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Rangel v. Latraille

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 20, 2014

LEONARDO JOSEPH RANGEL, Plaintiff,
v.
D. LATRAILLE, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOS. 56)

BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

I. Background

Plaintiff Leonardo Joseph Rangel ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed January 9, 2012, against Defendant LaTraille and Taber[1] for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, retaliation in violation of the First Amendment and assault and battery under state law. (ECF No. 17.)

On June 7, 2013, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 56.) On August 2, 2013, Plaintiff opposed the motion. (ECF No. 76.) Defendants did not reply. The motion is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(1).

II. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment must be entered, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). However, the court is to liberally construe the filings and motions of pro se litigants. Thomas v. Ponder , 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010). The "party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 586 n.11.

The parties bear the burden of supporting their motions and oppositions with the papers they wish the Court to consider and/or by specifically referencing any other portions of the record for consideration. Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist. , 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court will not undertake to scour the record for triable issues of fact. Simmons v. Navajo County, Arizona , 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

In arriving at this order, the Court carefully reviewed and considered all arguments, points and authorities, declarations, exhibits, statements of undisputed facts and responses thereto, if any, objections, and other papers filed by the parties. Omission of reference to an argument, document, paper, or objection is not to be construed to the effect that this Court did not consider the argument, document, paper, or objection. This Court thoroughly reviewed and considered the evidence it deemed admissible, material, and appropriate.

B. Summary of Relevant Allegations in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

In February 2008, staff at Corcoran State Prison began conducting unclothed body inspections outdoors on the yard per a memorandum authored by Warden Adams. The memo ordered staff to conduct these searches even when no emergency or security situation existed. As a result of the memo, Plaintiff was forced to strip completely nude in the yard in plain view of staff and inmates, including staff of the opposite sex. Due to the public strip searches, Inmate John Martinez filed a group 602 appeal.

On March 12, 2008, Plaintiff and Inmate Martinez met with correctional employees in the Institutional Classification Room to discuss public strip searches. At the meeting, Inmate Martinez was the most vocal.

On March 12, 2008, Plaintiff was informed that female staff would not be present during strip searches and that privacy screens would be installed to obscure the view from the program office.

On March 15, 2008, Plaintiff attended the exercise yard area and during yard recall Correctional Officers Silva and others ordered Plaintiff to "strip out" and refused to remove Plaintiff from the exercise yard unless he did so. Plaintiff explained to staff that he was willing to submit to an unclothed body inspection, but requested that it be conducted in a holding cell to afford some measure of privacy. Plaintiff repeated the request many times, but his requests were disregarded. Plaintiff was left outside in the cold weather for hours with no lunch or dinner. While on the exercise yard, Plaintiff's personal property was removed from his cell.

On March 16, 2008, after more than 14 hours, Plaintiff was subjected to unnecessary and excessive force for the purpose of subjecting him to a public strip search. Lt. Hubach ordered Plaintiff to an unclothed body inspection. Defendants LaTraille and Taber repeatedly pepper sprayed Plaintiff with five cans of pepper spray: OC-MK-9 (1 full can); OC MK-46 (1 full can); OC k505 (1 full can); and OC-T-16 OC Grenade (2 full cans). Plaintiff's body, face, eyes, hair, legs, genitals and anus were completely saturated with chemicals. The spray caused a sudden change in temperature on Plaintiff's body from freezing to hot and burning.

After being sprayed with chemicals, Plaintiff was forced to strip naked, inspected and walk naked to the front of 4B SR where water was sprayed on him from a water hose for approximately 60 to 70 seconds to unsuccessfully decontaminate him. Plaintiff was then placed in his cell, which was stripped clean of all articles of necessity, leaving only a mattress. Plaintiff could not see, his breathing was erratic and his body was twitching. Plaintiff suffered these effects for approximately 8 hours. Plaintiff was without sheets, blankets, clothing, towels, toilet paper or hygiene items until March 18 or 19, 2008. Plaintiff's request for eating utensils and toilet paper were ignored and Plaintiff was forced to use his hands to eat.

C. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("UMF")

1. Plaintiff has been incarcerated on Facility 4B at California State Prison-Corcoran (COR) since October 24, 2007. (Defs' Ex. A, Attachment 1.)

2. Facility 4B is the security housing unit ("SHU"). (Defs' Ex. B, Hubach Dec. ¶ 3.)

3. The SHU houses inmates who have been found guilty in disciplinary proceedings of committing acts of violence against staff or other inmates, possessing or distributing illegal narcotics and other contraband, associating with or belonging to a gang, promoting illegal gang activity, or engaging in other activity or conduct that threatens the safety and security of the institution, staff, and inmates that make them ineligible for housing in the general population. (Defs' Ex. B ¶ 3; Defs' Ex. C, Adams Dec. ¶ 4.)

4. Movement and inmate activities in the SHU are primarily governed by COR Operational Procedure No. 222. (Defs' Ex. C ¶ 5; Defs' Ex. B ¶ 4.)

5. SHU inmates are provided with three to four hours of yard time in the exercise modules (cages) on the small management yard (SMY) on Facility 4B. But inmates are not required to go to yard. (Defs' Ex. B ¶ 5; Defs' Ex. C ¶ 6; Defs' Ex. D, COR 2007 Operational Procedure No. 222, § 102(D)(3).)

6. Before August 2007, SHU inmates returning from the exercise modules were placed in a holding cell in the entrance (rotunda) area of the housing unit and underwent an unclothed body search. (Defs' Ex. D, § 504(F).)

7. An unclothed body search consisted of an inmate removing all clothing and handing it to the officers, running his hands over his head, flipping his ears forward with his hands, running a finger through the inside of his mouth, lifting his genitals, turning and bending at the waist, and squatting and coughing. The officers did not physically touch the inmate, and the entire process lasted about a minute. (Defs' Ex. B, ¶ 6.)

8. On August 1, 2007, D. Adams, the Warden at COR, issued a directive requiring that all SHU inmates undergo an unclothed body search before they were removed from the exercise modules on the SMY. This strip search policy went into effect on August 20, 2007. (Defs' Ex. C ¶¶ 1-2, 8; Defs' Ex. E, Memorandum.)

Plaintiff attempts to raise a genuine dispute of material fact by arguing that he was unaware of any policy change until February 2008 and that Warden Adams did not follow proper administrative procedures. (ECF No. 76, p. 27-28.)[2] Plaintiff's assertions do not raise a triable issue of fact ...


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