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Rios v. Tilton

January 23, 2009

RENO FUENTES RIOS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.E. TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On July 25, 2008, defendants Lockwood, Mayfield, and Tilton moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims on the grounds that there is no causal connection between their actions and the alleged wrongful conduct plaintiff describes in his complaint. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to defendants' motion, and defendants have filed a reply.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Brandon, Lockwood, Mayfield, Parker, and Tilton. Therein, he alleges as follows. Plaintiff entered the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") in 1989. Although plaintiff is not affiliated or associated with a gang inside or outside of prison, prison officials have labeled him with various gang classifications. For example, prison officials have labeled plaintiff as a "Northerner Hispanic" because he was arrested in northern California. They have labeled him a "Southerner Hispanic" because he lived in Southern California. Prison officials have also labeled him a "Border Brother." (Compl. at 7 & 9-11.)

On September 21, 2004, plaintiff filed an inmate appeal, complaining about his various gang classifications. On December 2, 2004, defendant Parker reviewed plaintiff's classification and determined that he was not gang affiliated. According to plaintiff, however, prison officials failed to modify his label from "Border Brother" to "Mexican National." Plaintiff filed another inmate appeal, but on June 24, 2005, the Chief Director denied him relief, informing plaintiff that CSP-Sacramento had removed his "Border Brother" label and that no further action was necessary. (Compl. at 11-12.)

On December 6, 2005, plaintiff appeared for his annual classification hearing and received encouragement to participate in rehabilitative activities. However, defendant Mayfield ignored his request for reasonable programming and refused to remove any remaining gang label in his file. When plaintiff filed an inmate appeal against her, and in response thereto, defendant Mayfield recommended him for an institutional gang investigation. (Compl. at 11-13.)

On June 7, 2006, defendants Brandon and Parker produced a fraudulent confidential information package, which led to plaintiff's validation as a member of the Mexican Mafia "EME." Defendant Parker did not provide plaintiff with staff assistance or with adequate copies of the five items the defendants relied on to validate him as a gang member. On November 1, 2006, Warden Malfi recommended plaintiff for a maximum security housing unit term of six years. (Compl. at 13-17.)

According to plaintiff, through their "acts and/or policies" the defendants have erroneously classified him as a member of the Mexican Mafia. Plaintiff claims that defendants have violated his right to due process and his right to be free from retaliation. By way of relief, plaintiff requests declaratory and injunctive relief. (Compl. at 3, 7-8 & 20-24.)

THE PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

I. Defendants' Motion

Defense counsel argues that defendants Tilton and Lockwood should be dismissed from this action because they cannot be held liable on a theory of vicarious liability. Counsel argues that plaintiff's complaint is devoid of any allegations that defendants Tilton and Lockwood were personally involved in depriving him of any protected right. Rather, plaintiff's allegations against these defendants are limited to the supervisory roles they played. For example, defense counsel contends, plaintiff's allegations against defendant Tilton are limited to the role he played in reviewing plaintiff's inmate appeals. In addition, counsel points out that plaintiff's allegations against defendant Lockwood are limited to the role he played approving certain regulations. Defense counsel concludes that plaintiff's allegations are simply insufficient as to both of these defendants. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 4-5.)

Counsel also argues that defendant Mayfield should be dismissed because plaintiff has failed to allege facts suggesting a causal connection between her actions and plaintiff's alleged injury. Specifically, defense counsel notes that plaintiff alleges merely that defendant Mayfield did not allow him to participate in rehabilitative activities and that defendant Mayfield had the authority to remove plaintiff's classification as a gang member but refused to do so. Counsel contends, however, that defendant Mayfield's refusal to allow plaintiff to participate in rehabilitative activities has nothing to do with his classification as a gang member. In addition, defendant Mayfield's refusal to remove documents indicating that he was a classified gang member from plaintiff's file, occurred after plaintiff had been classified as a gang member. In counsel's view, plaintiff's complaint is devoid of any allegations that defendant Mayfield was involved in the actual classification process. Counsel concludes that plaintiff has therefore failed to allege the necessary causal link between defendant Mayfield's actions and plaintiff's alleged injury. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 5.)

II. Plaintiff's Opposition*fn1

In opposition to defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff argues that defendants Tilton, Lockwood, and Mayfield are responsible for the constitutional violations he complains of in this case. Specifically, plaintiff argues that defendant Tilton, as the Secretary of the CDCR, both knew about and refused to correct harmful gang management policies. According to plaintiff, defendant Tilton is responsible for ensuring that those policies provide inmates with due process protections and for ensuring that his subordinates conduct full investigations into any employee misconduct in connection with those policies. (Pl.'s Decl. at 6; Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. at 6-7 & 9.)

Plaintiff also argues that defendant Lockwood, as Chief Director of Regulations and Policy Management, is responsible for ensuring that CDCR employees do not implement or administer discriminatory, arbitrary, vague or overbroad gang management policies. According to plaintiff, defendant Lockwood refuses to conduct fair hearings and has not properly reviewed plaintiff's complaints regarding his erroneous gang validation. In fact, plaintiff claims that prison officials often ignore, destroy, or engage in a meaningless review of most inmate ...


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