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Hightower v. Tilton

August 19, 2010

THOMAS A. HIGHTOWER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES TILTON, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marsha J. Pechman United States District Judge

ORDER PARTIALLY GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

This matter is before the Court on Defendants L.B. Reaves, E.A. Reyes, N. Grannis, and James Tilton's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint and Defendant's joinder of parties to the motion. After reviewing the motion, response, reply and documents submitted in support thereof, the Court GRANTS and DENIES the motion to dismiss in part.

I. Background

Pro se plaintiff Thomas Hightower is a disabled prisoner incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, CA who filed a complaint in the Eastern District of California on May 22, 2008. He seeks declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, monetary relief, and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He also seeks redress under various California state laws. Named defendants are sixteen prison officials employed, or formerly employed, by the Mule Creek State Prison ("MCSP") and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). The present motion concerns six of these officials -- L.B. Reaves, E.A. Reyes, N. Grannis, Silvia H. Garcia, Richard Subia, and James Tilton.

Reaves is either a correctional counselor or associate warden at MCSP. Plaintiff allegedly approached Reaves to complain about prison guards' behavior toward him, and accuses Reaves of "refus[ing] to even acknowledge any serious violations of law... personally choosing to ignore the actions of [the other] defendants." (Dkt. No. 1 at 22.)

Reyes is also either a correctional counselor or associate warden at MCSP. Reyes is allegedly responsible for processing prisoner appeals at MCSP, and Plaintiff accuses him of intentionally stalling the administrative appeal process. (Id. at 33.)

Grannis is the Chief of Inmate Appeals of the CDCR. Plaintiff claims that Grannis was "responsible for establishing protocols and/or procedures, that, she/he knew was causing. unconstitutional conditions of confinement," (Id. at 7), and that he "cannot deny [he] know[s]" of other defendants' reputation for retaliation." (Id. at 15.) It is unclear whether Plaintiff ever directly contacted Grannis.

Garcia is the former chief deputy warden at MCSP. Plaintiff accuses Garcia of retaining him in solitary confinement for retaliatory reasons, allegedly against the recommendation of the appeals board. (Id. at 24.)

Subia is the former warden of the MCSP. Plaintiff accuses Subia of creating a prisoner classification called "A2B" that denies prisoners certain privileges, including showers and recreation. Plaintiff avers that the privileges denied are not actually privileges, but inalienable constitutional rights, and that Subia widely applied the A2B classification to the general prison population simply due to overcrowding. (Id. at 26-35.)

Tilton is the former head of the CDCR. Plaintiff claims that he complained about poor prison conditions and the "punitive" effects of the "A2B" status directly to Tilton, but received no response. Plaintiff claims that this is tantamount to Tilton's approval of the conditions and their punitive nature. (Id. at 35.)

On January 15, 2010, Reaves, Reyes, Grannis, and Tilton filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 22.) Defendants assert that the Plaintiff's complaint fails to meet the Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) pleading standard. They also claim qualified immunity. Defendants did not move to dismiss any of Plaintiff's state law claims, nor did their motion specifically address Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims.

On February 11, 2010, Plaintiff moved for additional time to file his response to Defendants' motion. (Dkt. No. 26.) The Court did not rule on the motion before Plaintiff filed a response on March 16, 2010. (Dkt. No. 31.) On March 23, 2010, Defendants moved for an extension to file their reply (Dkt. No. 33), which was granted on April 1, 2010 (Dkt. No. 37).

Defendants filed a reply on April 6, 2010, asking for Plaintiff's response to be stricken as untimely. (Dkt. No. 39.) In separate filings, defendants Subia and Garcia joined the motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 40; Dkt. No. 41.) On April 23, 2010, Plaintiff filed an opposition against Garcia's joinder, but remained silent regarding Subia's joinder. (Dkt. No. 43.)

The remaining defendants, mostly prison guards accused of direct retaliation, are not party to the motion to dismiss. Most joined in a separate answer to Plaintiff's complaint. (Dkt. No. 21.)

II. Propriety of Joinder

Plaintiff challenges the Defendants' attempted joinder of Garcia to the motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 43 at 1.) Joinder in a motion after filing is appropriate when the addition of new parties is timely and can be done without changing the motion's underlying legal ...


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