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PRATT v. ROWLAND

June 27, 1994

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: STANLEY A. WEIGEL

 Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt ("Plaintiff") applies for a Preliminary Injunction claiming that defendants have unlawfully retaliated against Plaintiff by moving him to Mule Creek State Prison, located in Amador County, and forcing him to occupy a double cell. Plaintiff also claims that in light of his medical condition, requiring him to occupy a double cell violates the Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. *fn1" On February 24, 1994, this Court granted Plaintiff's Application for a Temporary Restraining Order requiring Defendants to return Plaintiff to single-cell status at a Level III security prison in California.

 Before evaluating the legal rights of the parties, it must be understood that the prison authorities, not the courts, should administer the prisons. The prison authorities have extremely difficult and important tasks in protecting the public against criminals who have been found guilty of violations of law and, in many cases, of violent conduct injuring innocent citizens. Therefore legal claims made by prisoners against prison authorities should be examined with the greatest care. And even if a prisoner is lawfully entitled to protection of a claimed right, courts should limit relief to that least interfering with prison management by the prison authorities. These standards govern the decision of this Court in this case.

 I. BACKGROUND.

 Plaintiff, a former leader of the Black Panther Party, was convicted of murder in 1972 and is now serving a life term in the California state prison system.

 On September 12, 1989, Plaintiff filed a civil rights action in this Court under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, naming various prison officials as defendants. Plaintiff claimed, inter alia, that he was transferred from the California State Prison at San Quentin to the California State Prison at Folsom in retaliation (1) for testifying about the FBI's counter-intelligence program against the Black Panther Party, in retaliation (2) for drawing media attention to Plaintiff's claims of innocence, and in retaliation (3) for a successful civil rights action brought by Plaintiff in 1981. *fn2" Plaintiff's transfer to Folsom occurred one day after he returned from testifying about the FBI in a federal trial in Puerto Rico. On September 28, 1989, the Court issued a Preliminary Injunction ordering Plaintiff returned from Folsom to San Quentin.

 On August 9, 1991, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion for a Preliminary Injunction requiring defendants to release Plaintiff from administrative confinement to the general prison population at Tehachapi. *fn3" However, in its Memorandum and Order, the Court expressed concern as to the possibility that Defendants had harassed Plaintiff because of his prominence and active pursuit of legal action. The Court observed that Plaintiff's declarations contained allegations that were "too serious, detailed, and numerous to dismiss." *fn4" Order of August 9, 1991, at 14. In light of these allegations, and the two earlier judicial findings of actual or probable retaliation against Plaintiff, *fn5" the Court issued the following Preliminary Injunction:

 On August 12, 1993, Plaintiff was transferred from the California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("Donovan") to participate in a ninety-day psychiatric diagnostic program as directed by the Board of Prison Terms. On December 1, 1993, after Plaintiff had completed the program, Donovan's warden recommended that he be returned to Tehachapi.

 On December 17, 1993, staff at KTTV, the Fox network affiliate in Los Angeles, requested an interview with Plaintiff. Plaintiff declined. *fn6" On December 21, 1993, Plaintiff changed his mind, and on December 22, 1993, Lt. Marion Daniels, a state Public Information Officer at Donovan, arranged the interview with KTTV. *fn7" On December 24, 1993, the Departmental Review Board ordered Plaintiff transferred to Mule Creek State Prison, a medium security facility in Amador County. The order was prompted by a direct communication from the Director of Corrections, Defendant James Gomez, *fn8" to move Plaintiff further north. *fn9"

 On December 27, 1993, KTTV interviewed Plaintiff, and a three-part series on his case was aired on January 3, 4, and 5, 1994. *fn10" On January 7, 1994, Plaintiff was removed from Donovan, and on January 10, 1994, he arrived at Mule Creek. Plaintiff was placed in Administrative Segregation for three days. On January 13, 1994, he was called before an Initial Classification Committee. Although Plaintiff informed the Committee that he needed a single cell for medical reasons, the Committee apparently denied the request without inquiring into Plaintiff's medical history. See Mueller Depo. at 26-27.

 Plaintiff has a history of nightmares, insomnia, and combat-related stress as a result of his experience in Vietnam. See Gruber Decl. Plaintiff also has a history of constipation, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal bleeding and abdominal pain. Id. Plaintiff claims, and experts corroborate, *fn11" that these afflictions are aggravated when Plaintiff is double-celled. *fn12"


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