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Blue v. Grannis

February 10, 2009

WILLIAM J. BLUE III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
N. GRANNIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant Scavetta*fn1 has moved for summary judgment. After consideration of the moving and opposing papers, and for the reasons explained below, the court finds that the motion must be granted.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff's complaint claims that defendant Scavetta violated his rights by refusing to grant him single-cell status. Compl., at 4. He asserts that he has obstruction sleep apnea, and that this medical condition requires that he have single cell status. Id., at 4-5. He claims that defendant Scavetta denied plaintiff's request for a single cell and, in doing so, violated his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), Title II, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 - 12164, and the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id., at 4-6. Plaintiff seeks damages and an injunction directing the warden to provide him with "cell access as needed for C-PAP use." Id., at 7.

II. Facts

At the times relevant to this action plaintiff was a prisoner at California State Prison at Solano ("CSP-Solano"). Compl., at 1-2. Defendant Scavetta was the chairperson of the Unit Classification Committee ("UCC") that decided not to grant plaintiff single-cell status. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Stmt. of Undisp. Fact in Supp. Thereof ("SUF"), SUF 13.

When making housing decisions, corrections staff generally allow prisoners to seek compatible cell partners. SUF 22. Thus, prisoners can attempt to work out problems, such as snoring, before being housed together, as by a heavy snorer finding a prisoner who is not bothered by snoring. Id. As a practical mater, there simply is not sufficient space to afford every prisoner who snores his own cell. SUF 23. On April 25, 2003, the Deputy Director of the "CDCR" issued a memorandum explaining that in order to maximize the space available within the prison system, all prisoners would be double-celled unless there were specific reasons for a prisoner to be housed alone. SUF 11. Those reasons related to prisoner safety and institutional security, e.g., a prisoner with a history of in-cell sexual abuse, attacking cellmates, or predatory behavior towards a cell or dormitory partner. Id.

Plaintiff has a history of snoring. SUF 4, 5. Throughout 2003, he had difficulty breathing at night and because of his snoring, his cellmate would wake him up repeatedly.

Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Attach. 3, Ex. 3 Thereto ("Pl.'s Dep."), Pl.'s Dep. at 19-21. At deposition, plaintiff testified that he once punched a cellmate when the cellmate repeatedly woke him up because of his snoring. Pl.'s Dep., at 20-21. Other times when a cellmate woke him up, he and the cellmate had "words and real loud arguments that [sic] when the CO knew it was time to move the person out of the cell." Id., at 21.

In May of 2004, a medical technical assistant suggested that plaintiff request what is known as a C-PAP machine to help him breathe at night. Id., at 21-22. Around May 10, 2004, plaintiff applied for a C-PAP machine and to be housed alone by submitting a request for reasonable accommodation of a disability. Id. at 18, 22. Around August 3, 2004, plaintiff was diagnosed with sleep apnea. SUF 6; Pl.'s Dep., at 29. Thereafter, prison officials provided him with a C-PAP machine, which keeps his airway open when he sleeps. SUF 8; Pl.'s Dep., at 23. However, this does not prevent him from snoring. SUF 8. Prison officials denied the request to be housed alone because they had no diagnosis for plaintiff at that time. Pl.'s Dep., at 24.

On October 13, 2004, Dr. Lamb, the Chief Psychiatrist, signed a document stating, "[Inmate] has been given single cell status - until such time as the issue is permanently resolved w/medical (temporary status only)." SUF 9, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. D. The document contains no explanation of what "issue" had to be resolved. SUF 9. The document stated that this was the result of a mental health evaluation, at the conclusion of which plaintiff was prescribed psychotropic medication. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. D. According to instructions on the bottom of this document, the original was to be placed in plaintiff's central file within 48 hours, and copies were to be placed in plaintiff's health record and given to the CCI. Id.

Shortly after receiving this document from Dr. Lamb, plaintiff spoke with the "building officer,"*fn2 who advised plaintiff to seek authorization for single-cell status from the Unit Classification Committee ("UCC"). SUF 10. Plaintiff appeared before the UCC on November 4, 2004. SUF 12. No medical staff was present. SUF 14. At that time, however, it was not CDCR policy to require the presence of medical staff for a prisoner's appearance before the UCC unless the prisoner had a mental health condition that made it difficult for him to understand or meaningfully to participate in the classification process. SUF 15. Defendant Scavetta chaired the committee. SUF 13. At deposition, plaintiff testified that during his UCC appearance, he told Scavetta of his one physical fight resulting from his snoring. Pl.'s Dep., at 53-54. Scavetta admits that she knew that plaintiff had sleep apnea and used a C-PAP at night. SUF 16. Scavetta also knew that plaintiff was having difficulties with cellmates because of his snoring. SUF 19. Scavetta believed that conflicts based on snoring were not unusual, and that the use of a C-PAP was not a sufficient medical justification to have single-cell status. SUF 18, 19; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. E. She also knew that Dr. Lamb had authorized plaintiff to be housed alone and that this was plaintiff's preference. SUF 17. However, she determined that plaintiff did not pose a threat to other prisoners as outlined in the April 25, 2003, memorandum and she had no reason to believe that plaintiff's use of the C-PAP, without more, justified housing him alone. SUF 18. Defendant Scavetta asserts that she did not have information from any medical staff that as of November 4, 2004, plaintiff had a medical need that required him to be housed alone. SUF 25. Thus, Scavetta made the decision to deny plaintiff his request to be housed alone. SUF 26.

For his part, plaintiff asserts that at the time Dr. Lamb authorized plaintiff to be housed alone, he was having considerable difficulty with cellmates. Pl.'s Dep., at 17. At deposition, plaintiff testified that his confrontations with cellmates had caused his weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure to increase. Id., at 17. He testified that he "was a mental wreck." Id. He said that in the year before being diagnosed with sleep apnea, he had a cellmate only about 50% of the time. Id., at 19-20. This was because whenever someone else was placed in his cell, he would tell the person "to find another place to live," and the person would do so. Id., at 19. When he did share a cell, he had confrontations about his snoring because his cell partner would wake him up 20 or 30 times a night. Id., at 20. Other sources of conflict were that the noise of the C-PAP machine annoyed some cellmates and that plaintiff had difficulties with cellmates who smoked or burned incense at night. Pl.'s Dep., at 74. Plaintiff also testified that he tried to find a compatible cellmate, but everyone he asked declined because of his snoring. Id., at 58-59.

Thus, whenever he was assigned a cellmate, it was because prison officials needed to house someone in his unit, and a bed in plaintiff's cell was available. Id., at 59.

On June 23, 2006, prison officials granted plaintiff single-cell ...


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