Writing materials

Lack of access to library or writing materials allowed inmate to be released from default — CA

Metropolitan-Business News

Friday 22 October 2021

Page 1

The lack of access to the library or to writing material gave the detainee the right to assistance Of Default — CA

By a MetNews editor

The District Court of Appeal overturned an order denying a remedy sought by an inmate who failed to respond in a timely manner to a woman’s action to annul her marriage to him on the grounds that when she married him in 1993, she was already married, with judges finding the man’s excuse for the delay – lack of access to the prison library or writing materials caused by COVID restrictions – was valid.

Susan Mellen, on September 23, 2019, filed her motion to annul her marriage to Steve Gomez, who has been incarcerated since 1997. He was held in a Fresno prison two weeks later, did not file a plea, and its default was entered on January 13, 2020.

On March 20, 2020, Gomez filed a default claim under the Civil Procedure Code §473 (b) on the basis of inadvertence, surprise, error or excusable negligence.

Refusal of movement

On July 27, 2020, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark A. Juhas dismissed the motion, claiming Gomez’s claim that he had no access to the law library for two months, or that he had no supplies “fails because he did not do so” spelling out the steps he took or was able to take to get what he needed to respond, “adding:

“Although he says he is not familiar with legal procedures and defenses, he has chosen to proceed as a self-represented litigant and this is not a basis on which to set aside a default. . “

In an unpublished opinion filed Wednesday, Judge John L. Segal of Div. Seven said:

“A series of prison closures in November and December, however, is a pretty good example of why an inmate couldn’t get what he needed to get, and do what he needed to do, to respond to a petition.” served in October. It’s also unclear what other steps Gomez might have taken without access to paper, writing tools, envelopes and a library.….And Gomez did not claim that he was entitled to relief because he was representing himself; he argued that he was entitled to a remedy because he was unable to obtain written documents and envelopes in time to respond to the request in a timely manner. “

Context noted

In the footnotes, Segal gave some of the background. In a footnote, he said: “Mellen claims that Gomez, who was ‘engaged in certain illegal activities’, convinced her to marry him in 1993″ in a misguided attempt to create spousal immunity ” and that it “was never a real marriage.” ‘She got her first marriage dissolved in 2019. “

He also noted:

“Mellen was also incarcerated, from 1998 to 2014, but for a crime she did not commit. After her release from prison, she received a $ 12 million settlement from the City of Los Angeles for wrongful conviction. “

The payment was approved by Los Angeles City Council on March 22, 2019, in settlement of a federal civil rights action based on alleged police misconduct.

In June 2015, Mellen was awarded $ 597,200 from the State of California as compensation for the wrongful murder conviction. On November 21, 2014, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold paved the way for this award, that she was innocent of the facts.

Arnold the year before ordered his release in accordance with his request for a habeas corpus order based on new evidence.


Susan Mellen watches Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold as she enters the courtroom for her exoneration proceeding October 10, 2014 in Torrance. She spent 17 years in prison for a murder she did not commit. She claims that an LAPD detective knowingly used false information in her case.

Copyright 2021, Metropolitan News Company

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