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Miller v. Sandahl

United States District Court, D. Alaska

July 15, 2014

RICHARD I. MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIEF GUSTAF SANDAHL, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

TIMOTHY M. BURGESS, District Judge.

On February 4, 2014, Richard I. Miller, a self-represented prisoner, filed a Civil Rights Complaint in the Superior Court for the State of Alaska.[1] The Defendants removed the case to this Court on April 8, 2014.[2] The Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, Miller filed a Response, and the Defendants filed a Reply.[3] In addition, Miller filed a Motion to Overrule, a Motion to Postpone Proceedings, and Notices of Voluntary Dismissal without prejudice.[4]

The Defendants moved "to dismiss Millers' new complaint with prejudice for the following two reasons: (1) the claims are barred by the applicable two year statutes of limitation; and (2) the claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata."[5]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts [pled] is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'"[6] But the complaint must allege at least "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."[7] The Supreme Court explains that "the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."[8] The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit states that "[d]ismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory."[9] However, when a court is asked to "consider[] materials outside of the pleadings... the 12(b)(6) motion should be converted into one for summary judgment, and the parties should be given an opportunity to present related materials."[10] No "outside materials" are relevant in this case.

FACTS

Miller alleges that the Defendants recorded and copied his conversations with counsel, while he was incarcerated, in violation of his federal and state rights.[11] Miller states that he discovered the recordings, which took place from April 4-9, 2008, on February 2, 2012.[12] The Court takes judicial notice[13] that, on July 16, 2012, Miller was convicted of 116 counts of possession of child pornography.[14] Miller filed an appeal on or about July 20, 2012, and the appeal appears to be pending.[15]

DISCUSSION

Res Judicata Precludes Re-Litigation of the Issues in this Case

"Under res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action.... Under collateral estoppel, once a court has decided an issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision may preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit on a different cause of action involving a party to the first case."[16] The Supreme Court explains that "res judicata and collateral estoppels relieve parties of the cost and vexation of multiple law suits, conserve judicial resources, and, by preventing inconsistent decisions, encourage reliance on adjudication."[17] The Ninth Circuit further explains that "an opportunity to reach the merits is sufficient to invoke a preclusive effect."[18]

In the previous action which was also removed to this Court, Vladamir Martushev, et al. v. Gustaf Sandahl, et al ., the three current Defendants were named as defendants, and Miller was one of the plaintiffs.[19] In both cases, Miller claims that "while incarcerated, Miller made 16 telephone calls to his Attorney which were recorded and a copy of which were obtained by Officer Mitch Langseth."[20] In the previous action, the Court granted summary judgment against Miller and his co-plaintiffs, and in favor of the current Defendants.[21] Judgment was entered with prejudice, and the Defendants were awarded costs of $461.61, and attorneys' fees of $21, 236.70.[22]

Miller argues that he has "not received ANY information from the District Court, or from Defense Counsel Ryman since before [his] trial in January 2012. The first information [he] received from the Defense and the Court was in the Defense Counsel's Notice of Related Case[, ]' [and that] [t]he only information [he] received was the notation on the bottom of the Motions the boys filed stating that the case had been closed."[23] So, Miller claims, he has "been denied justice as [he] was not properly notified and was not provided with an opportunity to respond."[24]

In their Reply, the Defendants argue:

In August 2012, after protracted litigation, Judge Sedwick granted the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Judge Sedwick explained that the defendants' motion was "well reasoned and amply supported by the exhibits provided. Because the motion... clearly appears to have merit and is not opposed, [it] is granted." Since the requisites of the res judicata doctrine are met, Miller's complaint should be dismissed on this ground. Miller had over three years to address his current claims in the previous long-drawn-out litigation. He cannot circumvent the important purposes of the res judicata doctrine merely because he does not like the outcome of that litigation.[25]

The Court agrees. The decision in the previous case was issued in 2012.[26] A different judge in this Court cannot "overrule" that decision, as Miller requests.[27] And there is no reason to "postpone further proceedings on this case until Plaintiff's appeal is completed."[28]

Miller had an opportunity to address the issues he raises here.[29] If he does not like the Court's previous decision, he must seek relief in that case.[30] But the current action must be dismissed.[31] Also, the Court provided Miller with an opportunity to voluntarily dismiss this action, without prejudice.[32] Because he chose to litigate instead, and the Defendants have also spent time litigating this case, the Court will not allow Miller to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice now.[33]

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:

1. The Motion to Dismiss with Prejudice, at Docket 7, is GRANTED.[34]
2. The Motions at Dockets 24 and 25 are DENIED.
3. Any other outstanding motions are DENIED.
4. The Clerk of Court will enter a Judgment in this action.

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