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Sanford D. Jones v. Leroy D. Baca

August 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Percy Anderson United States District Judge


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72 the Court has reviewed the Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion") filed by defendants Leroy D. Baca and the County of Los Angeles ("County") (collectively "Defendants"), the Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment ("Cross-Motion") filed by plaintiff Sanford D. Jones ("Plaintiff"), the records on file, and the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge, and has considered de novo the portions of the Report as to which objections have been filed. With the exception of the portions noted below, the Court accepts the Magistrate Judge's Report and adopts it as it own findings and conclusions.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(1), the Court may designate a magistrate judge to conduct hearings on a motion for summary judgment and submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations. If either party has an objection to the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations it may serve and file those objections within 14 days. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). The opposing party then has 14 days to respond to the objections. Id. The district judge shall conduct a de novo review of those portions of the magistrate's report to which the parties have objected. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).

Plaintiff filed this action pro se, alleging various violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is a civil detainee who was involuntarily detained at the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail from 2002 to the present pursuant to California's Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"), Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600, et seq. Plaintiff's verified Complaint alleges that the conditions of his detainment violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, and filed claims against Defendants and a number of employees of the County. Plaintiff has not served any parties aside from Defendants. Defendants moved for summary judgment, and Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report") on the motions on March 31, 2010, recommending that the motions be granted in part and denied in part. Defendants filed their objections on April 13, 2010, and Plaintiff filed his objections on June 7, 2010.

Plaintiff's Complaint listed numerous conditions of his confinement which he claims were unconstitutional. The Report found that, with the exception of Plaintiff's allegations of destructive property searches, none of the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Report thus recommended denying Defendants' Motion as to whether Plaintiff's due process rights were violated by the destructive property searches, and granting the Motion as to the remainder of Plaintiff's claims of constitutional violations. The Report also recommended denying the Motion as to the liability of Baca and the County. For the reasons stated below, the Court sustains Defendants' objections to those portions of the Report in which the Magistrate Judge recommended denying Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Destructive Property Searches

First, Defendants contend that the Magistrate Judge should have recommended granting summary judgment as to whether the destructive property searches violated Plaintiff's due process rights. Plaintiff alleged that deputies placed limits on the amount of paperwork or other personal property that he could keep in his cell, and would discard the excess immediately or after six months in storage. Plaintiff alleged that the standard for which items were discarded was arbitrary, depending on which deputy conducted the search.

Defendants' motion argued that the restrictions on paperwork were for the legitimate non-punitive purpose of preventing the accumulation of materials that could create a fire hazard. The Report did not address whether removal of Plaintiff's paperwork was a punitive condition. Instead, the Magistrate Judge conducted a procedural due process analysis, noting that the "unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state employee does not constitute a violation of the procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful post-deprivation remedy for the loss is available." Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533, 104 S. Ct. 3194, 3204, 82 L. Ed. 2d 393 (1984). The Magistrate Judge acknowledged that "California law provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for any property deprivations." Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816-17 (9th Cir. 1994)(citing Cal. Gov't Code §§810-895). Nevertheless, the Magistrate Judge found that summary judgment should not be granted because it was unclear from the record whether there were sufficient jail grievance procedures which might remedy Plaintiff's claim.

Having reviewed Plaintiff's claim regarding destructive property searches the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment. First, Defendants have shown that there is a legitimate non-punitive purpose for limiting the amount of paperwork or other materials in Plaintiff's cell. See Rhoden v. Carona, No. SACV 08-00420 JHN (SS), 2010 WL 4449711 at *15 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2010)("Defendants have rebutted the Jones presumption of punitive conditions by presenting evidence showing that the confiscation of Plaintiff's excess property was accomplished 'pursuant to legitimate governmental purposes:

permitting inmates to have excess paperwork in their cells constitutes a fire hazard . . . .'"). Moreover, to the extent that Plaintiff's claim is based on violation of his procedural due process rights, the Court finds that California state law provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for any lost property. See Barnett, 31 F.3d at 816-17. Therefore, it is not necessary for the jail to also provide another remedy in the form of a grievance procedure. Cf. Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988)("There is no legitimate claim of entitlement to a grievance procedure.").

Liability of Defendant Leroy D. Baca

Defendants next object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that their Motion be denied as to defendant Baca, the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. "A supervisor may be liable if there exists either (1) his or her personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation, or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation." Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991)(quoting Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)). As an initial matter, the Court has now found that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the issue of whether there was a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. In the absence of any constitutional violation, Baca is entitled to summary judgment.

Even assuming that Plaintiff had produced some evidence of a constitutional violation Baca would still be entitled to summary judgment. Defendants presented Plaintiff's deposition testimony, in which Plaintiff admitted that he had never met Baca. Therefore, Plaintiff cannot pursue Baca for any personal involvement in a constitutional violation. Instead, Plaintiff alleged that Baca's liability was based on his failure to train and supervise his subordinates. See Cunningham v. Gates, 229 F.3d 1271, 1292 (9th Cir. 2000)("Supervisors can be held liable for . . . their own culpable action or inaction in the training, supervision, or control of subordinates . . . ."). Defendants provided evidence that jail employees receive training and supervision in the treatment of SVPA detainees. Plaintiff did not provide any contradicting evidence. Nevertheless, the Magistrate Judge recommended denying the Motion, citing Plaintiff's allegations that Baca failed to train and supervise his subordinates.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)(2) a nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must-by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule-set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." However, in the case of a party appearing pro se a court "must consider as evidence in [Plaintiff's] opposition to summary judgment all of [Plaintiff's] contentions offered in motions and pleadings, where such contentions are based on personal knowledge and set forth facts that would be admissible in evidence, and where [Plaintiff] attested under penalty of perjury that the contents of the motions or pleadings are true and correct." Jones, 393 F.3d at 923. Since Plaintiff filed a verified Complaint and verified Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, his allegations and other statements may be considered as evidence, but only if they are based on personal knowledge. In this case Plaintiff's verified Complaint and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment made conclusory allegations that Baca had failed to train and supervise his subordinates, but did not establish that he has personal knowledge sufficient to support ...

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