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Martinez v. Tilton

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 16, 2015

JOHN R. MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
JAMES TILTON, et al., Defendants.


SHEILA K. OBERTO, Magistrate Judge.

I. Background

Plaintiff John R. Martinez ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 19, 2010. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff is now represented with counsel, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), and the parties consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 636. (Docs. 5, 18, 23.) This action currently proceed on Plaintiff's amended complaint against Defendants Adams and Jennings ("Defendants") for violating Plaintiff's rights under the First and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution in March and April 2008. (Docs. 14, 44, 57.)

The events at issue occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at California State Prison-Corcoran ("COR") in the Security Housing Unit ("SHU"). Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim arises out of his placement in the "EOP Hub, " which houses mentally ill inmates, and his Eighth Amendment claim arises out of noisy conditions to which he was subjected while in the EOP Hub.[1] At the time of the events at issue, Defendant Adams was the warden of COR and Defendant Jennings was a captain.

On May 1, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiff filed an opposition on June 11, 2014; Defendants filed a reply on June 20, 2014; and the motion was submitted upon the record without oral argument.[2] Local Rule 230(g).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (quotation marks omitted); Washington Mut. Inc. v. U.S., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, although it is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986)). If Defendants meet their initial burden, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff "to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial." In re Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323). This requires Plaintiff to "show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)).

However, in judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court determines only whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

III. Discussion

A. Parties' Statements of Fact[3], [4]

1. Defendants Adams and Jennings

Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), was incarcerated at COR from February 2002 to January 2011. For the majority of his incarceration at COR, Plaintiff was housed in the SHU because he was a validated gang associate of the Mexican Mafia. Before March 2008, Plaintiff was housed in Building 4B3R, which was known as the "Validated Gang Unit" because it predominately housed SHU inmates who had been found to be active prison gang members or associates. Because of the types of inmates housed in the SHU, inmate movement and out-of-cell activities were limited and very restricted. This included inmates being subjected to unclothed body searches when they went to or returned from the exercise modules, where SHU inmates had outdoor yard time.

On August 1, 2007, Defendant Adams issued a directive requiring that all SHU inmates undergo an unclothed body search before they were removed from the exercise modules. Before August 1, 2007, the unclothed body search was conducted in the rotunda area (hallway) of the housing unit. The change in the location of the unclothed body search was necessary to control and prevent the movement of contraband within the SHU and to protect the institution, staff, and inmates.

On March 15 and 16, 2008, sixty-seven inmates, including Plaintiff, were extracted from the exercise modules on Facility 4B because they refused to submit to the required unclothed body search.[5] The SHU inmates refused to undergo the required search to protest the August 2007 change to the search policy.

Prior to the protest of March 15, 2008, Defendant Adams was not aware that Plaintiff had filed an inmate appeal or grievance ("602") complaining about the change to the SHU unclothed body search policy, and Plaintiff had not complained directly to Adams about the policy change.

When Plaintiff was taken out of his cell for yard on March 15, 2008, he had already decided that he was not going to comply with the required unclothed body search at the end of the yard session.

The mass exercise module extractions resulted in a major disruption to the operations of the entire prison. Officers and medical staff from other yards were redirected to Facility 4B to assist with the extractions, resulting in an interruption or complete stoppage of certain services on other yards, such as mail collection and distribution. Most of the staff involved in the extractions were on duty for almost twenty continuous hours; and the prison's pepper-spray supply was virtually depleted, requiring that staff obtain needed pepper spray from another nearby prison. The effects of the mass extractions continued for weeks because of the reporting requirements, investigations, and disciplinary actions that ensued.

As part of the review and investigation process, Defendant Adams was informed that Plaintiff had been identified as a possible instigator or inciter of the protest or unlawful refusal to submit to the required unclothed body search, which resulted in the mass extractions. On March 20, 2008, Defendant Adams ordered Facility 4B staff to temporarily move Plaintiff to Building 4B1L pending an investigation into his possible involvement in the protest. The temporary move was necessary to segregate Plaintiff from his associates or sympathizers and to prevent any further unlawful activities or the exchange of information between Plaintiff and any possible co-conspirator.

Building 4B1L was an administrative segregation unit ("ASU") and primarily housed inmates being held in short-term segregation pending their transfer to a mental-health program at the EOP or Psychiatric Services Unit ("PSU") level. Building 4B1L was also used to temporarily house SHU inmates who had pending disciplinary actions, investigations, or other concerns that warranted or required their segregation. Other than the presence of mental health staff, Building 4B1L was staffed and supervised like any other SHU or ASU building at COR. Defendant Adams's decision, and Defendant Jennings's order, to temporarily move Plaintiff to Building 4B1L was completely independent of any 602 or other complaint he had filed concerning the SHU unclothed body searches, and Defendants would have temporarily moved him regardless of any protected activity in which Plaintiff engaged.

As a validated gang associate of the Mexican Mafia, Plaintiff was required to be housed in the SHU or ASU. Defendant Adams did not order Plaintiff to be moved to Facility 4A, which was the other COR SHU Facility, because Defendant Adams feared Plaintiff would continue his illegal activities, organize or encourage the inmates on Facility 4A to protest the unclothed body search policy, and engage in the same unlawful activities as those he was suspected of organizing or participating in on Facility 4B on March 15 and 16, 2008. Thus, housing Plaintiff on Facility 4A would have put the institution, yard, staff, or inmates at risk. Defendant Adams did not order that Plaintiff be moved to Building 2 or 4 on Facility 4B because those units housed other validated Mexican Mafia members or associates, and Plaintiff could have continued his unlawful activities from Buildings 2 and 4. Thus, the only housing unit on Facility 4B that was a viable option for Plaintiff's temporary segregation was Building 4B1L.

In the course of their work, Defendants had been inside of Building 4B1L and observed its operations. To Defendants' knowledge, EOP inmates in temporary segregation, such as those in Building 4B1L, were not any more disruptive, noisy, or violent than other segregated inmates. Defendants did not know, and they were never informed by staff working in Building 4B1L, that the housing unit was noisier or more disruptive than other ASU or SHU buildings or that more incidents occurred in 4B1L than other housing units. During the time Plaintiff was temporarily housed in Building 4B1L, he did not complain to Defendants, and they did not know, that he was unable to sleep or that he suffered any adverse effect from being housed in Building 4B1L.

Plaintiff was temporarily housed in Building 4B1L until April 21, 2008. At that time, no evidence was found that he was an inciter or instigator of the protest that led to the mass extractions on March 15 and 16, 2008, and he was returned to Building 4B3R. Plaintiff's temporary move to Building 4B1L served a legitimate correctional purpose; it allowed prison staff to investigate his role in the unlawful activities that led to the mass extractions and prevented any further disruption to the prison's operations. Defendants would have taken the same action and issued the same orders regardless of any 602 or other complaint Plaintiff filed concerning the SHU unclothed body search policy, and Plaintiff has no evidence to the contrary.

2. Plaintiff's Position[6]

Plaintiff was validated as an associate of the Mexican Mafia prison gang in 2004, and while at COR, he was housed in the SHU or ASU because of that affiliation. Between February 2008 and April 2008, Plaintiff's only recalled mental health needs involved symptoms of depression, for which he was prescribed Zoloft and designated as a Correctional Clinical Case Management Services (CCCMS) patient; at no time during 2008 was Plaintiff designated as an Enhanced Outpatient Program ("EOP") inmate.[7]

On or about March 2008, Plaintiff was known to be close to Arturo Guzman, who was the leader or "shot-caller" of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, in part because COR custody staff placed them in close proximity to each other. No documents included in the Active/Inactive Gang Review dated April 9, 2008, refer to Plaintiff as being a member of the Mexican Mafia or evidence any influence he held over and/or among its membership. Those documents were either created or compiled by the COR Institutional Gang Investigations staff and submitted to the CDCR Special Service Unit Gang Validation/Rejection Review.

On or about April 16, 2008, Plaintiff was convicted of a serious rules violation (CDC 115) for willfully delaying a peace officer in connection with his conduct during the March 15, 2008, mass inmate refusal to submit to unclothed body searches, a refusal that resulted in his forcible removal from an exercise module by custody staff.

In 2008, COR was a complex, multi-mission institution that housed inmates with various custody levels. Its facilities accommodated custody levels 1, 3, and 4; administrative segregation; protective custody; and an acute care hospital.

On or about August 1, 2007, Defendant Adams issued a memorandum modifying the unclothed body search policy applicable to SHU inmates returning from the SHU exercise modules. The relevant change in policy was moving the location of the searches from inside the rotunda building to outdoors, before the inmates exited the SHU exercise modules. With the exception of a lone lieutenant, typically during the hours of 2200 through 0600 there is not a custody staff member higher than the rank of lieutenant.

The physical layout of COR in March 2008 is depicted in the included aerial photograph. (Pl. Ex. 3.) The bottom portion of the aerial photograph depicts the security or protective housing units (SHU or PHU) near the perimeter and a stand-alone administrative segregation unit (ASU) near the center-right.

On March 20, 2008, the stand-alone ASU could house 200 inmates. Administrative segregation is a designated housing unit designed to house inmates that have violated some CDCR policy or institutional rule. Administrative segregation units did not house inmates that required mental health care at the EOP level. The difference between an ASU cell and a SHU cell is only semantic; as such, segregating a SHU inmate could be accomplished by placing the inmate in an ASU cell, or by simply leaving the SHU inmate in his current cell.

The COR SHU/PHU has two facilities, 4A and 4B. Each facility is comprised of four buildings (4A1 through 4A4 and 4B1 through 4B4). Each building has a left and right section (4A1L, 4A1R, etc.). Each section, with the exception of 4A1L, is capable of housing up to 128 inmates in 64 cells designed for double-occupancy. On March 20, 2008, the COR SHU could accommodate at least 2037 inmates. On or about March 2008, COR Facility 4A housed inmates who had dropped-out of their prison gang and/or disruptive group and were completing the debriefing process; this is also known as a sensitive needs yard (SNY). Facility 4A also housed "mainline" regular SHU inmates and inmates assigned to protective housing units (PHU). Facility 4A4R had a "C" section consisting of protective housing units that housed inmates of notoriety, such as Charles Manson. COR Facility 4B1L was a SHU that housed EOP inmates exclusively, some of whom may have been validated gang members. COR Facility 4B1R handled any overflow of EOP inmates from Facility 4B1L, but was mainly used as a "mainline" regular SHU. COR Facility 4B2L and 4B2R housed "mainline" or regular SHU inmates, but also may have housed validated gang members temporarily. Facility 4B3L was a regular SHU with overflow capacity for validated gang members; and ...

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