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Haddix v. Burris

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 14, 2013

C/O SEAN BURRIS; et al., Defendants.


EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.


The Court reviewed the pro se civil rights complaint filed by Terrence Lloyd Haddix, Jr., dismissed some claims and defendants, found a cognizable retaliation claim pled against correctional sergeant Frisk, and ordered service of process on him. Haddix has filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to amend his complaint. Frisk has filed a motion to extend the deadlines for dispositive motions.


According to an exhibit attached to the complaint, assistant institutional gang investigator Sean Burris interviewed Haddix in connection with a gang inactivity review on May 10, 2011.[1] Burris wrote a memorandum that memorialized the interview and recorded Haddix's comments about several items that had been used to validate him as an associate of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. In his complaint and amended complaint, Haddix contended that Burris effectively labeled him an informant in that memorandum by attributing a statement to Haddix that Haddix had not made. Haddix further contended that, when he protested, he was subjected to retaliation by prison officials.

In this action, Haddix did not challenge prison officials' decision to validate him as a gang associate or prison officials' decision that he was not suitable for release from the security housing unit due to gang inactivity. Instead, the complaint and amended complaint sought relief for the alleged danger-creating statement made during the gang inactivity review process, and alleged retaliation that occurred thereafter.


A. The Motion For Reconsideration

Haddix moves for reconsideration of the dismissal of defendants Burris and Lewis from this action. To understand the motion for reconsideration it is first necessary to review the Court's reasoning for dismissing those two defendants. Haddix had alleged in his complaint that correctional officer Burris violated his Eighth Amendment rights by labeling him an informant, and that warden Lewis failed to do anything about it. The Court rejected the claim against Burris because there was no allegation that Burris had told any other inmate that Haddix was an informant or shared the written report with any other inmate. The prison official who had not disclosed to other inmates that a particular inmate was an informant had not acted with deliberate indifference and had not exposed the inmate "to a sufficiently substantial risk of serious damage to his future health.'" Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843 (1994) (citation omitted). The Court further explained that, at most, the allegedly false statement was made by Burris in a document that could be read by other correctional officers, and that was not an Eighth Amendment violation. "Indeed, the duty to protect often requires that prison officials alert other prison officials to a prisoner's circumstances (e.g., an inmate's known enemies or an inmate's status as an informant or child molester) that may put him at risk from other inmates." Docket # 4, p. 5. The Court also noted the attachments to the complaint showed that it was Haddix himself who alerted other inmates to the existence of the statement that allegedly identified him as an informant. No Eighth Amendment claim was stated against warden Lewis because his "alleged failure to adequately respond to the letter complaining that a correctional officer had falsely identified Haddix as an informant in a memorandum would not have been deliberately indifferent to any risk to his safety because there was no indication that the information was disseminated to any other inmate so as to endanger the inmate." Id. at 6.

In his motion for reconsideration, Haddix contends that a claim was stated against the two dismissed defendants for deliberate indifference to his safety because the memorandum and other non-confidential information placed in an inmate's central file may be accessed by "other inmates via staff misuse or abuse and/or inmate attorneys." Docket # 17, p. 1. He urges that this shows a sufficiently serious risk to his safety, and show defendants' deliberate indifference in putting and keeping the memorandum in his prison file.

The Court disagrees. Haddix does not state that there has been a disclosure, but only that there might be a disclosure at some future unknown date. The purely speculative risk that someone might improperly disclose the information at some time in the future is not sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim against the person who put the information in the file. Haddix's reasoning would require that nothing ever be put in an inmate's file that could possibly pose a risk to him because someone might misuse or disclose it at a later time. Omitting the sensitive information from the prisoner's file would interfere with prison officials' ability to protect their charges by depriving the officials of helpful, sometimes sensitive, information about their charges. Finally, not only is the mere potential of future disclosure or misuse insufficient for an Eighth Amendment claim, the Court again notes that Haddix himself has already caused the dissemination of the allegedly sensitive information to the prison population. Accordingly, the motion for reconsideration is DENIED. (Docket #17).

B. Motion to Amend Complaint

Haddix had a right to amend his complaint once without leave of court because no responsive pleading or motion had yet been filed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(1)(B). Accordingly, his motion to amend is GRANTED. (Docket #18).

The amended complaint attached to the motion to amend repeats the allegations in the complaint and adds a few new allegations. Having read the amended complaint, the Court concludes that it does not state a claim against defendant Burris or defendant Lewis for the reasons ...

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