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George N. Allen, et al v. Stephen Mayberg

September 5, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn WinmillChief U. S. District Judge


(consolidated cases)


Including the following member cases: 1:-07-CV-00427-BLW (Gonzales) 1:07-CV-00849-BLW (Brown) 1:07-CV-00850-BLW (DeBerry) 1:07-CV-00897-BLW (Scott) 1:07-CV-00913-BLW (Smith) 1:07-CV-00985-BLW (Scott) 1:08-CV-01196-BLW (Chaney) 1:08-CV-01339-BLW (Robinson) 1:09-CV-01890-BLW (Rhoden) 1:09-CV-02153-BLW (Frazier) 1:10-CV-01973-BLW (Vasquez)

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. (Dkt. 96.) The Motion is fully briefed, and no reports of progress regarding settlement negotiations have been filed regarding the pending Motion, or the merits of this case. This case has been pending for nearly six years without resolution of any issue.

Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, in the interest of avoiding delay, the Court shall decide this matter on the written motions, briefs and record without oral argument. Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order.


Beginning in December of 2006, Plaintiffs, who are statutorily-designated sexually violent predators ("SVP") committed to the Coalinga State Hospital ("CSH") after completion of their criminal sentences, filed a number of lawsuits against officials at CSH (collectively, "Defendants") challenging the conditions of their civil confinement. Plaintiffs allege that a number of policies and procedures at CSH violate their constitutional rights. These policies include restrictions on visitation, restriction of movies for private viewing, searches of dorms, confiscation and restriction of possession of personal items (including personal computers and electronic gaming devices, noises within living quarters via the PA system, use of law enforcement officers rather than medical professionals in patient treatment plans, searches of mail, lack of job assignments and training, and residents' wages. Plaintiffs, whose lawsuits have been consolidated for ease of administration, seek compensatory, declaratory, and injunctive relief.

CSH patients, including Plaintiffs, were permitted to purchase and possess personal laptop computers in July 2006, but CSH imposed strict guidelines to regulate the types of hardware, software, and accessible and stored information on the computers.

(Declaration of CSH Assistant Deputy Director George Maynard, ¶ 3, Dkt.100-1.) In particular, CSH staff disabled the wireless capability of all incoming computers ordered by patients, pursuant to Administrative Directive 654. (Id., Exhibit 1, Dkt. 100-1.)

In February 2007, CSH patients were notified that "[d]ue to a high rate of policy violations," an immediate moratorium was being placed on purchases of patient computer equipment and software. (Id., ¶ 7, Exh. 4, Dkt. 100-1, p. 29.) The risks identified were widespread distribution of pornographic material, audio recording of staff and patient conversations, widespread illegal distribution and sharing of copyright protected materials, widespread distribution and sharing of data encryption and concealing software, and computerized street map and atlas software. (Id., ¶ 7, Exhibit 4, Dkt 100-1, p. 29.)

In October 2009, while the CSH patients' lawsuits were pending, the California Department of Mental Health ("CMH"), charged with managing CSH, took affirmative steps to implement Regulation 4350 (the "Regulation"). (Motion for Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 96, p. 2.) The Regulation prohibits patients from possessing "electronic devices with the capability to connect to a wired . . . and/or wireless . . . communications network to send and/or receive information." (Def. Memo., Dkt. 100, p. 9; see Cal. Code Regs. title 9 § 4350.)

On October 14, 2010, the Court appointed the Legal Clinic of the University of Idaho Law School as stand-by counsel to Plaintiffs (Dkt. 64) for the purpose of participating in a triage conference (combined case management and settlement conference) with United States District Judge David O. Carter. (Dkt. 85.)

The triage conference was convened by Judge David O. Carter on December 19, 2011 and is now in recess. (Dkt. 96, p. 2.) Defendants previously agreed to a moratorium with respect to confiscation of Plaintiffs' electronic devices until the conclusion of the triage conference process or unless the court orders otherwise, but have recently determined that the Regulation would be implemented without regard to settlement negotiations. (Id.) As a result, on April 16, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 to prevent CMH from implementing the Regulation until the legal challenges to CMH's policies restricting access to personal computers and electronic devices are resolved by trial or settlement agreement. Plaintiffs are not seeking internet access, but only to keep their computers and electronic devices that are internet-disabled. Their claims are based upon the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.


1. Standard of Law

A. Preliminary Injunctive Relief Standard of Law

To be entitled to preliminary injunctive relief, the movant must show each of the following: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that irreparable harm is likely, not just possible, if the injunction is not granted; (3) that the balance of equities tips in its favor; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 555 U.S. 7 (2008). In applying the Winter test, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed that, if a party cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits, but raises "serious questions going to the merits," a preliminary injunction may issue if the balance of equities tips "sharply" in the party's favor, and the other two elements (irreparable harm and public interest) are also satisfied. Alliance For The Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1134-35 (9th Cir. 2011) (holding that this aspect of the Ninth Circuit's sliding scale test survived Winter).

B. Due Process Standards of Law

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the government from depriving an individual of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects two distinct but related rights: procedural due process and substantive due process.

(1) Procedural Due Process Standard of Laws

The right to procedural due process prohibits the government from depriving an individual of a liberty or property interest without first following the proper procedures. See, e.g., Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 558-66 (1974), abrogated by Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995) (prison disciplinary context). To prevail on a procedural due process claim, a litigant must show (1) that he was deprived of a constitutionally-protected liberty or property interest; (2) "what process is due"; and (3) that he was denied adequate due process under the appropriate standard. Brewster v. Board of Educ. of Lynnwood Unified School Dist., 143 F.3d 971, 982 (9th Cir. 1998). To determine "what process is due," the Court balances three factors:

First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirements would entail.

Id. at 983 (quoting Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335 (1976)). Stated a simpler way, due process requires that "a person deprived of property be given an opportunity to be heard 'at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.'" Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552 (1965).

(2) Substantive Due Process Standard of Law

The right to substantive due process protects individuals from being deprived of certain fundamental rights; in other words, no amount of government process can justify the taking of these important rights. Blaylock v. Schwinden, 862 F.2d 1352, 1354 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantive due process rights include those rights that are clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights or that have been recognized by the United States Supreme Court as requiring constitutional protection, such as "matters relating to marriage, family, procreation, and the right to bodily integrity." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 272 (1994).*fn1

Of particular importance here, several other substantive due process rights that protect the rights of detained citizens emanate from the Fourteenth Amendment. One protection is that "[a]t the least, . . . the nature and duration of a commitment [must] bear some reasonable relation to the purpose for which the individual is committed." Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715, 738 (1972). Another protection is that detainees "may not be punished ...

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