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PRATT v. ROWLAND

August 9, 1991

ELMER PRATT, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES ROWLAND, Director of Corrections, California Department of Corrections; JAMES H. GOMEZ, Current Director of Corrections, California Department of Corrections; DANIEL B. VASQUEZ, Warden of San Quentin Prison; ROBERT BORG, Warden of Folsom Prison; B.J. BUNNELL, Warden of Tehachapi Prison; LES BLANKS, Program Administrator Tehachapi Prison; G. CROWELL, Correctional Lieutenant, Tehachapi Prison; TERRY YEARWOOD, Chief of Classification Services, California Department of Corrections; and K. LAW, Correctional Officer, Tehachapi Prison; Lieutenant CROW, Correctional Officer, Tehachapi Prison; and KIM WALKER, Correctional Counsellor, Tehachapi Prison, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEIGEL

 STANLEY A. WEIGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 The Court now considers whether or not the retention of plaintiff Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt in administrative segregation is justified based upon the charges of marijuana trafficking and possession as to which he was found guilty after separate disciplinary hearings. Plaintiff is a maximum security prisoner in the California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi ("Tehachapi"). He seeks a preliminary injunction ordering his release from segregated confinement and his return to the general prison population.

 A hearing on this matter was conducted on August 1, 1991. Given the narrow limits on the power of federal courts to review the sufficiency of prison disciplinary proceedings and to override the findings of prison authorities, the Court must conclude that Pratt is not entitled to the relief he seeks.

 I. FACTS

 On April 1, 1991, Pratt was placed in administrative segregation on the basis of a statement by a confidential informant and fellow inmate that Pratt was engaged in marijuana trafficking. Correctional Officer M. Stainer interviewed the informant and wrote a confidential memorandum, dated April 2, 1991, memorializing the interview ("Confidential Memorandum"). *fn1" According to the informant, Pratt arranged on two occasions to have packages containing marijuana sent, under fictitious names, to Receiving & Release ("R & R"). Confidential Memorandum. Once the packages arrived at R & R, the informant purportedly retrieved the marijuana, keeping a portion for himself and smuggling the rest to the yard. Id. Besides Pratt, the informant implicated another inmate in a similar drug trafficking scheme and accused yet another of smuggling. Id.

 After Pratt was placed in segregation, prison officials searched his cell. They found a pipe made out of cardboard and foil in a garbage can. Blanks Decl., Exh. E. Such pipes have been used by prisoners to smoke marijuana. Prison officials removed and secured eight boxes of legal materials from the cell and, approximately 24 hours later, found a small quantity of marijuana in a blue folder containing legal materials. Id. Memoranda submitted by defendants establish the chain of custody of these materials. See Blanks Decl., Exhs. E4-E7. Pratt was then charged with marijuana possession.

 Separate disciplinary hearings were held on the marijuana trafficking and possession charges. Pratt was found guilty of both charges. Blanks Decl., Exh. A & B. In connection with his trafficking violation, Pratt was assessed a one-year term in a Secured Housing Unit ("SHU"). Blanks Decl., Exh. F. Pratt received the same penalty as the informant and the other inmates incriminated by the informant. Blanks Decl., Exh. D. A total of four other inmates beside Pratt were disciplined for drug trafficking, each receiving a recommended SHU sentence. Id.

 Pending his transfer to an institution with an SHU, sometime after his impending parole board hearing in August 1991, Pratt has been retained in administrative segregation. Blanks Decl., Exh. F. Prison authorities have determined that Pratt's retention in segregation is appropriate because of the danger his drug involvement poses to the safety and security of the institution. Id.

 Claiming that his segregation was retaliatory and in violation of his right to due process of law, Pratt requests a preliminary injunction ordering his release from administrative segregation and his return to the general prison population.

 II. STANDARD FOR ISSUING A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

 The standard for issuing a preliminary injunction is settled. The moving party must show either (1) a combination of probable success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable injury, or (2) the existence of serious questions going to the merits and that the balance of the hardships tips sharply in his favor. California Cedar Prods. Co. v. Pine Mountain Corp., 724 F.2d 827, 830 (9th Cir. 1984). These are not two separate tests, but extremes of the same continuum. Miss World (UK) Ltd. v. Mrs. America Pageants, Inc., 856 F.2d 1445, 1448 (9th Cir. 1988).

 III. RELEASE FROM SEGREGATION

 Pratt contends that he is entitled to a preliminary injunction ordering his return to the general prison population for two reasons: (1) he was deprived of due process in connection with his disciplinary hearing on his marijuana trafficking charge, and (2) prison officials filed ...


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