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Gonzales v. California Department of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 28, 2014



SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.


On March 22, 2011, this pro se prisoner's civil rights action was dismissed because nineteen of the twenty claims in the complaint were barred by the doctrine of res judicata and plaintiff lacked standing to assert the twentieth claim. See Docket # 13. The court also denied plaintiff's "conditional" request to amend the complaint. See id. at 12. Plaintiff appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the action in Gonzales v. California Dept. of Corr., 739 F.3d 1226 (9th Cir. 2014), and issued its mandate on February 11, 2014. It is now time to resume the litigation in this court. As explained below, plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint because his complaint is deficient as to the one claim on which the Ninth Circuit reversed, and plaintiff has indicated he wants to file an amended complaint to assert an additional claim.


A. All The Claims Based On The Gang Validation Have Been Resolved Against Plaintiff

In his complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, plaintiff complained about the decisions to place him in administrative segregation as an affiliate of the Northern Structure ("NS") prison gang. He asserted numerous legal theories of relief - e.g., retaliation, interference with numerous First Amendment rights, violation of equal protection rights, Eighth Amendment claims, and numerous state law claims - but (with the exception of his debriefing claim discussed in the next section) all his claims were based on the gang validation decision-making process in 2007 and resulting ad-seg placement.

This court dismissed all of these claims as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. See Docket # 13.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the "district court properly concluded that the claim-preclusive effect of California's denial of [plaintiff's] habeas petition bars nineteen of Gonzales's twenty counts." See Gonzales, 739 F.3d at 1235. As a result of the Ninth Circuit's ruling, this very large portion of plaintiff's case is now finished. He may not reassert any claims about the validation process, including the sufficiency of the evidence to support the validation, in his amended complaint.

B. Plaintiff Has Standing To Assert His Eighth Amendment Claim Regarding Debriefing

This court dismissed for lack of standing plaintiff's claim that debriefing amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because it forces him to become an informant and puts him in danger from other gang affiliates. See Docket # 1-2 at 43; Docket # 13 at 4 & n.4. "Debriefing" is the process that requires the validated inmates to admit they are gang affiliates, identify other gang affiliates, and reveal everything they know about the gang's activities and organizational structure. See Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146, 1241 (N. D. Cal. 1995). This court stated that it did not need to "determine whether, in some circumstances, the debriefing requirement would violate an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights because plaintiff has consistently denied any involvement in the gang. Assuming his denial of involvement in the gang is truthful, his problem is one of impossibility, not that debriefing might endanger him; i.e., plaintiff cannot debrief even if he wants to. Having alleged no facts which would suggest that [he] could debrief, plaintiff lacks standing to challenge the debriefing policy on Eighth Amendment grounds." Docket # 13 at 4 & n.4 (citing Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 410 (1991)).

The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the Eighth Amendment claim, explaining:

Gonzales's complaint, construed liberally, see, e.g., Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir.2012), does not allege that it is impossible for him to debrief, but that it is impossible for him to debrief successfully. As an adjudicated gang member, he is eligible to debrief, regardless of whether he is, in fact, a member of Northern Structure. Of course, if his allegations are true, he will not be able to convince prison officials that he has renounced his non-existent gang membership, a requirement to debrief successfully. But the risk of retaliation from other gang members - as alleged in his complaint - inheres in becoming an "informant, " regardless of whether his information is accurate.
Construed liberally, Gonzales's complaint alleges that he would attempt to debrief, which he is eligible to do, but for the risk of retaliation. ...

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