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Tony Roberts v. Matthew Cate

January 22, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding without counsel, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is proceeding on the third amended complaint, filed September 10, 2010. Plaintiff alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious mental health needs by transferring him to California Men's Colony ("CMC"). On May 31, 2012, defendants Cate and Knowles*fn1 filed a motion for summary judgment. On June 27, 2012, plaintiff filed an opposition.

On July 19, 2012, plaintiff was provided notice of the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment, Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998), and provided an extension of time to file further opposition. On August 23, 2012, plaintiff filed a supplemental opposition. Defendants did not file a reply. As explained below, the court recommends that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff proceeds on the unverified*fn2 third amended complaint filed September 10, 2010, alleging that defendants were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious mental health needs by either intentionally interfering with plaintiff's prescribed mental health treatment or failing to comply with ready access to adequate mental health care by transferring plaintiff to CMC. Plaintiff contends that CMC was not equipped to address plaintiff's mental health needs. Plaintiff argues that on December 27, 2007, his mental health provider recommended that plaintiff be transferred to a correctional facility close to plaintiff's family in southern California,*fn3 because it would provide a stabilizing factor for plaintiff's psychological issues. (Dkt. No. 31 at 3.) Plaintiff contends that defendants transferred plaintiff from the California Medical Facility ("CMF") in Northern California based on this recommendation. However, defendants transferred plaintiff to CMC, which is in Central California, and which allegedly only provides entertainment videos as a substitute for therapeutic treatment, rather than transferring plaintiff to a southern California facility which offers standard structured therapy as recommended by mental health staff. (Id.)

Plaintiff contends defendant Cate failed to take corrective measures during the third level review on October 7, 2008,*fn4 by refusing to rectify his subordinates' failure to comply with the December 27, 2007 recommendation, and which delayed plaintiff's receipt of appropriate mental health care. Plaintiff argues that because defendant Cate was aware of deficiencies in the provision of mental health care to inmates held by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), defendant Cate failed to take steps to avert an obvious risk to plaintiff's health and safety.

In addition to citing defendant Knowles' supervisory role, plaintiff contends that defendant Knowles failed to take corrective measures during the second level appeal review on May 22, 2008, which allegedly interfered with, and delayed, plaintiff's mental health care.

III. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants move for summary judgment on the following grounds: (a) plaintiff failed to establish defendants' personal involvement in the decision to transfer plaintiff to CMC, or a causal connection thereto; (b) the transfer decision was consistent with CDCR regulations; (c) plaintiff failed to establish a constitutional violation with respect to his inmate appeal because defendant Cate had no personal involvement in the appeal response, and defendant Knowles' second level response does not give rise to any claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (d) neither defendant was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious mental health needs because there is no evidence that either of them denied, delayed, or interfered with plaintiff's mental health care; (e) the Coleman class action does not impute to defendant Cate knowledge of allegedly gross deficiencies in the provision of mental health care to plaintiff at CMC; (f) plaintiff's disagreement with the course and scope of his mental health care treatment does not support a claim of deliberate indifference; and (g) the undisputed facts demonstrate that plaintiff received more than adequate treatment for his mental health needs following his initial transfer to CMC.

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil procedure 56 is met. "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting then-numbered Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).) "Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Nursing Home Pension Fund, Local 144 v. Oracle Corp. (In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig.), 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 Advisory Committee Notes to 2010 Amendments (recognizing that "a party who does not have the trial burden of production may rely on a showing that a party who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible evidence to carry its burden as to the fact"). Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.

Consequently, if the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of such a factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material in support of its contention that such a dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving a summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citation omitted).

By orders filed February 27, 2009, and July 19, 2012, the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion brought pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. Nos. 13, 80); see Rand, 154 F.3d at 957.

B. Additional Applicable Legal Standards

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978) ("Congress did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where . . . causation [is] absent."); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976) (no affirmative link between the incidents of police misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy demonstrating their authorization or approval of such misconduct). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

A supervisory official is not liable for the actions of subordinates on a respondeat superior theory under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 915 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 645-46 (9th Cir.1989)). "A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 only 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." Id. A causal connection is "an affirmative link" between a constitutional deprivation and "the adoption of any plan or policy by [a supervisor,] express or otherwise showing [his or her] authorization or approval of such misconduct." Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371 (1976). The inquiry into causation "must be individualized" and focused on the duties and responsibilities of the individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a violation. Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988).

C. Undisputed Facts

For purposes of the instant motion for summary judgment, the court finds the following facts undisputed.

1. On December 27, 2007, a clinician, Dr. McDougald, recommended that plaintiff be transferred from the CMF, in Vacaville, to a prison close to his family in Southern California.*fn5

2. On February 29, 2008, at Unit Classification Committee ("UCC") at CMF recommended a transfer to the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("RJD") so that plaintiff could be closer to his family. An alternate recommendation was made for transfer to the CMC.

3. On March 18, 2008, a Classification Staff Representative ("CSR") endorsed plaintiff for transfer to CMC.

4. On April 3, 2008, plaintiff was transferred to CMC.

5. Neither Knowles nor Cate sat on the UCC or acted as the CSR making the transfer decision.

6. Plaintiff was first seen related to his psychiatric needs at CMC on April 4, 2008.

7. Plaintiff was seen regularly thereafter by therapists and was provided with medication as well as talk therapy.

8. On March 25, 2008, plaintiff filed an administrative appeal trying to prevent the transfer to CMC.

9. On March 26, 2008, the appeal was returned to plaintiff because he had failed to attach a copy of the classification chrono.

10. On May 22, 2008, after plaintiff provided appeals with a copy of the chrono, Knowles signed off on an appeal response denying the appeal. (Dkt. No. 77-5 at 15-16.)

11. The determination for the denial of the appeal states:

The arguments and evidence presented are persuasive that [plaintiff] was appropriately classified and endorsed to a facility that is closer to [plaintiff's] family in Southern California, although not to RJD where [plaintiff] wished to transfer. The [plaintiff] was seen by a Classification Committee, which reviewed all case factors prior to taking a recommendation for transfer. The transfer recommendation was reviewed and endorsed by a CSR who determined the appropriate housing based on the Departmental needs, safety and security, the [plaintiff's] placement score and administrative determinates. The alternate facility was chosen by the CSR. The endorsement was consistent with Penal Code section 5068 as far as availability of programs and housing.

(Dkt. No. 77-5 at 16.)*fn6

12. CMF is located in Northern California.*fn7 (Dkt. No. ...

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