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Marvin Glenn Hollis v. G. Brackett

March 22, 2011

MARVIN GLENN HOLLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
G. BRACKETT, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard A. Jones

ORDER ON MOTIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. # 36), Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to respond to that motion (Dkt. # 49), Plaintiff's motion to strike (Dkt. # 54), and Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (Dkt. # 61). For the reasons stated below, the court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment in part and DENIES it in part. The court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for extension of time, but DENIES his other motions.

At the conclusion of this order, the court imposes deadlines for the preparation of a pretrial statement in accordance with Local Rules E.D. Cal. ("LR") 281.

II. BACKGROUND

Staff at High Desert State Prison conducted a search of the cells of prisoners in "Facility C" on November 8, 2007. Officer J. Neves seized the mattresses from every cell, marked them with an identification number, and transported them en masse to a separate building to x-ray them. Among the mattresses he seized were one belonging to Plaintiff Marvin Glenn Hollis and one belonging to his cellmate.

Officer G. Brackett, who had no role in the seizure of the mattresses or the decision to seize them, manned the x-ray machine. A conveyor belt fed the machine. Officer Neves was responsible for placing the mattresses he seized on the conveyor belt. The evidence does not reflect whether Officer Neves remained in the x-ray room after delivering the mattresses. A jury could conclude that he left the room before Officer Brackett began x-raying the mattresses, or, at a minimum, that he left the room before the events critical to this lawsuit occurred.

According to Officer Brackett, he discovered what appeared to be a weapon in the x-ray of one mattress. That mattress was marked C6-127L, which corresponded to Facility C, Building 6, Cell 127, and the lower-level bunk. Officer Brackett opened the mattress at what appeared to him to be a re-stitched corner. Inside, he found a handmade plastic weapon about six inches long. He contacted Building 6. Staff there informed him that Mr. Hollis and his cellmate resided in the cell designated on the mattress. Officer Brackett summoned the prison's investigative services unit. Officer D. Dittman of that unit arrived and took custody of the mattress and the weapon. According to Officer Brackett's report, about ten minutes passed between the time he identified the object by x-ray and the arrival of Officer Dittman.

According to Mr. Hollis, Officer Brackett planted the weapon in the mattress. Officer Brackett knew Mr. Hollis's cell number because he had escorted Mr. Hollis to that cell only two days earlier, on November 6, 2007. During that encounter, Mr. Hollis threatened to file a grievance against Officer Brackett for his alleged use of excessive force. For that reason, Mr. Hollis alleges that when Officer Brackett saw the mattress with labeling indicating it came from his cell, he planted the weapon to retaliate against Mr. Hollis for threatening him with a grievance.*fn1

Officer Dittman conducted an investigation shortly after Officer Brackett reported the weapon. He interviewed Mr. Hollis and his cellmate separately. The cellmate claimed that he had not placed the weapon in the mattress. He also claimed that he had inspected the mattress twice while making his bed, and found no alterations. He testified that he was receiving medical treatment on the morning of November 8, and that Mr. Hollis was therefore alone in their cell for a few hours before the mattress seizure occurred. When Officer Dittman interviewed Mr. Hollis, he began by saying that a weapon had been discovered in his cell. According to Officer Dittman, Mr. Hollis responded by saying "you didn't find it in my mattress." At that point, no one had revealed to Mr. Hollis that the weapon had been found in a mattress.

Prison officials charged Mr. Hollis with a violation of prison rules, and also referred the matter to local authorities for criminal prosecution. He was placed in administrative segregation on November 8, and remained there until the prison convened a disciplinary hearing on December 11.

Officer D. Griffith presided at the disciplinary hearing. There is neither evidence nor allegation that he had any part in the seizure of the mattresses or the investigation of the weapon found therein. Officer Griffith issued a report memorializing the disciplinary hearing and his decision. He determined that Mr. Hollis was responsible for the weapon in the mattress. He cited Officer Dittman's written statement summarizing his interview with Mr. Hollis's cellmate, who said that he was certain that his mattress was unaltered when he left the cell on the morning of November 8, and that Mr. Hollis had been in the cell alone after he left. Officer Griffith also cited Mr. Hollis's statements at his interview with Officer Dittman, in which he had revealed knowledge that the weapon was inside a mattress before Officer Dittman revealed that information. Finally, Officer Griffith noted that Mr. Hollis spontaneously stated that he was guilty during the disciplinary hearing.

Officer Griffith relied entirely on written statements from witnesses to reach his guilty finding. Officer Griffith noted that Mr. Hollis had requested the testimony of several witnesses at the disciplinary hearing, including his cellmate and all of the officers who were involved in the seizure of the mattresses and the subsequent investigation. Only Officer Brackett was required to appear at the hearing. Mr. Hollis did not ask Officer Brackett any questions. Officer Griffith denied Mr. Hollis's request for the appearance of other witnesses.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Officer Griffith ruled that Mr. Hollis had concealed the weapon. He penalized him with the loss of 360 days of good-time credit, 10 days without yard ...


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