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Martinez v. Pimental

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

September 8, 2014

JOHN R. MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
G. PIMENTAL, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; ORDER REFERRING ACTION TO JUDGE VADAS

RICHARD SEEBORG, District Judge

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff John Martinez is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he alleges that defendants, G. Pimental, Greg D. Lewis, and M. Cate, employees of Pelican Bay State Prison, violated his rights under the First Amendment by confiscating an outgoing letter. Defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion for summary judgment is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part. The action will be sent to mediation, as described in the conclusion of this order.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are undisputed. Plaintiff is housed in the Segregated Housing Unit ("SHU") of Pelican Bay State Prison because he is a validated associate of the Mexican Mafia prison gang. On March 6, 2011, plaintiff attempted to mail a letter to Marcia Duncan, a friend and non-inmate. (Compl. ¶ 5.) The letter asked Duncan to send stationery and cards to Angel Serrano, a fellow inmate and also a validated associate of the Mexican Mafia gang who resides in the SHU:

Remember Angel [Serrano]! The one you send stationery packs to sometime! I saw him the other day, he's a very happy guy... I want you to do me a huge favor, and send him a stationery pack along with five cards (no glitter kind). One for a mom, one for a sister, a friend, and two for a daughter. I know he will highly appreciate it.

(Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("MSJ"), Pimentel Decl. ¶ 15.) Before it was mailed, the letter was confiscated by Pelican Bay State Prison officials, whereupon plaintiff was issued a "Notification of Disapproval - Mail" authorized by defendant Pimental. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff's letter was confiscated because it had been deemed contraband by prison officials. ( Id. ) Defendant Pimental deemed it contraband because "Martinez was attempting to send compensation in form of stationery and cards to Serrano as a way to show his loyalty and allegiance to the gang." (MSJ, Decl. Pimental ¶ 15.) As this was a common method used by prison gangs to promote an individual's status within a gang, Pimental classified the letter as contraband and confiscated it. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his First Amendment right to free speech. (Compl. ¶ 16.)

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 (A) Pimentel violated his First Amendment rights by confiscating his letter. He also alleges that (B) Warden Greg Lewis and Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of ...


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