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Viera v. Lewis

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

August 4, 2014

LARRY H. VIERA, Plaintiff,
v.
G. D. LEWIS, et al. Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICHARD SEEBORG, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that defendants, G.D. Lewis, G. Williams, D. Foston, C. Tileston, J.A. McKinney, D. Barneburg and S. Burris, all employees of Pelican Bay State Prison, violated his right to due process and his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments by validating him as a gang member. Defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of all defendants as to all claims.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are undisputed. Plaintiff is presently serving a sentence of sixteen years-to-life at Pelican Bay State Prison and has been housed in the Segregated Housing Unit ("SHU") since 1996 due to his status as a validated gang associate. (Defs.' Request for Judicial Notice, Ex. A.) On April 20, 2010, plaintiff's central file was reviewed by the Institutional Gang Investigations Unit in order to determine his gang validation status. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("MSJ"), Decl. Burris ¶ 16.) Defendant Burris, an Institutional Gang Investigator at Pelican Bay, reviewed plaintiff's file and specifically reviewed two documents that he believed were sufficient proof to re-validate plaintiff as a gang member. ( Id. )

The first document was a "gang-related roster, " which included plaintiff's first name, cell number, and street origin and was dated January 23, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 17.) A gang roster is a list of inmates who are in good standing with a prison gang. ( Id. ) The second document was a confidential memorandum from April 17, 2007, which included the testimony of a validated gang member in 2007, who identified plaintiff as an inmate on the "up" status with the Mexican Mafia gang. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Being on the "up" status with a gang means that an inmate is being evaluated by that gang for membership. ( Id. ) To be considered for membership, an inmate "must perform acts for the gang which further [the gang's] interests." ( Id. )

On April 22, 2010, Burris interviewed plaintiff about the two documents. At the interview, plaintiff made a written statement but did not make any verbal comments. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Burris then completed paperwork for the validation process, which was reviewed and signed by defendant Barneburg. ( Id. ¶ 22.) The documentation was sent to the Special Services Unit for final approval of plaintiff's re-validation. ( Id. ¶ 23.) On May 17, 2010, defendant Williams completed the validation process and validated plaintiff as a gang associate, with a new review date of January 14, 2016. ( Id. ¶ 24.) This new review date was based on the most recent memo dated January 23, 2010 that successfully validated plaintiff as an active gang associate. ( Id. ) On June 22, 2010, plaintiff submitted an appeal to the prison appeals coordinator, and subsequently met with defendant McKinney to discuss the appeal on July 28, 2010. (Compl. ¶¶ 55-67.) At the interview, plaintiff handed McKinney two questionnaires, but McKinney declined to answer them. ( Id. ¶¶ 60-61.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits demonstrate 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). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. On an issue for which the opposing party by contrast will have the burden of proof at trial the moving party need only point out "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

The court is only concerned with disputes over material facts and "factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. It is not the task of the court to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact. Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party has the burden of identifying, with reasonable particularity, the evidence that precludes summary judgment. Id. If the nonmoving party fails to make this showing, "the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

II. Claims

Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his right to due process and rights under the First and Eighth Amendments by validating him as a gang associate. Plaintiff also alleges that supervisors at the prison are ...


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