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Glenn v. Cole

June 7, 2010



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On July 14, 2009, the Clerk of Court entered default against the only remaining defendant, Jonathan S. Cole. See Docket No. 33. Plaintiff then moved for a default judgment. See Docket No. 36. The court, exercising its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), held a hearing on April 20, 2010, to adduce evidence on damages and on plaintiff's core allegation that defendant Cole disclosed information about plaintiff to other inmates, which in turn put plaintiff in danger of retaliation or attack by other inmates. Plaintiff appeared via video conference. Defendant Cole did not appear, nor did any counsel appear on his behalf.*fn1

I. Default Judgment Procedure

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) states that a court may hold a hearing on a default judgment when, in order to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to:

(A) conduct an accounting;

(B) determine the amount of damages;

(C) establish the truth of any allegation or evidence; or

(D) investigate any other matter. "Rule 55 gives the court considerable leeway as to what it may require as a prerequisite to the entry of a default judgment. 'The general rule of law is that upon default the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.'" Televideo Systems, Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted). A court may exceed the requirements of the rule by receiving evidence on some or all of the allegations in the complaint, in addition to receiving evidence on damages. Id. at 918. "The hearing is not considered a trial, but is in the nature of an inquiry before a judge. . . . [T]he court, in its discretion, may require some proof of the facts that must be established in order to determine liability." Wright, Miller and Kane, 10A Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 2688 (3d ed.).

II. Allegations Of The Complaint

Because defendant Cole has defaulted, the allegations of the complaint are taken by the court to be true. See Elektra Entertainment Group, Inc. v. Crawford, 226 F.R.D. 388, 392 (C.D.Cal. 2005).

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that while he was an inmate at High Desert State Prison (HDSP), defendant Cole, a correctional officer there, gave other inmates copies of plaintiff's CDC 114-D order, which authorized placing plaintiff in the administrative segregation unit at HDSP. The complaint and its exhibits are not clear about the specific contents of the CDC114-D order, but the complaint suggests that the order states the reason for plaintiff's housing assignment. According to the complaint, that reason, once known to other inmates, created a threat to plaintiff's safety. The complaint is somewhat specific about who posed a threat to plaintiff, alleging that defendant Cole gave the 114-D order to "a Compton crip" and that Cole "tried to have me killed by my ex home boys by giving them my lock up paper as to show them why I was placed in ad-seg. . . ." Compl. at 3 (Docket No. 1). On one of plaintiff's administrative grievance forms, he complained that, as a result of Cole's actions, "I have been labeled as a no good snitch." Id. at 6.

III. Evidence Adduced At The Hearing

At the hearing on plaintiff's motion for default judgment, plaintiff confirmed that he is a former member of the Compton Crips.*fn2 He repeated his complaint's allegation that Cole showed the CDC114-D order to other, still-active members of the gang. Plaintiff said he understood Cole's actions to be retaliation for plaintiff's flooding the tier by stopping up his toilet.

In compliance with the court's order, plaintiff submitted a copy of the CDC114-D order before the hearing. The order states that plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation for "self-admitted safety concerns." See CDC 114-D Order (Docket No. 42 at 9). It also references a "confidential information memorandum authored by Sergeant C.K. Lockard on 11/22/04." Id. Plaintiff did not produce the confidential memorandum, but he stated at the hearing that he had disclosed to Sergeant Lockard information about active members of the Crips gang at the prison, including "who had knives and who had dope." According to plaintiff, his former gang associates were able to deduce from the CDC 114-D form that plaintiff had provided information about them to prison officials. After they saw the form, they accused plaintiff of being a "rat" and a "snitch."

Plaintiff stated that he feared for his safety, but he conceded he was never assaulted or threatened face-to-face. However, he did receive notes (or "kites") saying that he would be hurt, that he could never return to his old neighborhood after prison and that he was a "rat." He also explained that, because of inmates' ability to send kites between prisons, he could not escape the threat to his safety even after being transferred out of HDSP. According to plaintiff, he will be restricted to administrative segregation for the remainder of his incarceration no matter where he is housed. He said that assignment to administrative segregation ...

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