United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NOS. 22, 31
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge.
an inmate at Santa Clara Department of Corrections
(“DOC”) - Main Jail Complex, filed the instant
pro se civil rights actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. These actions were consolidated on December 8,
2015. In the consolidated actions, Plaintiff alleges that
Captain Hoyt, Lieutenant Borgzinner, Deputy Crawford, Chief
John Hirokawa, and Deputy Hogan (collectively,
“Defendants”), all employed by the Santa Clara
County Office of the Sheriff (“Sheriff’s
Office”), denied him access to the courts, prevented
him from petitioning the government for redress of
grievances, and retaliated against him for exercising his
First Amendment rights. Now before the Court are two summary
judgment motions filed by Plaintiff, a summary judgment
motion filed by Capt. Hoyt, Lt. Borgzinner, Deputy Crawford,
and a summary judgment motion filed by that Chief John
Hirokawa, Capt. Hoyt, and Deputy Hogan. For the reasons
discussed below, Plaintiff’s summary judgment motions
are DENIED, and Defendants’ summary judgment motions
February 17, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant action,
hereinafter referred to as Blake I, which the Court
found stated cognizable claims that Capt. Hoyt, Lt.
Borgzinner, and Deputy Crawford denied him access to the
courts, prevented him from petitioning the government for
redress of grievances, and retaliated against him for
exercising his First Amendment rights. Docket No. 13 (amended
complaint) and Docket No. 14 (order of service). On March 17,
2015, Plaintiff brought a separate action, hereinafter
referred to as Blake II, which the Court found
stated cognizable claims that Chief John Hirokawa, Capt.
Hoyt, and Deputy Hogan denied him access to the courts,
prevented him from petitioning the government for redress of
grievances, and retaliated against him for exercising his
First Amendment rights. See Compl., Blake
II (ECF No. 11); and Order of Service, Blake II
(ECF No. 12).
November 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed a summary judgment motion
in Blake II. Pl. Summ. J. Mot., Blake II
(ECF No. 21). On December 7, 2015, Plaintiff filed the same
summary judgment motion in the instant action. Docket No. 22.
On that same day, Capt. Hoyt, Lt. Borgzinner, Deputy Crawford
filed a summary judgment motion in the instant action (Docket
No. 31), and Chief John Hirokawa, Capt. Hoyt, and Deputy
Hogan filed a nearly identical summary judgment motion in
Blake II (Dfdts. Summ. J. Mot., Blake II
(Docket No. 31). On December 8, 2015, the Court granted
Plaintiff’s unopposed request to consolidate these two
cases. Docket No. 37.
November 14 and December 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed habeas
corpus petitions in the Santa Clara County Superior Court in
In re Blake, case no. F1451055, challenging his
conditions of confinement at Elmwood Correctional
Facility. Docket No. 32-1 at 1. Plaintiff’s
petitions were denied for failure to exhaust the DOC’s
administrative remedies. Docket No. 32-1 at 3. The state
superior court stated that the Santa Clara DOC’s
administrative grievance process required an inmate to appeal
grievance denials by writing a letter to the appropriate
division commander, and requesting a written response. Docket
No. 32-1 at 2. The state superior court stated that the
division commander’s written response is considered the
final decision. Id. The state superior court
concluded that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that he had
exhausted administrative remedies because there was nothing
in the record that indicated that Plaintiff had appealed the
denial of his grievances. Id. at 2-3.
December 31, 2014, Plaintiff was advised not to submit
grievances as “indigent legal mail.” Docket No.
35-2 at 1. Plaintiff was informed that if he submitted
another grievance as “indigent legal mail, ” he
would be issued an infraction. Docket No. 35-2 at 1.
January 2015 Infraction
January 22, 2015, Plaintiff sent an appeal letter to Capt.
Hoyt that appealed the denial of certain grievances he had
filed and was intended to exhaust administrative remedies for
these grievances. Docket No. 40 at 43-46. Plaintiff placed
the letter in an envelope addressed to Capt. Hoyt and wrote
“confidential legal mail” on the envelope. Docket
No. 13 (“Am. Compl.”) at 3.
same day, Deputy Crawford issued Plaintiff an inmate
infraction for disobeying a written order, a violation of DOC
Rule 2-11, and for presenting false information or lying to
staff, a violation of DOC Rule 2-15. Docket No. 35-4 at 1.
Deputy Crawford stated that by mailing a grievance to Capt.
Hoyt in an envelope marked “confidential” and
“legal mail, ” Plaintiff had disobeyed the
December 31, 2014 order to cease submitting grievances as
“indigent confidential mail.” Docket No. 35-4 at
1. Deputy Crawford also stated that Plaintiff presented false
information in writing “confidential” and
“legal mail” on the envelope because “the
appeal and other grievances” are not confidential legal
mail. Docket No. 35-4 at 1.
next day, January 23, 2015, Capt. Hoyt responded in writing
to Plaintiff’s appeal letter. Docket No. 35-3 at 1-2.
February 6, 2015, Lt. Borgzinner presided over the infraction
hearing. Docket No. 35-5 at 1. Lt. Borgzinner found Plaintiff
guilty of disobeying a written order from staff, but
dismissed the charge of presenting false information to
staff. Docket No. 35-5 at 1. Lt. Borgzinner ordered
discipline of ten days of disciplinary lockdown. Docket No.
29 (“Hoyt Decl.”) ¶ 22 and Ex. D. Capt. Hoyt
reviewed the infraction and adjusted the discipline to two
days of disciplinary lockdown. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 23 and Ex.
appealed Lt. Borgzinner’s findings on February 6, 2015.
Capt. Hoyt denied the appeal on March 3, 2015. Hoyt Decl.
¶ 24 and Ex. F.
February 2015 Infraction
February 24, 2015, Plaintiff sent another appeal letter to
Capt. Hoyt that again appealed certain other grievances that
he had filed. Hoyt Decl., Ex. G, Blake II (ECF No.
29-7) (complaining that Officers Tejada and DeStafani refused
to answer his questions regarding conditions of confinement,
that Officers Tejada and DeStafani failed to bring him
requested grievance forms and inmate request forms, that
Plaintiff was unable to make pro per phone calls,
and that his housing unit lacked hot water). Plaintiff again
placed his appeal letter in an envelope addressed to Capt.
Hoyt and again wrote “confidential legal mail” on
the envelope. Am. Compl. at 3, Blake II (ECF No.
11); Hogan Decl. ¶ 5, Blake II (ECF No. 26);
Hoyt Decl., Ex. G, Blake II.
same day, Deputy Hogan issued Plaintiff an inmate infraction
for disobeying written and verbal orders to not label
grievances or letters as “legal mail, ” and for
falsely describing his appeal letter as legal mail. Hogan
Decl. ¶¶ 7-9, Blake II; Hoyt Decl., Ex. H,
Blake II. Disobeying written or verbal orders is a
violation of DOC Rule 2-11, and presenting false information
or lying to staff is a violation of DOC Rule 2-15. Hogan
Decl. ¶¶ 7-9, Blake II; Docket No. 35-1 at
March 5, 2015, Lt. Meyers presided over the infraction
hearing. Meyers Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6, Blake II
(ECF No. 28). Lt. Meyers found Plaintiff not guilty because
although Plaintiff had falsely labeled non-legal mail as
legal mail and disobeyed direct orders from staff, Plaintiff
had done so in an attempt to exhaust his administrative
remedies. Meyers Decl. ¶ 6, Blake II. Lt.
Meyers did not order any discipline for this infraction.
Meyers Decl. ¶ 7, Blake II. Capt. Hoyt reviewed
the infraction and agreed that leniency was appropriate since
Plaintiff had violated the rules in an attempt to exhaust his
administrative remedies. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 31, Blake
Santa Clara DOC Procedures Regarding Grievances and
inmates are booked into the Santa Clara DOC, they are
provided with a copy of the Inmate Orientation Rulebook
(“Rulebook”). The Rulebook sets forth the
DOC’s Inmate Grievance Procedure. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 3.
Inmates may grieve any condition of confinement over which
the DOC has control. Inmates initiate a grievance by
completing a grievance form and handing the form to any
officer. Docket No. 35-1 (“Rulebook”) at 9. If
the officer is unable to resolve the grievance, the grievance
is forwarded to a sergeant. Rulebook at 9. If the sergeant is
unable to resolve the grievance, the grievance is forwarded
to the team lieutenant. Rulebook at 9. The team lieutenant
will determine the appropriate action to take and provide the
inmate with a written response. Rulebook at 9. If the
grievance is denied in the written response, the inmate may
appeal the decision by writing a letter to the facility
captain. Rulebook at 9.
appeal letters addressed to the facility captain are treated
as confidential, unless they obviously contain contraband.
Hoyt. Decl. ¶ 5. This means that only the facility
captain and her confidential secretary will review the
contents of the letter, and that the letter will not be
reviewed by other DOC staff. Hoyt. Decl. ¶ 5. Inmates
are instructed not to send grievance mail via the indigent
legal mail system. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 8. The facility captain
will provide a written response to the appeal letter, either
affirming or reversing the denial. Docket No. 35-1 at 9.
Rulebook also provides that inmates may “correspond
confidentially with the Facility Captain, or the Chief of
Correction” and provides that inmates will receive a
written response to their confidential correspondence. Docket
No. 35-1 at 9.
has the following practices governing inmate mail. All
outgoing mail is treated as confidential and will not be
opened unless it obviously contains contraband. Hoyt Decl.
¶ 7. Accordingly, if an envelope contains only paper, it
will not be opened. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 7.
inmates may send regular mail by addressing an envelope,
purchasing postage, and handing it to their unit officer or
sergeant. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 9. Pro se inmates may
send legal mail by marking an envelope with the words
“legal mail, ” and asking their unit officer or
sergeant to place the envelope in the pro per legal
mail box. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 10. The DOC processes legal mail
separately from regular mail because legal mail postage is
paid for by the California court system. Hoyt Decl. ¶
10. In addition, the DOC expedites processing of legal mail,
and the prompt processing of legal mail assists inmates in
meeting court deadlines. Hoyt Decl. ¶ 10 and Docket No.
31 at 17.
Standard of Review
judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery, and
affidavits show there is “no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the
case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine
if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. See id.
moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those
portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The burden then
shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the
pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the
‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, ’ designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.’” See Id. at 324 (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (amended 2010)).
purposes of summary judgment, the court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party;
if the evidence produced by the moving party conflicts with
evidence produced by the nonmoving party, the court must
assume the truth of the evidence submitted by the nonmoving
party. See Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1158
(9th Cir. 1999). The court’s function on a summary
judgment motion is not to make credibility determinations or
weigh conflicting evidence with ...