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Aguirre v. Lopez

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 30, 2014

Richard Aguirre, Plaintiff,
R. Lopez; D. Adams; F. Fields; M. Jennings; and J. Kavanaugh. Defendants.


FRANK R. ZAPATA, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Richard Arthur Aguirre, committed to the custody of the California Department of Corrections and presently confined in the Calipatria State Prison, Calipatria, California, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983.

The Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 17), filed March 13, 2009, is the operative Complaint. Following the Court's statutorily required screening, this action proceeded on Count I against remaining Defendants Chief Deputy Warden Raul Lopez; Warden D. Adams; Captain F. Fields; and Captain M. Jennings.

Count II of the Second Amended Complaint was dismissed, which alleged a violation of Plaintiff's right of access to the courts.

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that the named prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's basic human need for outdoor exercise when he was placed in a lockdown prison yard while incarcerated at the California State Prison, Corcoran, (hereinafter "Corcoran") pending transfer to another facility and, as a result, went over nine months without any form of outdoor exercise and was locked in his cell for 24 hours per day.

Plaintiff contends that by classifying him as a Southern Hispanic and assigning him to a facility that was on lockdown due to ongoing violent incidents between the Southern Hispanics and Fresno Bulldogs prison gangs, Defendants violated his "right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment."

Pending before the Court for review is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment seeking judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on (I) Plaintiff's failure to meet the objective requirement of his Eighth Amendment claim; and (II) a lack of evidence to suggest that Defendants harbored a subjective intent to violate the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights or to suggest that Defendants inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain on Plaintiff by denying him outdoor exercise, or that they did so "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm."

Defendants contend that they are also entitled to qualified immunity because they reasonably believed that instituting a modified program in response to a series of violent incidents was lawful and served the purpose of securing the safety and security of the staff and inmates.

In response, Plaintiff argues that he has established genuine issues of material fact which preclude summary judgment as to whether the Defendants deliberately disregarded his physical and mental health, deprived him of the basic necessity of outdoor exercise and wantonly inflicted on him unnecessary pain and punishment, while he was incarcerated in Facility 3A pending transfer, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.

Before the Court for consideration is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff's opposition thereto and the Defendants' reply.

Factual Background

Corcoran is a complex, multi-mission institution comprised of the following facilities: Level1, Level III, Level IV, Administrative Segregation Unit, Security Housing Unit, Protective Housing Unit, Prison Industry Authority and a fully licensed Acute Care Hospital.[1]

Facility 3A within Corcoran, where Plaintiff was housed during his stay pending transfer, is a Level IV General Population placement consisting of five buildings, three which house general population inmates, with a total combined bed capacity of 600 inmates. Level IV inmates pose higher risks and require a higher level of security.[2]

During Plaintiff's confinement in Corcoran's Facility 3A general population, inmates from Housing Units 1, 2, 4 and 5 shared the Facility 3A recreation yard, to which the units are released at the same time to use.[3]

There is a history of violent altercations between the Southern Hispanics and Fresno Bulldogs at Corcoran, relevant to this action and in particular between September 2006 and July 2008, the time period during which a series of violent clashes led to program modifications for inmates classified as either Southern Hispanic or Fresno Bulldogs housed in Facility 3A.[4]

Inmates placed on a modified program were subjected to restrictions, which included but not limited to, being escorted in restraints during out-of-cell movement, receiving meals in cells and restrictions from use of the recreation yard, phone calls and canteen.

Modification of programs were imposed on the Southern Hispanic inmates and Fresno Bulldogs inmates following investigation and in response to particular incidences of violence for "the purpose of securing the safety and security of the staff and inmates following a series of violent incidents involving inmates from two disruptive gangs: Fresno Bulldogs and Southern Hispanics."[5]

Plaintiff challenges his classifications and movement from administrative segregation to Facility 3A general population.

Plaintiff does not dispute that he is affiliated as a Southern Hispanic.[6]

While in Facility 3A general population, Plaintiff received the Program Status Reports from the prison administration advising him of the program modifications that resulted from the violent altercations between Fresno Bulldogs and Southern Hispanic inmates. As a Southern Hispanic inmate, Plaintiff was subjected to those modifications, including the restriction of access ...

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