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Quezada v. Hedgpeth

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 24, 2014

Alvaro Quezada, Plaintiff,
A. Hedgpeth, et al., Defendants.


FRANK R. ZAPATA, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Alvaro Quezada filed this civil rights action pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. The Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 18) filed June 1, 2009 is the operative complaint, alleging three grounds for declaratory relief and monetary damages as follows:

(1) Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights were violated when Defendants placed Plaintiff and other Hispanic inmates on lock-down for an extended period of time but did not subject inmates of other races to the same treatment, conspired to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights, and failed to correct the constitutional violations by denying his grievances;
(2) Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights were violated when Defendants subjected Plaintiff to a lock-down lasting approximately 8 months during which he was confined to his cell for 24 hours per day with no outdoor exercise, conspired to violate Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights, and failed to correct the constitutional violations by denying his grievances; and
(3) Defendants Hedgpeth, Soto, and Grannis violated Plaintiff's First Amendment rights when they retaliated against Plaintiff - for filing grievances and acting as an "I.A.C. Rep." [Inmate Advisory Council representative] - by "affiliating" Plaintiff with the criminal investigation of a prison gang to which he did not belong, and by denying Plaintiff's grievances related to the retaliation.

The Court's screening order (Doc. 19) dismissed the conspiracy claims set forth in the three counts and dismissed Defendant Grannis.

Before the Court for consideration is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, whereby Defendants Hedgpeth, Flores, Nipper and Soto seek judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the facts as presented and viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff show that Defendants (1) did not violate Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection when they subjected Hispanic inmates to lock-down following assaults on staff by members of the Southern Hispanic ("SH") disruptive group; (2) did not violate Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to outdoor exercise by placing Hispanic inmates on lock-down and modified program for eight months, during which SH inmates engaged in violent activities; and further because (3) Defendants Hedgpeth and Soto did not retaliate against Plaintiff in violation of the First Amendment by classifying him as Hispanic. Defendants also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity because the challenged conduct was objectively reasonable and not in violation of Plaintiff's constitution rights.

Factual Background

Plaintiff was committed to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in 2000, and was classified as "Hispanic" or "Mexican" as referenced in his criminal history documentation. [Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Exhibit A-1; A-3]

Plaintiff was transferred to Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") in 2005. [Id., A-4]

During 2007, Plaintiff was housed on Facility B at KVSP, where all named Defendants were prison officials.

Between January 3, 2007 and August 20, 2007, several violent incidents occurred at KVSP, which necessitated the modification of inmate programming on Facility B, which resulted in the curtailment of privileges for the affected inmates, which included, but was not limited to, inmates being fed in their cells and the denial of dayroom, outdoor recreational activities, phone calls, visiting, and religious services. Inmates were further escorted to and from showers, and were generally required to be placed in restraints whenever they left their cells. [Id., Exhibit E]

The 2007 lockdowns/modified programming that affected Plaintiff resulted from the violent acts by inmates, including but not limited to, riots between inmates, the murder of an inmate, a serious stabbing assault that necessitated the use of deadly force, attempted murder, conspiracy to assault inmates and correctional staff, civil unrest amongst inmates, as well as the introduction of narcotics and other contraband into the prison.

The correctional staff and administrators proclaim to take all threats of violence and disruptions seriously, a concern that is heightened if there is evidence or information that attacks or disruptions may be part of an institution or system wide scheme because it could lead to a large-scale riot situation, creating a more serious threat to the safety and security of the prison.

Based on information gathered during investigations, and the experience of prison officials, the Defendants determined that the violent activities underlying the modified programming posed serious threats to institutional safety and security. The restrictions on Facility B at KVSP in 2007, were approved to ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff, and to enable prison staff to investigate the unusually high level of violence, disruptions, planned violence, attempted murder and murder by inmates.

When investigations yielded a degree of certainty that further violence would not develop, Defendants implemented the gradual and incremental return to normal programming. For each of the modified programs implemented, Defendants express that they believed that the restrictions imposed would be effective at stopping the violence and helping to restore order. Defendants assert that at no time were any of the restrictions that were imposed meant to be punitive or implemented in bad faith.

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate pursuant to Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P., when there exists "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying what matters demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986).

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to establish that a genuine dispute does exist as to a material fact. Matsushita Elec. Industry Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986). The opposing party need not establish that a material issue of fact is conclusively in its favor; it is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Service, Inc. v. Pacific Elec/ Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case; any dispute thereto is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986); Long. v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006).

For purposes of reviewing a motion for summary judgment, all facts and evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. ; Olsen v. Idaho State Bd of Medicine, 363 F.3d 916, 922 (9th Cir. 2004). To demonstrate that a genuine dispute exists, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87 (citations omitted).


I. Equal ...

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