations had already run because he had been trying to obtain an exemption from the requirement that prisoners use the TRULINCS system . . . He does not explain why, knowing that the deadline for his petition was approaching, he waited until after the deadline passed to mail his petition to his sister, thus ensuring that it would not be timely filed.

Id. at 3-5 (footnote omitted).

         The Plaintiff has now filed the current action, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. See Compl. at 1. He demands a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and monetary damages totaling $20 million. See id. at 9-11. The Plaintiff relies on Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), as support for his allegations. Id. at 1. He sues (1) Charles E. Samuels, Jr., (2) Thomas R. Kane, (3) Harley G. Lappin, (4) Judi Simon Garrett, and (5) John & Jane Doe Policymakers. Id. at 2-3. The Plaintiff is alleging that BOP officials, both known and unknown to him, are liable due to their presumed involvement in the development of the TRULINCS system. See Id. at 6-7. He further alleges that these Defendants failed to properly train BOP staff to instruct him as to how to properly use the TRULINCS labelling system. See Id. at 7-8, Pl's Ex. A. Although the targets of this action are new, the core of the Plaintiff's argument is the same. He again alleges that TRULINCS is “either not capable of or does not provide enough word, letter, and number space to enter” the full and proper address of the sentencing court, which in turn, prevented him from timely filing his Habeas Petition. See id. at 4 ¶ 4.

         The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants implemented TRULINCS at USP Terre Haute in January 2010, mere weeks before the February 27, 2010 deadline for filing his § 2255 Petition. Id. at 4 ¶ 3. The Plaintiff claims that the Defendants “knew or should have known that their [p]olicy, ” id. at 4 ¶ 5 (referring to Program Statement 5265.13), “would cause/is causing harm, ” id. at 5 ¶ 5, specifically by “deny[ing] him access to the courts, ” id. at 5 ¶ 6. Due to this denial of access, the Plaintiff alleges that he “was not allowed to mail his § 2255 [P]etition directly to the district court.” Id. at 6 ¶ 10. Instead, the Plaintiff mailed the Habeas Petition to his sister, who filed the Petition on his behalf, albeit “. . . 37 days late past AEDPA's statute of limitations.” Id. at 6 ¶ 11 (emphasis in original).

         The Plaintiff filed this action on July 23, 2013[2] and alleges three constitutional claims. [3]See Compl., ECF No. 1, at 1, 6-9. In response to the Plaintiff's Complaint, the Defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“F.R.C.P.”) Rule 12 §§ (b)(1) and (b)(6). See Defs.' Mem at 1. The claims asserted by the Plaintiff are the following.

         Claim One: Policymaker Liability

         First, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants “personally and officially commit[ted] unconstitutional and tortious acts” when they “formulated, drafted[, ] created, adopted, established and implemented” the TRULINCS mandatory outgoing mailing label requirement for all inmates, ” which prevented him from timely filing his § 2255 petition, thereby denying him access to the courts. See Compl. at 6-7.

         Claim Two: Supervisory Liability

         Second, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants “failed to and are currently failing to supervise, train, and/or instruct subordinate(s) and staff in the drafting, creation, formulation, establishment, and implementation of [the TRULINCS] policy to include any instructions for inmates (written or oral) how to use TRULINCS . . . to place or add any address on a mailing label or provide any exception/exemption for legal mail to the courts.” Id. at 7-8. The Plaintiff alleges that the training by these Defendants was so “… clearly deficient” that violation of his “…constitutional rights is/was inevitable.” Id. at 8 ¶ 3.

         Claim Three: Violation of Due Process

         Finally, the Plaintiff argues that he was denied access to the courts, because of the mandatory labeling policy. See id. at 8-9. In turn, he contends that the imposition of such restrictions infringed upon his right to due process under ...

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