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Bobby James Williams v. Daniel Moeller

January 11, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Allison Claire United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis on his complaint, filed January 6, 2011, alleging that defendant Daniel Moeller, a representative of the state Board of Parole Hearings, violated his due process rights when defendant failed to provide sufficient procedural protections to plaintiff before conducting a "Documentation Hearing" in July 2008. See Doc. No. 1 at 14. Plaintiff specifically does not challenge his conviction or sentence. See id. at 17. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Id.

Defendant has moved for summary judgment. Doc. No. 21. Plaintiff opposes the motion, and additionally seeks leave to amend in order to add additional claims, and an additional defendant, Licensed Clinical Social Worker A. Caruso, employed at Salinas Valley State Prison. See Doc. No. 24. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted, and plaintiff's motion to amend be denied.


The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted.

Plaintiff suffers from "several mental illnesses and lack of meaningful education."

See Doc. No. 24 at 2. He was convicted by jury in 1996 of robbery and receiving stolen property. See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts ("DUF"), Ex. A ("Vanrossen Decl."), Attach. 1 and 2. Plaintiff was originally sentenced in May 1996 to a term of 60 years to life. Id. The trial court later amended the sentence after appeal; however, the total term of plaintiff's amended sentence remained 60 years to life. DUF 2, 3.*fn1

On an unknown date in 2003, A. Caruso, a licensed clinical social worker at Salinas Valley State Prison, gave plaintiff copies of two CDC Forms 128-C entitled "Mental Health Pre-Release Needs Assessment/Transitional Case Management Program," which led plaintiff to believe that he was being assessed for the "Pre-Release Program" under California Code of Regulations, Title 15, § 3502. Doc. No. 24 at 2; Doc. No. 1 at 27.

Also on an unknown date in 2003, Caruso gave plaintiff a "Transitional Case Management Program" notice which instructs plaintiff to "give this notice to your parole agent upon release." Doc. No. 24 at 2; Doc. No. 1 at 28. The notice, which identifies plaintiff by name and CDC number, advises the parole officer that "your parolee is still required to attend the Parole Outpatient Clinic (POC)" and that "[a]ttendence at POC is a very important part of parole to ensure that your parolee remains successful once he/she is released from prison." Doc. No. 1 at 28.

On May 6, 2008, an agent of the Board of Prison Terms certified that he or she gave notice to plaintiff of plaintiff's documentation hearing scheduled for July 7, 2008. See Doc. No. 24 at 16. Plaintiff disputes that he received notice. See Doc. No. 24 at 3.

On July 7, 2008, defendant Daniel Moeller conducted a "documentation hearing" with plaintiff, pursuant to California Penal Code § 3041(a). DUF 6, 7. A documentation hearing is intended to allow for the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH" or "Board") to review an inmate's file, to document pertinent conduct, and to make recommendations regarding programing. DUF 7.

Following the review of the file, a commissioner meets with the inmate and provides the inmate with recommendations regarding positive programming that will assist in parole consideration. Id. No determinations regarding a prisoner's suitability for parole are made at a documentation hearing. DUF 8.

Defendant had no authority either to grant or to deny plaintiff parole on July 7, 2008. DUF 8. The earliest date on which plaintiff will be eligible for parole is February 4, 2055. DUF 4. Plaintiff has never been eligible for parole, from the time he began serving his current sentence, through the present. DUF 5.

At the July 7, 2008 hearing, defendant made no recommendations or requirements as to possible terms of plaintiff's eventual parole. DUF 9. Defendant did not establish any requirements or make any recommendations that plaintiff be psychiatrically evaluated. Id. Defendant had no authority to do any of these things at a documentation hearing. Id.

Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendant now moves for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff had no liberty interest at stake at the documentation hearing, and was therefore not entitled to any procedural due process protections under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Doc. No. 21 at 5. Instead, procedural protections are reserved for those hearings at which a decision will be made on whether to grant or to deny an inmate release on parole. Id. In plaintiff's case, that will not be until 2055. Id. Defendant contends that, because defendant had no authority to grant or to deny parole, the documentation hearing could never give rise to a due process violation. Id.

Plaintiff opposes the motion. Doc. No. 24. Plaintiff concedes that he has no release date or liberty interest, and brought this action claiming he did because defendant Caruso led him to believe he was being released and Moeller did nothing to disspell [sic] this belief save deny him parole. Plaintiff was incapable of knowing that Moeller could not grant him parole, and it was Moeller's duty to ensure plaintiff understood this.

Doc. No. 24 at 8.

Plaintiff argues that his due process rights were violated because defendant Moeller knew that plaintiff was mentally ill and developmentally disabled, and therefore was "duty bound" to: (1) ensure that plaintiff's "procedural safeguards had been adhered to," and to reschedule the hearing upon learning that they had not; (2) take steps to ensure that plaintiff was capable of understanding the nature of the hearing, and also capable of understanding the hearing, by assigning a staff assistant; and (3) investigate why there was paperwork in plaintiff's file indicating that plaintiff's release was imminent, and whether there was any "validity" to it. See Doc. No. 24 at 4, 6. In support, ...

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