Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Dismissed §1983 Claim Reversed; Amendment Should Have Been Allowed

Dismissed §1983 Claim Reversed; Amendment Should Have Been Allowed

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a California federal district court's dismissal of a state prisoner's civil rights complaint, holding that the lower court erred in denying the prisoner leave to file a fourth amended complaint.

Bryan E. Ransom, a California state prisoner, sued prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for various constitutional rights violations (unspecified in the opinion). Prior to dismissal, Ransom moved for leave to file a fourth amended complaint.

The district court considered four factors in deciding the motion for leave to amend: (1)
undue delay; (2) bad faith; (3) futility of the amendment; and (4) prejudice to the opposing party.

The district court found that Ransom did not act in bad faith but denied leave to amend on
grounds that Ransom was asserting claims he could have raised earlier and because the
amendment would be futile, since Ransom failed to allege exhaustion of his supplemental claims.

The district court denied leave to amend, then dismissed the complaint. Ransom appealed.
On appeal, Ransom contended that he could not assert the claims in his proposed amendment any earlier because he had not finished exhausting his administrative remedies. Further, he argued that the question of exhaustion of the supplemental claims was an affirmative defense under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), not a pleading requirement. Thus, the district court's futility finding, Ransom argued, was incorrect.

The appellate court agreed with Ransom. Since he could not file his claims prior to exhaustion, and since the Ninth Circuit treats exhaustion as an affirmative defense rather than a pleading requirement, Wyatt v. Terhune, 305 F.3d 1033, 1044 (9th Cir. 2002), denial of leave to amend was abuse of discretion.

The district court decision was reversed, and the case was remanded with specific instructions to allow Ransom to amend his complaint. This case is not a ruling on the merits of the claims. This case is published in the Federal Appendix and is subject to rules governing unpublished cases. See: Ransom v. Sandoval, 53 Fed.Appx. 803 (9th Cir. 2002).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Ransom v. Sandoval

53 Fed.Appx. 803

This case was not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter.

Please use FIND to look at the applicable circuit court rule before citing this opinion. (FIND CTA9 Rule 36-3.)

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Bryan Edwin RANSOM, Plaintiff-Appellant,


M. SANDOVAL; et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 01-56811.
D.C. No. CV-99-01775-RTB.
Submitted Dec. 2, 2002.FN*

FN* The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. SeeFed. R.App. P. 34(a)(2).
Decided Dec. 10, 2002.
State prisoner brought civil rights action against prison officials. The United States District Court for the Southern District of California, James F. Stiven, United States Magistrate Judge, dismissed action, and prisoner appealed. The Court of Appeals held that prisoner's attempt to assert claims for first time in his fourth amended complaint did not establish that his attempt to amend his complaint was in bad faith.
Reversed and remanded.
*803 Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, James F. Stiven, Magistrate Judge, Presiding.FN** Roger T. Benitez, Magistrate Judge, Presiding.
FN** The parties consented in writing to proceed before a magistrate judge, and the case subsequently was transferred to a different magistrate judge. The first judge denied leave to file the fourth amended complaint; the second judge dismissed the third amended complaint with prejudice.

Before GOODWIN, TROTT, and GRABER, Circuit Judges.


FN*** This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3.
**1 California state prisoner Bryan E. Ransom appeals pro se the district court's judgment dismissing his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against prison officials. Ransom challenges the district court's order denying him leave to file a fourth amended complaint, and subsequent order dismissing his third amended complaint. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we reverse and remand.FN1
FN1. Appellant's May 13, 2002 and July 24, 2002 requests for judicial notice are granted in part and denied in part. This court takes notice of the proposed fourth amended complaint and documents filed in other state and federal courts, but declines to take notice of documents that were already a part of the district court record in this case, as well as documents that contain facts not subject to judicial notice under Fed.R.Evid. 201.
*804 We review for abuse of discretion the district court's denial of a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, but our review of the denial is strict in light of the strong policy favoring amendment. N. Slope Borough v. Rogstad (In re Rogstad), 126 F.3d 1224, 1228 (9th Cir.1997).
The district court considers the following factors in deciding whether to grant leave to amend: (1) undue delay; (2) bad faith; (3) futility of the amendment; and (4) prejudice to the opposing party. Id. Although the district court's discretion is particularly broad when it has previously granted leave to amend, see Simon v. Value Behavioral Health, Inc., 208 F.3d 1073, 1084 (9th Cir.2000), we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by denying leave to amend for the reasons stated. See In re Rogstad, 126 F.3d at 1228.

Although the district court found that Ransom did not act in bad faith in seeking to amend his complaint, it found undue delay because Ransom attempted to assert claims which could have been raised in earlier amendments to his complaint. However, Ransom's contention that he could not assert these claims before exhausting his prison administrative remedies adequately explains the reason for the delay. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740-41, 121 S.Ct. 1819, 149 L.Ed.2d 958 (2001) (holding that prisoners must exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit); DCD Programs Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir.1987) (declining to uphold denial of leave to amend where plaintiff offered a satisfactory reason for delay in asserting claim).

The district court also found that amendment would be futile because Ransom failed to allege that he had exhausted his supplemental claims. However, this court recently held that exhaustion under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) is an affirmative defense, rather than a pleading requirement. See Wyatt v. Terhune, 305 F.3d 1033, 1044 (9th Cir.2002). Thus, denial of leave to amend on this basis was not proper. See id.
Finally, the district court found that the amendment would cause defendants prejudice. However, because this case was in the pleading stage, defendants would suffer minimal prejudice. See DCD Programs, 833 F.2d at 188.
Because we hold that the district court should have granted Ransom leave to file the fourth amended complaint, we express no opinion concerning the district court's dismissal of Ransom's third amended complaint. We remand so that the case may proceed on the fourth amended complaint.

Ransom v. Sandoval
53 Fed.Appx. 803