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Valdez v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 20, 2016

RUBEN VALDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, Defendant.

         ORDER (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO CORRECT HIS OPPOSITION; (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT; (3) DIRECTING CLERK OF COURT TO ASSIGN A DISTRICT JUDGE TO THIS CASE; AND FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF Nos. 26, 32, 33)

          MICHAEL J. SENG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         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 case is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint. (ECF Nos. 26, 33.)

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff initiated this action on November 21, 2014, and filed a First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) on January 23, 2015. (ECF Nos. 1, 8.) This complaint was screened and found to state a due process claim against Defendants Lambert, Mahoney, Cano, Kraay, Galaviz, Rousseau, Gipson, Taber, Sanchez, Pina, Pacillas, Lackovic, Smith, Kellogg, McGuire, Mayo, Mata, Holland, Prince, and Chavez. (ECF No. 11.) Plaintiff was directed to file a notice of his willingness to proceed on his screened amended complaint or to file a Second Amended Complaint.

         On June 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 14.) This pleading was screened and again found to state only a due process claim against the previously-identified Defendants as well as three additional individuals. (ECF No. 15.) Plaintiff was once again directed to file a notice of his willingness to proceed on his pleading as screened or file a Third Amended Complaint. Plaintiff was informed that he would be given one final opportunity to amend.

         On August 24, 2015, Plaintiff filed the operative pleading, his Third Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 16.) The Court's screening of this pleading revealed due process and equal protection claims against Defendants Beard, Castorena, Escobar, Lambert, Mahoney, Cano, Kraay, Galaviz, Rousseau, Gipson, Taber, Jennings, Sanchez, Pina, Pacillas, Lackovic, Smith, Kellogg, McGuire, Mayo, Mata, Holland, Prince, Chavez, Vasquez, Edgar, Garcia, Mayfield, and Patterson. (ECF No. 18.) Plaintiff was directed to submit service documents, and on November 2, 2015, the United States Marshal was directed to serve the 29 Defendants. (ECF No. 22.)

         On January 6, 2016, Defendants appeared in the action by filing a motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 26.) Plaintiff filed opposition[1] and on April 1, 2016, filed a motion for leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 33.) Defendants oppose this request. Both matters are deemed submitted and ready for disposition.[2]

         III. ALLEGATIONS IN THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT

         At all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff was housed at California State Prison in Corcoran, California ("CSP-Cor"). Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint identifies Secretary of Corrections Jeffrey Beard; Chief Deputy Wardens R. S. Lambert, E. Vasquez, and M. Jennings; Psychologists J. Mahoney, J. Edgar, and D. Prince; Institutional Gang Investigators A. Mayo, J.C. Garcia, and S. Pina; Assistant Institutional Gang Investigator J. Cano; Sergeants T. Kraay, J. Taber, H. Holland, and A. Kellogg; Correctional Counselors T. Galaviz, P. Sanchez, A. Pacillas, K. Mata, R. Chavez, D. Mayfield, D. Patterson, and D. McGuire; Captain S. Rousseau; Warden C. Gipson; Dr. A. Lackovic; Associate and Chief Deputy Warden J. Smith; and Classification Staff Representatives M. Escobar and B. Castorena as Defendants.

         Plaintiff's allegations can be summarized essentially as follows:

         On February 5, 2010, while Plaintiff was housed at California State Prison in Sacramento, California ("CSP-Sac"), he was validated as a gang member due to his alleged membership in the Northern Structure prison gang, and he was placed in the Security Housing Unit ("SHU").

         In July 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to CSP-Cor where he continued indefinite confinement in the SHU based on the gang validation. At issue here are Defendants' periodic reviews of the gang validation and SHU housing assignment.

         On August 2, 2012, following Plaintiff's arrival at CSP-Cor, Defendants Lambert, Mahoney, Cano, Kraay, Galaviz, and Rousseau conducted an "initial SHU review" of Plaintiff's case and decided to retain him in the SHU. Plaintiff was not assigned a special investigator for the hearing or given the opportunity to dispute his gang involvement or present evidence or witnesses. Defendants did not re-examine or reassess any of the evidence against Plaintiff. The 128-G chrono noted Plaintiff's disagreement with the decision and validation.

         On December 20, 2012, Plaintiff appeared before the classification committee for a "180-day review." Defendants Gipson, Mahoney, Taber, Sanchez, Pina, and Pacillas committed the same violations as identified supra.

         On June 20, 2013, Plaintiff appeared before the classification committee for an "Annual Review" where he submitted a one-page document challenging his SHU retention but Defendants Gipson, Lackovic, Smith, Kellogg, McGuire, Mayo, Pacillas, and Mata refused to consider it. These Defendants committed the same violations as identified supra.

         On July 23, 2013, Defendant Escobar approved Plaintiff's retention in the SHU based on the classification committee action of June 20, 2013. Defendant Escobar did not provide Plaintiff with a hearing, an investigative employee, or an opportunity to dispute his gang involvement or to present witnesses or evidence.

         On January 28, 2014, Plaintiff appeared before the classification committee for a "180-day review." Defendants Smith, Holland, Prince, Pina, Galaviz, and Chavez reviewed Plaintiff's case and again retained him in the SHU for an indeterminate term. Defendants did not permit Plaintiff to dispute the evidence of his gang involvement, present witnesses or evidence, or assign him an investigative employee.

         On June 24, 2014, Plaintiff appeared before the classification committee for an "Annual Review." Defendants Jennings, Holland, Prince, Pina, Galaviz, and Chavez committed the same violations during Plaintiff's annual review.

         On October 6, 2014, Defendant Castorena approved the retention of Plaintiff in SHU without a hearing or other opportunity for Plaintiff to object based on the classification committee action of June 24, 2014.

         On January 7, 2015, Plaintiff appeared before the classification committee for a "180-day review." Defendants Vasquez, Holland, Garcia, Edgar, Patterson, and Mayfield committed the same violations.

         Plaintiff claims that none of these reviews was constitutionally meaningful. The above named Defendants were acting in accordance with Defendant Beard's unconstitutional policy requiring segregation of gang affiliated inmates from the general population for an indeterminate term without evidence of misconduct. Defendant Beard was aware of Plaintiff being subjected to this policy based on Plaintiff's appeals and still failed to change the policy or correct his subordinates' unconstitutional conduct. The policy violates an inmate's right to freedom of association, does not serve a legitimate penological objective, and discriminates against prison gang members.

         Plaintiff has not had any disciplinary action taken against him since 2009. He has never been found guilty of gang activity or participation in any gang-related conspiracies. However, because of his placement in the SHU, Plaintiff is subject to gang sanctions. He is confined to his 7 x 11 foot cell for approximately 159 hours per week with no periods of darkness. The food has made Plaintiff sick. His mattress is thin and he is not allowed a pillow. He has limited access to medical services, showers, and the library. His yard space and allowable activities are limited. Numerous restrictions are ...


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