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LEWIS v. ALAMEIDA

April 19, 2004.

JEMAL D. LEWIS (H-57184), Plaintiff,
v.
EDWARD ALAMEIDA, JR., et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THELTON HENDERSON, Senior District Judge

JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is entered in defendants' favor and against plaintiff.

IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED.

 
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
INTRODUCTION
  Jemal D. Lewis, an inmate currently housed at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging his classification in prison. Defendants now move for summary judgment. Defendants argue that Plaintiff is appropriately housed in Close B custody and that Plaintiff cannot show an uneven application of the law required for an equal protection claim. Plaintiff did not file an opposition brief but since Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will address the merits of Plaintiff's complaint. Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's complaint. Accordingly, the court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

  BACKGROUND

  The following facts are undisputed. Inmates in California are classified into several custody levels based on various case factors. The seven different inmate custody designations in descending order of required supervision are: Maximum Custody, Close A Custody, Close B Custody, Medium A Custody, Medium B Custody, Minimum A Custody, and Minimum B Custody. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3377.1(a). Plaintiff is a life term inmate, serving an indeterminate sentence of thirty-eight years to life pursuant to a 1997 criminal conviction from the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Upon being received by the California Department of Corrections, Plaintiff was placed in Close A custody pursuant to § 3377. l(a) of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations. After successfully completing the minimum required period of one year at Close A custody, Plaintiff's custody level was reduced to Close B custody in February 1999. Plaintiff, as an inmate who is serving a life sentence, "must be within seven (7) years of his or her MEPD [Minimum Eligible Parole Date] before he or she is eligible for further reduction of custody" under § 3377.2(c)(3)(C). Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3377.2(c)(3)(C). Plaintiff's MEPD is April 12, 2033, leaving him eligible for a further custody reduction in 2026. By contrast, inmates who are sentenced to total determinate terms between 15 and 50 years are eligible for a further reduction in custody after four years at Close B custody. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3377.2(c)(3)(D). Plaintiff contends that this difference in treatment between life term prisoners and non-life term prisoners for a custody reduction from Close B violates the Equal Protection Clause.

  VENUE AND JURISDICTION

  Venue is proper in the Northern District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California, which is located within the Northern District. This court has federal question jurisdiction over this action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

  LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

  The court will grant summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (a fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.")

  Generally, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to "go beyond the pleadings, and by his own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file,' designate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (citations omitted).

  A verified complaint may be used as an opposing affidavit under Rule 56, as long as it is based on personal knowledge and sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence. See Schroeder v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 & nn. 10-11 (9th Cir. 1995) (treating plaintiff's verified complaint as opposing affidavit where, even though verification not in conformity with 28 U.S.C. § 1746, plaintiff stated under penalty of perjury that contents were true and correct, and allegations were not based purely on his belief but on his personal knowledge).

  The court's function on a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a disputed material fact. See T. W. Elec. Serv. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the inferences to be drawn ...


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