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HYMES v. McGRATH

September 26, 2005.

SCANVINSKI HYMES, Plaintiff,
v.
J. McGRATH, et al., Defendants.



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

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This matter came on for court trial, the parties having waived a jury, in November 2004. Live testimony was taken and exhibits, including videotape of various incidents at Pelican Bay, were received on November 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 22, 2004. In addition, deposition testimony was submitted to the Court for review after trial proceedings were completed. Having considered the evidence received and having evaluated the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses while testifying, the Court hereby makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

  By way of introduction, the Court observes that throughout this action, plaintiff's core contention has been that while he was an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison "he was forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs as a result of a conspiracy among the defendants on two separate occasions. This conspiracy was created and implemented out of defendants' frustration in dealing with plaintiff's oppositional stance towards custody." Plaintiff's Proposed Statement of Facts and Conclusions of Law ("Pl's Findings"), at 1. Having heard all the witnesses in this action, including plaintiff's extensive testimony and the testimony of numerous treating physicians, psychiatric workers, medical personnel and other correctional officials, the Court does not find that there was a conspiracy as alleged. It is true that plaintiff took an "oppositional stance towards custody" — he testified to as much, and the evidence of this attitude was extensive. It is also true, as various witnesses stated and as the Court observed, that plaintiff is a bright, articulate and engaging man who can be charming when he wishes to be. But there was substantial testimony that plaintiff could be, and often was, explosive, violent, physically dangerous to others and extremely disruptive in the close confines of a prison setting.

  Plaintiff explained that most of his behavior was intended to demonstrate that he had no respect for people in uniform. He recalls informing "custody" — the custodial staff — that "we were at war," and that any time they tried to open his cell door, there would be problems. He did not deny that he violated Pelican Bay rules over 100 times, but stated that it was always volitional. He chose to act out because he felt that the CDC had abused him, not just in Pelican Bay but for many years; he has a long memory and sometimes retaliated years later. He had previously been sent to Atascadero for treatment after having been found incompetent to stand trial. While there, he sustained at least one felony conviction for assaultive behavior, which he explained by saying he "did what he had to do" (stabbed an RN with a sharpened toothbrush) when a cell extraction was being performed. He testified that after he acts out, he feels better — he has done what he has to do and has made his point. He testified that he feels that he is always in control of himself, even though it might look like he is not. He emphasized that he did not want a "psych jacket" — did not want to be in the CDC mental health system — because "the only thing I have left is my mind." He did not want to lose his own identity and control. At the same time, he sometimes stipulated to being "NGI" — not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial, because it would cause "delay."

  Captain Daniel Smith, one of the defendants in the case, testified that plaintiff is personable when he is rational: he is bright and has a good sense of humor; but he views acting out as his job. Dr. Ronald Bortman, another defendant, testified that he thought that without treatment, plaintiff was heading for a destiny of life in prison, most of it to be spent in the SHU; he thought this was "tragic," since he felt plaintiff had a treatable mental illness.

  It was in this context that medical and psychiatric personnel at Pelican Bay made efforts to treat plaintiff. Not all of the treaters agreed on the correct diagnosis for plaintiff, but all recognized substantial and dangerous mental conditions. Ultimately, the treatment team devised a treatment "plan" for Mr. Hymes. What they characterized as a treatment plan plaintiff characterizes as a conspiracy. Having heard the evidence, the Court finds that the treatment plan was just that — a plan developed in good faith to treat a puzzling, contradictory and unpredictable situation. That there were medical disagreements among the treaters reflects the difficulty of the problem presented, not a conspiracy to administer involuntary medication.

  FINDINGS OF FACT

  A. Background: plaintiff and defendants

  1. Plaintiff is an African American male who was born on February 15, 1970. He spent much of his childhood in foster care, had his first contact with the criminal justice system at age 9, and was first incarcerated at age 14. Since then he has been in prison intermittently, in large part because of offenses committed as a prisoner against custody.

  2. The actions at issue in this case occurred while plaintiff was an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison, between 1995 and 2001. Defendants in this action are Dr. Ronald Bortman, a psychiatrist at Pelican Bay State Prison; Teresa Schwartz, who was Associate Warden for the general population at Pelican Bay during most of the time relevant to this case and, at time of trial, was Warden of the California Medical Facility at Vacaville; and Captain Daniel Smith, who was Facility Captain in charge of the Security Housing Unit (SHU) during much of the time relevant here and was, at the time of trial, Associate Warden in charge of business services at Pelican Bay.

  3. During this time at Pelican Bay State Prison, plaintiff was regularly housed in the institution's Security Housing Unit (SHU). He was a serious disciplinary problem: between January 6, 1998 and May 20, 2001, he had over a hundred charged disciplinary incidents, including batteries on peace officers, willfully resisting, delaying, obstructing peace officers, threat of force or violence, Destruction/Damage/Misuse of State Property, and indecent exposures. Plaintiff's assaults on correctional staff led to injury to, and early retirement of, several correctional officers.

  4. Plaintiff had been actively litigious, having filed between six and eight federal lawsuits so far. In 1996 he filed three civil rights actions in federal court against various custody officers at Pelican Bay and received a $60,000 settlement on one of them. He had filed dozens of internal inmate appeals (form 602s) and was, in his own estimation, a "very high profile inmate."

  5. Prior to 1995, plaintiff had been seen and evaluated by many mental health professionals, none of whom to that point had determined that he suffered from a mental illness that was properly treated with psychotropic medication. Between 1995 and April, 1999, plaintiff was seen or evaluated by numerous mental health professionals at Pelican Bay. There was no consensus on a diagnosis. Plaintiff testified that although he had not been suicidal since 1992, he occasionally pretended to be suicidal, for manipulative purposes and because it "made him laugh." At one point he pretended to take an overdose of medications, ...


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