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Gibson v. Wong

June 10, 2010

DEAREL GIBSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R. K. WONG, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER AND FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On February 8, 2010, defendants moved for partial dismissal of plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 Plaintiff has opposed the motion.*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, the court will recommend that defendants' motion for partial dismissal be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Wong, Peck, and Fox wherein he alleges as follows. On December 4, 2008, plaintiff brought to the attention of defendants Wong and Fox that the cells in administrative segregation were too cold. Specifically, plaintiff complained that the cell vents were expelling "ice cold air 24 hours a day." Defendants Wong and Fox dismissed plaintiff's complaint, stating that there was nothing wrong with the air temperature. When plaintiff later protested to him, defendant Peck similarly ignored plaintiff's concerns. (Compl. at 3-4, 6-7.)

That same day, plaintiff also complained to defendants Wong and Fox that the cell windows in administrative segregation were covered by opaque plexiglass. It had been plaintiff's belief that the decision in Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F. Supp. 1146 (N.D. Cal. 1995) required cell windows to be transparent, allowing prisoners to look outside. When plaintiff asked defendants whether they were familiar with that decision, defendant Fox responded, "We make our own policies around here." Thereafter, neither defendant Wong nor Fox took any remedial action. (Compl. at 5-6.)

Plaintiff claims that the conditions of his confinement, namely the ventilation of cold air in his cell and the lack of a cell window with an outside view, violate his constitutional rights under: (1) the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also alleges two state law claims for "inhumanity to prisoners" and "criminal conspiracy." See Cal. Penal Code §§ 147 & 182. In terms of relief, plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. (Compl. at 7-12.)

DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL DISMISSAL

I. Defendants' Motion

Defendants argue that plaintiff's complaint should proceed only on his claim that the ventilation of his cell with cold air violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

According to defendants, plaintiff's other constitutional claims should be dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 2.)

Regarding plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims, defendants contend that plaintiff has failed to allege any facts supporting either an equal protection or a procedural due process claim. Moreover, to the extent that plaintiff presents a substantive due process claim in his complaint, defendants explain that plaintiff's claims are properly analyzed under the Eighth Amendment and not under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 5-6.)

Defendants also argue that plaintiff does not have a constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment to a cell window with an outdoor view. Defendants explain that Madrid v. Gomez, the case which serves as the basis for plaintiff's claim in this regard, is distinguishable from the present case. According to defendants, the court in Madrid found that the conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison, as a whole, violated the Eighth Amendment. Defendants emphasize that the court in the Madrid case did not hold that a cell lacking a window with an outdoor view, in of itself, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 9-10.)

II. Plaintiff's Opposition

In his opposition to the pending motion to dismiss, plaintiff largely reiterates the allegations that he makes in his complaint. Specifically, plaintiff argues that defendants Wong, Peck, and Fox knew about the frigid conditions in his and other prison cells and failed to take any corrective action. Plaintiff also argues that the defendants understood that cells were required to have windows with outside views. However, according to plaintiff, defendants did nothing to fix these ...


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