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Maximilian Monclova-Chavez v. Eric Mceachern; Timothy Miller; Kenneth White; and C.O.

June 21, 2012

MAXIMILIAN MONCLOVA-CHAVEZ,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC MCEACHERN; TIMOTHY MILLER; KENNETH WHITE; AND C.O. TINCHER,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER RE: MOTION TO BIFURCATE AND/OR SEVER ACTION (Doc. 113)

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant Patrick Tincher has filed a motion to (1) bifurcate and/or sever trial from trial of the other defendants and (2) bifurcate trial on the issues of liability, compensatory damages and punitive damages. For reasons discussed below, the motion to bifurcate and/or sever trial from trial of the other defendants shall be granted; the motion to bifurcate trial on the issues of liability, compensatory damages and punitive damages shall be granted in part and denied in part.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 15, 2008, plaintiff Maximilian Monclova-Chavez ("Monclova-Chavez") filed his civil rights complaint against defendants Eric McEachern, Timothy Miller, Kenneth White and C.O. Tincher pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). Monclova-Chavez alleged as follows:

"On April 7, 2007, Plaintiff was being housed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU), D-Range, Cell #220, USP Atwater, California. [¶] On April 7, 2007, around 12:45 PM, 5-6 Special Operations Response Team (SORT) members with defendant McEachern, a Physicians Assistant, a person with a video camera, a Ms. Ortiz, and possibly a duty officer came to Cell #220. [¶] Plaintiff was peacefully cuffed from behind and removed from Cell #220 without incident. This complete event was captured on video. [¶] Plaintiff was then placed in full restraints, (handcuffs, waist chain, black box and shackles). This to [sic] was captured on video. [¶] Plaintiff was then taken from SHU by SORT, and other mentioned . . . above, to Receiving and Discharge (R&D) and placed in a holding room. All of this was captured on video. [¶] When Plaintiff entered the R&D holding room he sat down and remained sitting or laying down on the floor the entire time."

Monclova-Chavez further alleged:

"After approximately 2 hours had elapsed, defendants McEachern, Miller and White opened the door to the holding room and entered the room. [¶] Upon entering the holding room where Plaintiff was laying on the floor, defendant Miller begin kiking [sic] Plaintiff and kiked [sic] him 5-6 times in the stomach, chest, legs and head and then punched plaintiff with his tightly clenched fists several times in the upper body. [¶] Also at this time defendant White was punching Plaintiff with his tightly clenched fists in the upper body and back. [¶] Also at this time defendant McEachern pulled an object (a weapon) from the waist of his pants and struck Plaintiff with the hard steel instrument extremely hard in the head two times."

Monclova-Chavez further alleged:

"[D]uring the approximately 2 hours that elapsed between removing him from Cell #220 in SHU, placing him in the R&D holding room, and the assault on him, defendants McEachern, Miller, and White, conspired with each other to violate Plaintiff's Constitutional rights, Criminal Civil Rights Statutes, and Federal Law by obtaining a hard steel weapon, going the [sic] R&D holding room where Plaintiff was being held in full restraints where no video camera could see them and take violent illegal retribution against Plaintiff by brutally, maliciously and sadistically attempting to kill Plaintiff by assaulting him with the intent of causing Plaintiff death and severe bodily injury, and thereafter, defendants McEachern, Miller and White, acting in concert with each other, did carry the conspiracy into effect by brutally, maliciously and sadistically attempting to kill Plaintiff by assaulting him while he lay on the floor of the R&D holding room in full restraints . . . ."

Monclova-Chavez further alleged:

"On April 16, 2007, Plaintiff went to the SHU recreation yard. [¶] To return from the SHU recreation yard Plaintiff had his hands cuffed behind his back. [¶] Plaintiff was walking back to his cell when the SHU Officer in charge, Tincher, gratuitously and deliberately, with the intent of hurting Plaintiff, slammed a heavy steel door from behind Plaintiff hitting him with full force in the hands, right shoulder and right arm causing Plaintiff to suffer severe pain."

On May 4, 2012, defendant Patrick Tincher ("Tincher," sued as C.O. Tincher) filed a motion to (1) bifurcate and/or sever trial from trial of the other named defendants and (2) bifurcate trial on the issues of liability, compensatory damages and punitive damages, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 21 and 42(b). On May 18, 2012, Monclova-Chavez filed his opposition to Tincher's motion. Tincher filed his reply to Monclova-Chavez's opposition on June 4, 2012.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 provides: "Misjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissing an action. On motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) provides: "For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims. When ordering a separate trial, the court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial." Fed. R. Civ P. 42(b). Rule 42(b) "confers broad discretion upon the district court to bifurcate a trial, thereby deferring costly and possibly unnecessary proceedings pending resolution of potentially dispositive preliminary issues." Zivkovic v. Southern California Edison Co., 302 F.3d 1080, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002). "[A] district court may sever claims under Rule 21, creating two separate proceedings, so long as the two claims are 'discrete and separate.' [Citation.] In other words, one claim must be capable of resolution despite the outcome of the other claim. [Citation.] By ...


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