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Springfield v. Moore

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

June 28, 2016

M. MOORE, et al., Defendants.


          LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge


         Ciron B. Springfield filed this pro se prisoner's civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to complain about the conditions at the Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program, where he earlier was housed. The parties have consented to proceed before a magistrate judge. (ECF Nos. 6 and 19.)[1]The defendants now move for summary judgment, and Mr. Springfield opposes the motion. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants the motion for summary judgment and will enter judgment against Mr. Springfield.


         In this action, Mr. Springfield sues two defendants for violating his Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants served on committees that met on January 4, 2013, and February 8, 2013, to decide custody level and housing placement for Mr. Springfield, who had arrived at Salinas Valley State Prison on or about December 27, 2012, to be housed in a psychiatric hospital within that prison. Mr. Springfield contends that the defendants' decisions at those committee meetings (a) interfered with care for his serious mental health needs, and (b) caused him to be denied outdoor exercise for about three months.

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         The events and omissions giving rise to Mr. Springfield's complaint occurred in late 2012 -early 2013. Mr. Springfield was a prisoner serving a sentence of 50 years to life. (ECF No. 13 at 36.) Both of the defendants worked for the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) at the relevant time: A. Meden was a Correctional Counselor II and M. Moore was an associate warden at Salinas Valley State Prison.

         A. Psychiatric Hospital Within A Prison

         Salinas Valley State Prison is home to the Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program (SVPP), one of the California Department of State Hospitals' three psychiatric programs located on prison grounds. (ECF No. 13-1 at 6.) The SVPP is an intermediate care program. (Id.) Although the SVPP is located on the prison grounds, it is staffed by the Department of State Hospitals (DSH). (ECF No. 31 at 3.)

         The SVPP is “jointly operated” by the CDCR and DSH. The CDCR staffs involvement in the day-to-day function of the SVPP is limited to moving inmate-patients in and out of the housing unit, conducting disciplinary and classification hearings, and responding to alarms. (Id.) The DSH staff controls the activities and management of the SVPP, including out-of-cell time and exercise for inmate-patients. (Id. at 4.)

         Each inmate-patient in the program is assigned an interdisciplinary treatment team (IDTT) composed of DSH staff, including social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists. The IDTT makes decisions about the inmate-patient's treatment, identifies his treatment needs, and sets goals. The IDTT is scheduled to meet within three days of the inmate-patient's admission to the program, 10 days later, 30 days after that, and every 90 days thereafter. (ECF No. 13 at 19.)

         B. Prisoners Are Classified Upon Arrival At SVPP

         When an inmate arrives at Salinas Valley State Prison for admission to the SVPP, an Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) from the CDCR reviews the inmate-patient to assess his housing placement and custody level. (ECF No. 30 at 2.) The “custody level” is a designation “to establish where an inmate shall be housed and assigned, and the level of staff supervision required to ensure institutional security and public safety.” Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3377.1(a). The custody levels range from the most restrictive to least restrictive: Maximum (or “max”) Custody, Close-A Custody, Close-B Custody, Medium-A Custody, Medium-B Custody, Minimum-A Custody, and Minimum-B Custody. Id. Mr. Springfield's claims are based on difference in conditions between Maximum Custody and Close-A Custody.

         The regulation provides for some differences between Maximum Custody and Close-A Custody. Maximum Custody inmates are usually housed in segregated housing rather than the general population, have limited activities and assignments within their segregated housing, and “shall be under the direct supervision and control of custody staff.” Id. at § 3377.1(a)(1). Close-A Custody inmates are allowed to be double-celled in the general population of a Level III or Level IV prison, are permitted to participate in programming and activities during the day, and have “direct and constant” supervision by staff. Id. at § 3377.1(a)(2).

         As a Correctional Counselor II, Mr. Meden was responsible for ensuring the proper classification of hundreds of inmates. Mr. Meden chose to personally serve on committees for inmates who came to the SVPP from administrative segregation at other prisons, because prior housing in administrative segregation indicated a potential safety concern or disciplinary history that required extra care to ensure safe housing. Mr. Meden personally reviewed inmate files to prepare for hearings to determine the most appropriate and least restrictive safe housing for each inmate. As a committee member, he saw about 10-50 cases per week, which included about five inmate headed for the SVPP. (ECF No. 30 at 2-3.)

         Mr. Meden took on Mr. Springfield's case because Mr. Springfield came to Salinas Valley from administrative segregation at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. When he arrived at Salinas Valley State Prison, Mr. Springfield was already designated Maximum Custody. (ECF No. 30; ECF No. 1 at 6.) According to Mr. Springfield, he was already Maximum Custody because he was being investigated, or had been under investigation, for his alleged association with a prison gang. (ECF No. 32-1 at RT 68-69, 90, 93; see also ECF No. 39 at 10 (Springfield argues he “was in administrative segregation pending an investigation into his involvement in a prison gang; wherein the plaintiff was designated max custody before he arrived at SVSP/SVPP.”)[2]

         C. The January 4, 2013 ICC Hearing

         Mr. Springfield arrived at Salinas Valley State Prison on December 27, 2012, for treatment at the SVPP. He was seen by the ICC on January 4, 2013. The chairman of that ICC was Mr. Moore, and the committee members were Mr. Meden, social worker Hernandez, and facility captain Kircher. A staff assistant, A. Partida, was assigned to Mr. Springfield because he was a participant in the mental-health-services delivery system. (See ECF No. 13 at 36.)

         According to Mr. Meden, before the ICC hearing began, the ICC was prepared to reduce Mr. Springfield's custody level from Maximum Custody to Close-A custody, “and to clear him for dormitory housing.” (ECF No. 30 at 3.) Things changed at the hearing, however, due to a safety issue that arose.

         The parties dispute whether Mr. Springfield verbally expressed safety concerns at the ICC hearing. According to the defendants, Mr. Springfield “said that he had safety concerns due to being investigated for gang involvement.” (ECF No. 31 at 2; see also ECF No. 30 at 3.) Mr. Springfield's version is: “I didn't say that I have safety concerns. I said it would be hazardous to place me in that environment right there.” (ECF No. 32-1 at 91-92.) For summary-judgment purposes, the court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, and proceeds on the assumption that Mr. Springfield did not utter the words “I have safety concerns.”

         Even if Mr. Springfield did not utter the words, “I have safety concerns, ” it is undisputed that he delivered to the ICC for the January 4, 2013, hearing a declaration that conveyed safety concerns. Mr. Springfield provided to the ICC a written declaration under penalty of perjury, in which he stated that he was “ineligible” to be housed in a shared cell or in a dormitory due to the investigation into his association with a prison gang. (ECF No. 13-1 at 3-4.) His declaration further stated that to put him in a dorm setting “is unduely hazardous to the declarant safety, ” he must be assigned a single cell, he “disagree[s] with (ICC) decision to house him in a dormitory, ” and that such housing would “hazardous to his safety.” (Id.)[3]

         Due to Mr. Springfield's expression of safety concerns relating to the gang investigation, the ICC on January 4, 2013, decided to keep Mr. Springfield on Maximum Custody. (ECF No. 13 at 36; ECF No. 30 at 3; ECF No. 31 at 3.) According to Mr. Springfield, the ICC rejected social worker Hernandez's recommendation to lower Mr. Springfield's custody classification. (ECF No. 1 at 6.)

         Mr. Springfield filed an inmate appeal on January 8, 2013, about the ICC's determination not to reduce his custody level from Maximum Custody to Close-A Custody. (ECF No. 13 at 25-28.) He requested another ICC hearing to have his custody status lowered from Maximum Custody to Close-A Custody. Although he wanted his custody level reduced, he wanted to keep his single cell designation and his “Restricted Temporarily” integrated housing code to avoid placement in a dorm or being housed with a cellmate. (Id.) Mr. Springfield's inmate appeal was returned to him to correct a clerical problem; he corrected that problem and resubmitted the appeal on January 23, 2013. (Id. at 25.) The inmate appeal was assigned to Mr. Meden at the first level of review. (ECF No. 30 at 4.)

         Mr. Meden interviewed Mr. Springfield on February 8, 2013 about the inmate appeal. During the interview, Mr. Springfield requested that his custody level be lowered because the Maximum Custody designation limited his group therapy and yard time. Mr. Meden had Mr. Springfield appear before an ICC that day to lower his custody level. (Id.)

         D. The February 8, 2013 ICC Hearing

         Mr. Moore and Mr. Meden both served on the ICC that considered Mr. Springfield's case on February 8, 2013. “Mr. Springfield had told SVPP staff that he no longer had safety concerns and could safely program with others at the SVPP, and he confirmed to the committee that those statements were still true.” (ECF No. 31 at 3.) The ICC lowered Mr. Springfield's custody level to Close-A and approved him for double-celling. (Id.) The ICC also changed his credit-earning status to “A1A” effective December 27, 2012 (i.e., the day of his arrival at Salinas Valley State Prison), so that he would not be penalized for expressing safety concerns at the January 4, 2013 ICC hearing. (Id.; ECF No. 13 at 37.) As a result of the change in his credit-earning status, ...

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