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Gregory Allen Franklin v. L. Smalls

March 8, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge


This civil rights action is presently before the Court on Defendants Madden, Davis, Hopper, Arias, Vargas, Trujillo, and Small's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. No. 105.] The Court granted Plaintiff Gregory Franklin ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, leave to file a supplemental opposition to the motion. [Doc. No. 138.] Despite receiving multiple extensions of time, Plaintiff failed to do so. [Doc. Nos. 146, 148.] For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety, and dismisses the action.


Plaintiff is a former inmate at Calipatria State Prison in Calipatria, California. On March 8, 2007, Plaintiff filed a separate civil rights complaint against thirteen defendants, all of whom were employed at the time by the California Department of Corrections at Calipatria State Prison in Calipatria, California. See Franklin v. Scribner, et al., Civil Case No. 3:07-cv-438-WVG (RBB) (the "2007 Action"). The 2007 Action was not resolved until September 29, 2010, when the district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants as to Plaintiff's two remaining Eighth Amendment claims.

On May 14, 2009, Plaintiff filed the present action, alleging various constitutional claims, including an Eighth Amendment constant cell illumination claim and several First Amendment claims against a number of correctional officers named as defendants in the 2007 Action. Over the course of the next two years, Plaintiff's Complaint, First Amended Complaint, Second Amended Complaint, and Third Amended Complaint were all dismissed for failure to state a claim. [See Doc. Nos. 3, 18, 22, 74.] On May 5, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Fourth Amended Complaint ("FAC") [Doc. No. 79], which, after being partially dismissed [see Doc. No. 89], now serves as the operative pleading in this action.

Defendants filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment on June 11, 2012. [Doc. No. 105.] On July 27, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an opposition [Doc. No. 125] to Defendants' motion, arguing that he was not able to defend successfully against the motion due to Defendants' failure to respond sufficiently to his discovery requests. Later, following an order which required Defendants to supplement their discovery responses [Doc. No. 137], the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a supplemental opposition to the summary judgment motion. [Doc. No. 138.] Thereafter, Plaintiff twice requested additional time to file his supplemental opposition. The Court granted these requests, giving Plaintiff an additional forty-six days to submit an opposition. [Doc. Nos. 146, 148.] However, Plaintiff failed to file a supplemental response, and the Court denied his third request for additional time to respond.*fn1 [Doc. No. 152.]

A. Plaintiff's Allegations*fn2

Plaintiff currently has six pending claims: five First Amendment retaliation claims, and one Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment.

With respect to the retaliation claims, Plaintiff avers that five separate incidents*fn3 involving prison personnel violated his First Amendment rights, because the prison personnel took action in retaliation for Plaintiff exercising his First Amendment rights by filing the 2007 Action.

On July 16, 2007, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Arias woke him up at approximately 11:00 p.m. and cited Plaintiff for a serious rule violation because he covered up his cell light with a shirt. Plaintiff states that his requests to know how many other inmates received similar citations were rebuffed by Defendant Davis. The serious rule violation was upheld by the reviewing officer, Defendant Madden, and Defendant Davis, the hearing officer, found Plaintiff guilty of the violation. As a result, Plaintiff was confined to his cell for 10 days, lost his phone privileges for 30 days, and suffered headaches, undue stress, mental anguish, and insomnia.

On July 18 and 25, 2007, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Vargas withheld five first class domestic envelopes to which Plaintiff was entitled as an indigent inmate. At the time, the prison was on lock down status and Plaintiff could only communicate through mail. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Vargas denied him the envelopes in retaliation for filing the 2007 Action. As a result of Defendant Vargas' actions, Plaintiff experienced headaches, undue stress, and mental anguish.

On July 20, 2007 at 11:30 p.m., Plaintiff states that he was in his cell when he called Defendant Arias a vulgar name. Subsequently, Defendant Arias issued a rules violation against Plaintiff for disrespecting staff. Plaintiff states that the violation should not have qualified as a "serious" violation, which necessitates a showing that Plaintiff's behavior could lead to a dangerous altercation. Because he and the other inmates were alone in their cells, Plaintiff alleges there was no evidence to support this showing. Nonetheless, purportedly in retaliation for filing the 2007 Action, Defendant Arias, Defendant Madden (the reviewing officer), and Defendant Davis (the hearing officer) deemed it a serious rule violation. As a result, Plaintiff lost 30 days of good time credits, 30 days of phone privileges, and 10 days of yard time. Consequently, Plaintiff had to endure 24 hours per day cell illumination, which caused him to suffer headaches, insomnia, irritation, and mental anguish.

On August 12, 2007, Plaintiff alleges that, in retaliation for filing the 2007 Action, Defendant Hopper instructed Defendants Trujillo and Haley to not allow Plaintiff in the recreation yard, but to confine him in his cell. Plaintiff requested permission to speak with Hopper, but Hopper refused. As a result, Plaintiff suffered headaches, insomnia, and mental anguish.

Finally, on September 18, 2007, at a hearing chaired by Defendant Madden, Plaintiff alleges that he was placed on "C Status" for the two serious rule violations he received from Defendant Arias on July 16 and July 20. Plaintiff claims that neither of the rule violations should have been considered serious. As a result of being placed on "C Status," Plaintiff suffered various injuries arising out of his more restrictive custody.

Lastly, in regards to the pending Eighth Amendment claim, Plaintiff alleges that his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when he was subjected to constant illumination in his cell. Specifically, Plaintiff states that a large 7-watt high florescent light bulb is right above his bunk and never turns off. He alleges the light is so bright that it illuminates the entire cell, such that everything in the cell is visible at night from fifty yards away. Plaintiff further alleges that in 2008, Defendant Small issued a memorandum warning the inmates that anyone caught trying to cover the light would receive a rules violation and lose privileges. According to Plaintiff, the constant illumination has caused him to suffer from "unrest, irregular sleeping habits, extreme stress," for which he must take medication. [Fourth Am. Compl., ECF pg. 16 of 18.]

B. Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts*fn4

Calipatria State Prison is a Level IV facility, the highest security level within the California prison system. Level IV prisons are intended to safely hold and program those inmates found to be the most serious threat both inside the prisons and, should they happen to escape, to the community at large. With respect to lighting in the cells, it creates a security concern when inmates obscure the vision of officers by putting covers over the lights (typically flammable newspapers or clothing). It is essential that officers be able to see what inmates are doing in their cells as they approach. The security light allows the officers to scan for any movement or condition within the cell which would alert them to a potential danger (some staff members have been murdered or assaulted while approaching a cell) as they approach the cell door.

The security light is also necessary for the inmates' personal safety. It aids them in being able to see if they get up in the evening to move about the cell or use the toilet. It further assists in protecting them from assaults and murders which have occurred within the cells, as well as to curtail the manufacture and use of illegal drugs and alcohol. Additionally, the security lights aid in preventing escapes, as covering the lights in the past has actually aided in inmate escapes.

Plaintiff covered the light in his cell. This particular light was a 7-watt fluorescent light bulb. This 7-watt level lighting is considered low level or dim lighting conditions, and there are no known health risks associated with it, even when on for 24 hours a day. Medical evidence and records demonstrate that Plaintiff has not suffered any adverse health conditions as a result of the lighting conditions. The inmates at ...

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