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Chester Johnson v. J. Lee

February 26, 2013



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the parties' consent. Dckt. Nos. 4, 23; see 28 U.S.C. § 636; see also E.D. Cal. Local Rules, Appx. A, at (k)(1)-(2). Pending before the court is the July 25, 2012 motion to for summary judgment filed by all defendants. Dckt. No. 39. For the reasons explained below, the motion must be granted.

I. The Complaint

This action proceeds on the verified complaint filed July 28, 2009. Dckt. No. 1. In the complaint, plaintiff asserts that defendants violated his rights to due process and equal protection by issuing him a disciplinary violation report that contained false information and subsequently finding him guilty of the offense. Id. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant Lee filed a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") against him for refusing to work which falsely stated that a Denis Korte*fn1 had ordered plaintiff to report to work. Id. at 3.*fn2 At the hearing on the RVR, defendant Chirila, acting as Senior Hearing Officer, found plaintiff guilty. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff was assessed a 90-days loss of privileges (visits, quarterly packages, dayroom activities, and canteen) and a 30-day loss of time credits. Id. at 3-4.

Plaintiff appealed the guilt finding, arguing that Korte was not his supervisor, did not participate in authoring the RVR, and told plaintiff that he believed the RVR was illegal. Id. at 8. Plaintiff's appeal was granted on December 2, 2008 at the third level of review. Id. at 11-12. The appeals reviewer concluded that plaintiff did refuse to report to work (there was an inmate strike occurring at the time), but that the RVR should be reversed because defendant Chirila had not discussed whether Korte was the person who ordered plaintiff to work or why someone other than Korte signed the RVR. Id. at 12.

According to plaintiff,

The loss of privileges (restricted) [sic] plaintiff's ability to participate in other activities such as Alcohol Anonymous [sic], Narcotic Anonymous [sic], and to remain disciplinary free, [and] did affect the outcome of plaintiff's appearance before the Parole Board on 8-25-08. Where plaintiff was found unsuitable, violated plaintiff's constitutional right to due process and equal protection.

Id. at 4.

II. Defendants' Factual Assertions

Defendants provide the following factual background: Plaintiff refused to go to work on January 7, 2008 as part of a larger inmate strike at California State Prison, Solano ("CSPSolano"). Dckt. No. 39-2, Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ISO Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (hereinafter "DUF") 3. Because so many inmates participated in the strike, correctional officials issued RVRs on a fill-in-the-blank template, with blanks for the date and time, inmate name, name of the reporting officer, what the inmate stated, and how the inmate was identified. DUF 4. Defendant Lee signed many RVRs for other officers, who had filled out the remainder of the forms. DUF 6-7. Defendant Lee thought Korte was plaintiff's supervisor. DUF 7.

Plaintiff was given a copy of the RVR on January 29, 2008, and the hearing occurred on February 4, 2008. DUF 8, 9. Plaintiff did not request to have any witnesses present at the hearing. DUF 11. Plaintiff did not inform defendant Chirila that defendant Lee signed for Korte. DUF 12. Plaintiff simply denied the charges of the RVR and stated that he had said he was afraid for his safety but did not say he would not go to work. DUF 13. Plaintiff was found guilty and lost 30 days of worktime credits and 90 days of Friday visits. DUF 15, 16. Plaintiff's "privilege group" was reduced to "Privilege Group C" for 90 days. DUF 16. This meant no family visits, one-fourth the maximum monthly canteen draw "as authorized by the secretary," emergency calls only, limited yard access and no other recreational or entertainment activities, and no personal property packages. DUF 17. The day that plaintiff missed from work was deemed an "A" day; i.e., an unexcused absence. DUF 31. While plaintiff's inmate appeal resulted in the withdrawal of the RVR and restoration of plaintiff's worktime credits, the "A" day remained on his record, because the appeals reviewer determined that plaintiff had, indeed, refused to work. DUF 31.

Plaintiff is serving an indeterminate sentence and has passed his minimum eligible parole date. DUF 32, 33. Plaintiff's release depends on a determination by the parole board that he is suitable for parole, thus the "A" day did not impact the duration of his sentence in any way other than potentially impacting the parole board's suitability determination. DUF 33, 34. At his 2008 suitability hearing, the board denied parole based on a variety of factors. DUF 38-52. One factor was the January 2008 RVR for refusing to work. DUF 38. The board also considered: plaintiff's adverse psychological report indicating a moderate risk of violent recidivism; plaintiff's multiple commitment offenses which were committed in a heinous, cruel, and callous manner in the view of the board; plaintiff's criminal and social histories which included past crimes, drug use, and other poor behavior; plaintiff's other substantial misconduct in prison; plaintiff's "questionable" parole plans; and plaintiff's failure to learn the precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. DUF 38-52.

Plaintiff was again denied parole in 2010, after the RVR at issue here was removed from his file. DUF 54.

III. Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Factual Assertions

Plaintiff sets forth a number of purported disputes in response to defendants' proffered facts. Dckt. No. 35, Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts In Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. For the most part, plaintiff appears to object to defendants' declarations and other supporting evidence without explaining why that evidence does not support the proffered fact. The court ...

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