United States District Court, Northern District of California
March 25, 2003
OVIDIO TRINIDAD, PLAINTIFF,
EDWARD S. ALAMEIDA, ET AL., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maxine M. Chesney, United States District Judge.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS;
DENYING MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION AND FOR
STAY OF JUDGMENT
(Docket Nos. 8, 9 & 15)
Plaintiff Ovidio Trinidad, currently incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP"), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On October 3, 2002, the Court found that, when liberally construed, the first amended complaint ("complaint") stated a cognizable claim for the violation of plaintiff's right to due process insofar as it alleged that plaintiff was not allowed to present his views at his administrative segregation hearings.*fn1
By an Order of Service, the Court directed the United States Marshal to serve the complaint, and ordered defendants to file a dispositive motion or indicate that such a motion was not warranted. Defendants have filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the complaint and attachments indicate that plaintiff was allowed to present his views. Plaintiff has filed an opposition. Plaintiff has also filed a motion for reconsideration and for a stay of judgment regarding the Order of Service.
Plaintiff was formerly housed at High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"). Based on information provided by HDSP officials, plaintiff was validated as a gang member. Pursuant to this validation, defendant D.J. Blankenship conducted a hearing in August 1999 and determined that plaintiff should be placed in administrative segregation pending review by HDSP's inmate classification committee ("ICC"). Since that time, the ICCs of HDSP and PBSP, to which plaintiff was transferred in March 2000, have held hearings wherein defendants R.A. Castro, B. Farris, A. Malfi, Joe McGrath, R. Kirkland, and T. Jourden have decided that plaintiff should remain in administrative segregation indefinitely based on his gang validation. Plaintiff alleges that he has appeared at these hearings but has not been allowed to present his views.
A. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Plaintiff claims that by precluding him from presenting his views at hearings regarding his placement in administrative segregation, defendants violated his right to due process. Interests that are procedurally protected by the Due Process Clause may arise from two sources — the Due Process Clause itself and laws of the states. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-27 (1976). Changes in conditions so severe as to affect the sentence imposed in an unexpected manner implicate the Due Process Clause itself. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995) (citing Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 493 (1980) (transfer to mental hospital); Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221-22 (1990) (involuntary administration of psychotropic drugs)). For the reasons described in the Court's Order of Service, petitioner's interest in not being placed in administrative segregation does not implicate the Due Process Clause itself, see Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146, 1271 (N.D. Cal. 1995), but he does have the right to due process under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 477-87 (1995), based on the deprivation of a state-created liberty interest. The procedural protections guaranteed to plaintiff by due process include the right to present his views at the hearings regarding his placement in administrative segregation. See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1100 (9th Cir. 1986).
Defendants contend they are entitled to judgment on the pleadings because plaintiff's allegations that he was not allowed to present his views at the administrative segregation hearings are contradicted by the reports of the hearings attached to the complaint. Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the material in and attached to the complaint. In the complaint, plaintiff alleges that despite his presence at the hearings, he was not allowed to present his views. In the Order of Service, the Court noted that these allegations were conclusory, but found them sufficient on initial review given the Court's obligation to liberally construe the pleadings. Where conclusory allegations in the complaint are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint, however, the claim may be dismissed. Steckman v. Hart Brewing, Inc., 143 F.3d 1293, 1295-96 (9th Cir. 1998) (applying Fed.R. C. P. 12(b)(6)).
The hearing reports attached to the complaint all indicate that plaintiff in fact had the opportunity to and did participate in the proceedings and that he either agreed or disagreed in each instance with the officials' findings. (See Complaint, Exhs. D, E). Some of those reports additionally describe the arguments plaintiff made at the hearing, including that the gang validation package was inaccurate; that he does not meet the criteria to be validated as a member of the "Mexican Mafia"; that he does not meet the criteria for validation even as an associate of the gang; and that the debriefing process was not a satisfactory way for him to achieve release from the SHU. (See, e.g., Complaint, Exhs. D1, D4, E4, E5, E6.) Plaintiff does not dispute the truth of these reports. Rather, plaintiff states that "the hearings provided by this (sic) defendants before ICC are perfunctory formalities because defendants have already made up their minds before meeting with plaintiff and defendants rely heavily upon any conclusion which the IGI and SSU have reached."*fn2 Plaintiff's assertion that he did not have as much time as he wished to express his views and that the hearings are too perfunctory does not implicate due process because Toussaint does not require that prisoners be allowed to express their views for as long or in as much detail as they would like. The requirement is that plaintiff be allowed to express his views. As the reports undisputedly indicate, plaintiff did express his views. Nor does Toussaint require that prison officials agree with the prisoner's views once expressed, or prevent officials from relying on information gathered by other prison employees in reaching their decision, which plaintiff alleges was done in this case. Their finding that the SSU validation was more persuasive than plaintiff's statements is simply an adverse decision, not a due process violation.
In sum, plaintiff's claim that officials violated his right to due process by not allowing him to express his views at the administrative segregation hearings fails because the hearing reports attached to the complaint indicate that plaintiff was in fact allowed to express his views as required by due process.
B. Plaintiff's Motions
In the Order of Service, the Court dismissed several of plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because they failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiff has filed a motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of those claims, along with a "Motion for Stay of Judgment." Where a court's ruling has not resulted in a final judgment or order, reconsideration of the ruling may be sought under Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that any order that does not terminate the action is subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Pursuant to the Local Rules of this District, no motion for reconsideration may be brought without leave of court. See Civil L.R. 7-9(a). The moving party must specifically show: (1) that at the time of the motion for leave, a material difference in fact or law exists from that which was presented to the court before entry of the interlocutory order for which the reconsideration is sought, and that in the exercise of reasonable diligence the party applying for reconsideration. did not know such fact or law at the time of the interlocutory order; or (2) the emergence of new material facts or a change of law occurring after the time of such order; or (3) a manifest failure by the court to consider material facts which were presented to the court before such interlocutory order. See Civil L.R. 7-9(b).
Here, plaintiff has not made a sufficient showing under Rule 7-9. Plaintiff has not presented any material difference in fact or law from that presented at the time of the Order of Service, nor has plaintiff shown any failure on the part of the Court to consider any material facts before it. Rather, plaintiff contends that he should have been given leave to amend the claims that were dismissed. Because plaintiff's factual allegations with respect to the dismissed claims established the absence of a constitutional violation, there was no indication that leave to amend would be productive.*fn3 See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). In his instant motion, plaintiff does not assert that he could allege any new facts, let alone any facts that would cure the deficiencies noted. Under such circumstances, amendment would be futile and leave to amend is not appropriate. Cf. Janicki Logging Co. v. Mateer, 42 F.3d 561, 566 (9th Cir. 1994) (holding in action where plaintiff represented by counsel, leave to amend need not be granted where amendment would constitute exercise in futility). Rather, plaintiff argues that the claims, as currently alleged in the complaint, have merit. Plaintiff's disagreement with the legal conclusions of the Court are not a basis for reconsideration. See Twentieth Century — Fox Film Corp. v. Dunnahoo, 637 F.2d 1338, 1341 (9th Cir. 1981) (holding motions for reconsideration are not a substitute for appeal or a means of attacking some perceived error of the court). In sum, plaintiff's motion presents no basis for reconsideration or to stay the judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED. Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration and motion to stay judgment are DENIED.
This order terminates docket numbers 8, 9 and 15 and all pending motions.
The clerk shall close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.