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CHHOUN v. J.S. WOODFORD

August 10, 2005.

RUN CHHOUN, Plaintiff,
v.
J.S. WOODFORD; et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

INTRODUCTION

Run Chhoun, an inmate on death row at San Quentin State Prison, filed this pro se action in state court, alleging that he had been deprived of various constitutional rights in connection with his placement on property control status for 90 days at San Quentin State Prison. The matter is now before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court will grant defendants' motion and enter judgment in their favor.

  BACKGROUND

  A. Procedural History

  Run Chhoun filed an unverified complaint in which he alleged that he had been deprived of various constitutional rights in connection with his placement on a 90-day "property control" status at San Quentin. The complaint alleged that property control allowed a "prisoner to be stripped of all his personal property that is approved and allowed for him to purchase, receive, create, produce, own and possess in his cell." Complaint, p. 10. More significantly, the complaint alleged that property control meant that Chhoun was "immediately placed in a stripped solitary confinement cell for (90) ninety days," id., and was "totally confined to said cell for the first ten days and let out of said cell during the following eighty days for only ten hours per week or less for exercise in a solitary confinement exercise cage." Id. at 16.

  Defendants removed this action to federal court based on federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(b). The court reviewed the complaint and found that it stated cognizable claims for relief for violations of Chhoun's rights under the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause and Eighth Amendment.

  Defendants next moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Chhoun opposed the motion. The court denied the motion because it could not be said that Chhoun could prove no set of facts which would entitle him to relief consistent with the allegations of the complaint. The court cautioned, however, that its Rule 12(b)(6) analysis was limited to the allegations in the complaint, and noted that a different result might occur when facts outside the complaint's allegations were considered because the parties' papers had indicated that the actual restrictions were far less severe than suggested by the allegations of the complaint. Aug. 3, 2004 Order, p. 3.

  Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. Chhoun has opposed it.

  B. The Facts

  The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted:

  Chhoun is an inmate on death row at San Quentin State Prison. He is assigned to the Grade B program and to a single walk-alone exercise yard.*fn1 The single walk-alone yards (called "cages" by Chhoun) are 10 feet by 15 feet outdoor facilities constructed of chain-link fencing.

  Inmates assigned to the Grade B program are entitled to state-issued clothing including denim pants, chambray shirts, boxer shorts, socks, t-shirts, jackets, watch caps, and soft-sole canvas shoes. They also are entitled to these state-issued items: toothbrush, comb, wash cloths, towels, tooth powder, toilet paper, bar soap, detergent, mattress, pillow, sheets, blankets, trash bag, CDC rule book, Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations, court decisions, plastic pen refill, indigent envelopes, and writing paper. In addition to the state-issued items, Grade B inmates are allowed to have personal non-state issued property, such as televisions, radios, newspapers and magazines; property control affects only items in this last category.

  Adjustment Center inmates who engage in disruptive behavior may be placed on property-control status for an initial 90-day period. Property control restricts the inmate from possessing non-state issued property but does not restrict him from possessing state-issued items. A March 6, 2002, memorandum sent to inmates and staff described San Quentin's revised procedure for property control: "Essentially all Adjustment Center inmates who demonstrate the propensity of violence (i.e., Battery on staff, planning to batter staff or inmates, gassings, assaults upon other inmates, disruptive behavior) will be placed on `Property Control' for an initial period of ninety (90) days. Inmates demonstrating the aforementioned behavior will be placed on property restriction immediately." Brau Decl., Exh. B. The memorandum stated that institutional classification committee ("ICC") review of the restriction would occur at the beginning and end of the 90-day period. The memorandum described the property that would be taken away during the 90-day period: all personal property including personal clothing, electrical appliances, and in-cell hobby material. Additionally, there would be no quarterly/annual packages, no canteen purchases and "[no] Leisure reading material (religious and legal not included)." Id. Finally, the memorandum stated that inmates would be entitled to one box equal to one cubic foot of legal materials during the 90-day period. After the 90-day period ended, the property would be returned to the inmate unless a decision was made by the ICC to keep him on property control.

  Chhoun and several other inmates were put on 90-day property control on April 22, 2002 for engaging in disruptive behavior. The incident that precipitated the decision to put them on property control was a refusal by the 14 inmates on the exercise yards to exit the yards and return to their cells. Chhoun states that he was never personally asked to exit the yard and never refused to do so. The court need not decide whether Chhoun was involved in the incident in order to resolve his constitutional claims.

  When he was put on property control, Chhoun received a notice of program review before the ICC. The property control restrictions were implemented on April 22 or April 23 and the ICC hearing was on April 25. The following items were removed from Chhoun's cell: 2 soft-covered books, 2 magazines, an address book, letters, legal materials, writing materials, and 3 postage stamps. ...


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