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Wesley C. Batten v. Shasta County Jail

September 1, 2011



Plaintiff is a civil detainee proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds against defendants Shasta County Board of Supervisors, Tom Bosenko, Don VanBuskirk, Sheila Ashmun, and Matt Mitchell ("defendants") on plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claims. Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that no triable issues of material fact exist and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons stated below, the court recommends that defendants' motion be granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff is currently a civil detainee pursuant to California's Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"). See Am. Compl. ("Dckt. No. 14"); Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs. MSJ"), Decl. of Mitchell in Supp. Thereof ("Mitchell Decl."), Ex. 1 at 55 (Shasta County Superior Court order, dated August 21, 2008, determining that plaintiff should be confined as a sexually violent predator to an appropriate facility for treatment for an indeterminate commitment).

A person is subject to commitment under the SVPA if he or she "has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and . . . has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior." Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600(a)(1).

Plaintiff's claims arise out of events alleged to have occurred while he was confined to the Shasta County Jail, awaiting the SVPA civil commitment proceedings. Plaintiff claims that as a civil detainee, various aspects of his conditions of confinement were unconstitutionally punitive, in violation of his substantive due process rights. See Dckt. Nos. 14, 16. Plaintiff alleges that due to defendants' policies and procedures, he was subjected to an unreasonable strip search, had his legal and personal mail opened outside his presence, had his phone calls monitored, was denied access to the law library, and was denied specialized medical treatment and other rights. See Dckt. No. 14.*fn1 Plaintiff claims these policies and procedures were "designed to inflict harsher conditions on [him], a civil detainee, . . . than his criminal counterparts were required to endure, thereby making the custody in the Shasta County Jail punitive in application and effect." Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff seeks damages for the alleged violations. Id. at 9.

II. Undisputed Facts

Defendants submitted a Statement of Undisputed Facts in support of their motion for summary judgment. Defs.' MSJ, Stmt. of Undisputed Facts in Supp. Thereof ("SUF").*fn2 Plaintiff filed objections to defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, but contrary to Local Rule 260(b), he did not support any objection with "a citation to the particular portions of any pleading, affidavit, deposition, interrogatory answer, admission, or other document relied upon . . . ." E.D. Cal. Local Rule 260(b); See Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' MSJ ("Pl.'s Opp'n"). Nor did plaintiff otherwise submit or rely upon evidence to refute the evidence submitted by defendants. The court finds that the following facts are not disputed by either party or following the court's review of the evidence submitted, have been determined to be undisputed.

A. Plaintiff's Arrival at the Shasta County Jail

On August 1, 2007, plaintiff was transferred from the Sacramento County Jail to the Shasta County Jail ("Jail"). Mitchell Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. 1 at 2-3. Plaintiff had been confined to the Sacramento County Jail because he was serving a criminal sentence for failing to register as a sex offender. Id. ¶ 6, Ex. 1 at 3, 30-33; Pl.'s Opp'n at 2, n.2. Plaintiff was transferred to the Shasta County Jail for two reasons: (1) to respond to a petition from the Shasta County District Attorney's office to commit him as a sexually violent predator; and (2) to respond to criminal charges pending against him in the Shasta County Superior Court. Mitchell Decl. ¶¶ 2, 6, 8, 9, Ex. 1 at 10, 43, 88-90. Plaintiff was held at the Shasta County Jail pursuant to the Sacramento County criminal conviction and the pending criminal charges in Shasta County, and was not being held solely as a civil detainee awaiting the SVPA civil commitment proceedings. Id. ¶ 10.

Jail programs and services are implemented by the Jail, not by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors. Defs.' MSJ, Decl. of Gary Brickwood in Supp. Thereof ("Brickwood Decl."),Ex. B.

B. The Jail's Strip Search Policy

Jail policies provide for strip searches of inmates received from other institutions, inmates convicted of violent crimes, and inmates for whom a reasonable suspicion exists of carrying contraband or weapons. SUF 2. The Sheriff and subordinate officers responsible for making and enforcing the policy have determined there is a significant risk of contraband in the form of illegal drugs and weapons being brought into the facility by inmates transferred to the Jail from another jail or prison facility. Mitchell Decl. ¶ 5. The Jail has found that this circumstance is true as to both penal inmates and civil commitment inmates. Id. The Jail believes it is necessary for Jail security and safety to conduct a full body strip search, not including a cavity probe search, on every inmate who comes into the facility for permanent housing. Id.

When plaintiff arrived at the Shasta County Jail, staff were aware from jail records, that (1) plaintiff had been transferred with other penal inmates from the Sacramento County Jail, where he had been and was continuing to serve a criminal sentence, and (2) prior to that time, plaintiff had been a prison inmate within the California State Prison system for an undetermined number of years. SUF 3; Mitchell Decl.¶¶ 6, 10, Ex. 1 at 3, 10, 30-33, 88-89. Upon plaintiff's arrival, Jail staff conducted a visual strip search of plaintiff, pursuant to the above described policy and practice, as plaintiff was a criminal detainee who was received from another penal institution prior to being placed into permanent Jail housing. SUF 4. The search was conducted in a private area of the Jail, by a male staff member. SUF 1; Mitchell Decl. ¶¶ 5-6.

C. The Jail's Mail Policy

The policy and practice of the Jail during the time plaintiff was housed there was to open properly marked legal mail in the inmate's presence to assure Jail staff that no contraband in the form of drugs or weapons was present in the mail. Mitchell Decl. ¶ 12. Once staff was assured that there was no contraband, the mail was delivered to the inmate without Jail staff reading or reviewing the contents of the mail. Id. The policy and practice of the Jail for non-legal mail was to open the mail outside the inmate's presence to ensure that the mail did not contain contraband. Id. ¶ 14. Jail staff would also quickly scan non-legal mail to ensure that the inmate was not planning a wrongful or dangerous action with the help of a person outside of the Jail. Id.

Shasta County Jail officials have determined that the above process regarding mail is necessary in order to provide for the safety and security of the Jail and to keep contraband out of the Jail. Id. ¶ 15. Jail officials have learned that even mail marked legal mail sometimes contains contraband. Id. Jail officials have also learned that the above is correct for both penal inmates and inmates identified as civil commitments under the Sexually Violent Predatory laws. Id.

Jail records indicate that on one occasion, plaintiff filed a grievance complaining that his legal mail was opened outside his presence. SUF 6; Mitchell Decl. ¶ 13. There was a question as to whether that particular envelope had been properly marked as legal mail. SUF 6; Mitchell Decl. ¶ 13. Jail staff apologized to plaintiff for the incident. SUF 6; Mitchell Decl. ¶ 13.

D. The Jail's Telephone Policy

The Jail's policy and practice regarding phone calls is that non-legal outgoing phone calls by inmates are recorded by an automated and unmonitored system. Mitchell Decl. ¶ 16. The recordings are kept in a secure place, where only authorized jail staff can access them if needed because of an incident or suspicion relating to Jail security. Id.

As for attorney/client telephone calls, the Jail's policy and practice is the same as automated system described above. Id. ¶ 17. However, the system is programmed with the phone numbers of attorneys representing Jail inmates, and none of those phone calls get recorded. Id. Plaintiff's attorney's telephone number was part of the automated system such that any phone call between plaintiff and his attorney was not monitored. Id.

Plaintiff's legal phone calls at the Jail were not monitored or recorded. Id. ¶¶ 16, 17. Plaintiff did not make or receive any personal calls. SUF 10; Mitchell Dec. ¶ 16.

E. The Jail's Mental Health Services

Plaintiff was offered mental health counseling services through psychiatrist Dr. Pia or family therapist Mary Barnes. SUF 11; Pl.'s Opp'n at 7. At the Jail, plaintiff wanted the same treatment that he had on the street before he was arrested, consisting on one on one and group therapy with a psychologist. SUF 12.

III. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [ ] the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the non-movant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion ...

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