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Carranza v. Lewis

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 16, 2017

JOSE MANUEL CARRANZA, Plaintiff,
v.
G. LEWIS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On February 3, 2015, [1] Jose Manuel Carranza, a state prisoner, filed the instant pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff challenges his validation as a gang member and placement in the Secure Housing Unit (“SHU”) at Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”), where he was previously incarcerated. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. Id. at 62-64.[2] At the time he filed the instant complaint, Plaintiff had informed the Court that he “originally filed this complaint on March 21, 2014.” Id. at 9. The following background relating to Plaintiff's prior action is taken from the Court's July 20, 2015 Order of Partial Dismissal; and Serving Cognizable Claims:

The Court notes that Plaintiff is referring to the second amended complaint that he filed in his prior action, Case No. C 13-3337 YGR (PR). Dkt. 24 in Case No. C 13-3337 YGR (PR). After the Court had ordered service of the claims in his prior action (but before Defendants filed their answer), Plaintiff moved for voluntary dismissal so that he could exhaust his administrative remedies. Dkt. 30 in Case No. C 13-3337 YGR (PR). Plaintiff claimed that while he had exhausted his prison administrative remedies, he had failed to file a claim for damages with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (“CVCGCB”). Id. at 2-3.
On July 25, 2014, pursuant to Plaintiff's notice of voluntary dismissal, the Court terminated his prior action. Dkt. 31 in Case No. C 13-3337 YGR (PR) at 1. The Court noted that the dismissal was without prejudice. Id.
On September 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed a claim with the CVCGCB, which did not act on his claim within forty-five days; therefore, he claims this constitutes a denial. Dkt. 1 at 9-10 (citing Cal. Gov't Code § 912.4(c)).

         Dkt. 8 at 1-2. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his complaint in the instant action, raising the same allegations that he brought in his prior action, and he has named all of the same Defendants, except Sergeant A. B. Gomez. Compare Dkt. 1 at 5-10 to Dkt. 24 in Case No. C 13-3337 YGR (PR) at 12. Thus, in the instant action, the named Defendants from PBSP are as follows: Warden G. D. Lewis; Chief Deputy Warden P. T. Smith; Facility Captain K. Cruse; Sergeant R. Randow; and Licensed Clinical Social Worker V. Cappello. Dkt. 1 at 5. Meanwhile, the named Defendants from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) in Sacramento are the following: Director Matthew Cate; Appeals Examiner K. J. Allen; Inmate Appeals Branch Chiefs R. Manuel and D. Foston; Special Services Unit Special Agents B. Kinroton, D. S. McClure, Buechner, S. S. Kissel and C. M. Rojers. Id.

         A. Plaintiff's Claims

         The following background relating to Plaintiff's claims is also taken from the Court's July 20, 2015 Order of Partial Dismissal; and Serving Cognizable Claims:

Plaintiff challenges his July 8, 2009 placement and resulting retention in administrative segregation in the SHU on the basis of his alleged association with the Mexican Mafia (“EME”) prison gang.[3] Plaintiff denies that he is a gang associate, and alleges multiple violations of the federal and state constitutions stemming from his placement and retention in the SHU. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that he is serving a prison term of twenty-seven years to life with the possibility of parole. Dkt. 1 at 32. Although he is now in general population, Plaintiff claims that prison officials “continue to classify [him] as a validated Mexican mafia associate.” Dkt. 2 at 1-2. Plaintiff explains that he is now on a “twelve-month observational period in [] general population, ” where due to his status as a gang associate, he is subjected to aggressive searches, urinalysis testing, and excessive monitoring of visitors, phone calls, and mail. Id. at 1. Also, Plaintiff emphasizes that he can be sent back to the SHU indefinitely if he is written up for a rules violation and that his gang validation renders him ineligible for parole. Id. at 2. Thus, Plaintiff argues that he “continues to suffer continuous harm and discipline and punishment as a result of CDCR[']s erroneous validation.” Id. Plaintiff also objects that his “validation as an associate is based on his ethnic group as a southern Hispanic rather than actual gang activity.” Id.
According to CDCR policy and practice, Plaintiff can only remove his gang associate status if he debriefs or provides information incriminating other prisoners. Plaintiff argues that under this policy he can never remove his status because he is unable to debrief because he is not a gang associate, and he has no inculpatory evidence to provide prison officials. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges the following claims:
(1) a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights based upon Defendants' placement of Plaintiff in long-term administrative segregation in the SHU without a fair hearing and Defendants' failure to act and investigate Plaintiff's claim that he is not a prison gang associate;
(2) a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment based on Plaintiff's erroneous classification as a gang associate and placement in the SHU at PBSP;
(3) a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment based on Defendants' failure to act and investigate Plaintiff's claim that he is not a prison gang associate;
(4) a violation of his Fifth Amendment due process right against self-incrimination based on Defendants' requirement that Plaintiff becomes an informant about gang activities in order to be released from the SHU;
(5) a violation of the terms of the settlement agreement in Castillo v. Alameida, No. 94-2847 MJJ (PR) (N.D. Cal.), based on Defendants' placement of Plaintiff in long-term administrative segregation in the SHU on the basis of evidence that is unreliable and insufficient;
(6) a violation of his state-created liberty interest in release from the SHU;
(7) a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process right by Defendants promulgating, enforcing and implementing prison rules and regulations that are vague and overbroad;
(8) a violation of his First Amendment right of association on the ground that Plaintiff's indefinite confinement in the SHU prevents him from associating with other prisoners;
(9&10) violations of various provisions of California constitutional and statutory law;
(11) a violation of his rights due to certain Defendants' failures, in their supervisory capacity, to establish lawful policies and procedures and to train their subordinate employees properly;
(12) a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment on the ground that Defendants' requirement that Plaintiff debrief and become an informant exposes him to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury;
(13) a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection based upon Defendants' intentional discrimination against him on the basis of his racial group;
(14) a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and state created liberty interest in denying him a meaningful review of his gang status and SHU confinement for possible release from such confinement;
(15) a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by misinterpreting and arbitrarily applying regulations concerning gang activity and validations for association upon the Plaintiff; and
(16) a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights where Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer from Defendants utilizing a statewide systemic policy of using race as a proxy to validate inmates as gang associates and housing them in long-term administrative segregation in the SHU and denying them release from this confinement based on their “gang status.”

         Dkt. 8 at 2-4 (citing Dkt. 1 at 50-61) (footnote in original).

         B. Court's Initial Review of Plaintiff's Claims

         The Court reviewed the complaint and found as follows, as taken from its July 20, 2015 Order (cognizable claims (1), (3), (4), (6), and (8) through (16) emphasized in bold):

1. Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief based on his confinement at PBSP [were] DISMISSED as moot.
2. Plaintiff's allegations regarding placement and retention in administrative segregation in the SHU at PBSP when liberally construed, state[d] cognizable claims under section 1983 for a denial of due process and for supervisory liability-claims (1), (3), (11), (14), and (15)-against the aforementioned PBSP and CDCR Defendants (hereinafter “Defendants”).
3. Plaintiff's allegations present[ed] a constitutionally cognizable due process claim-claim (6)-based on a denial of his state-created liberty interest in parole.
4. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims related to his alleged erroneous classification as a gang associate and placement in the SHU at PBSP and Defendants' failure to investigate his claim that he is not a prison gang associate-claims (2) and (3)-[were]
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
5. Plaintiff state[d] a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim-claim (12)-that the debriefing policy subjects him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment because it requires him to put himself, his families and friends at risk of physical attack in order to be released from the SHU.
6. Plaintiff's claim (5), which state[d] that Defendants violated some provision in the settlement agreement in Castillo v. Alameida, N.D. Cal. No. 94-2847 MJJ (PR), [was] DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
7. Plaintiff state[d] a cognizable claim that the debriefing requirement violate[d] his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination-claim (4).
8. Plaintiff's claim (7), in which he contend[ed] that Defendants enforced vague and overbroad regulations (related to gang validation) [was] DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
9. Plaintiff state[d] a cognizable claim of a violation of his First Amendment right to association based on his allegation that he was placed and retained in the SHU based solely on his association with members of the EME Prison Gang-claim (8).
10. The Court will exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims-claims (9) and (10).
11. Plaintiff'sallegationspresent[ed]constitutionally cognizable equal protection claims-claims (13) and (16).

         Dkt. 8 at 12-13 (brackets and emphasis added).

         C. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 37. Defendants argue that (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), as to the claims concerning parole, the CDCR's gang debriefing[4] program, and alleged racial discrimination; (2) Plaintiff lacks standing to assert claims concerning his access to parole and the debriefing program; and (3) the statute of limitations has expired as to the remaining claims arising out of Plaintiff's 2009 gang validation. Id. at 1-2. Accordingly, Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment. Id. Plaintiff filed an opposition, and Defendants filed a reply. Dkts. 50, 52. For the reasons outlined below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Procedural Background Regarding Gang Classification[5]

         On July 8, 2009, while housed at CSP-Corcoran, a correctional officer informed Plaintiff that he was going to be validated as a prison gang associate. Dkt. 1 at 10. Plaintiff was informed that his validation was based on three pieces of “confidential information.” Id. at 11. Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation (“ad-seg”) and given notice of the reason for his placement in a CDCR 114-D form. Id. However, Plaintiff refused to sign the CDCR 114-D form. Id.

         On July 9, 2009, Plaintiff met with an institutional gang investigator (“IGI”) to discuss his gang validation. Id. at 12. Plaintiff submitted a four-page rebuttal to “refute all three (3) source items used against him.” Id.

         On July 16, 2009, Plaintiff appeared before the Institutional Classification Committee (“ICC”) for review of his placement in ad-seg. Id. Plaintiff was retained at ad-seg “pending OCS [Office of Correctional Safety] response for possible [gang] violation.” Dkt. 2-6 at 2. The ICC further noted that “[a] release to the GP [general population] may pose a threat to the safety of others and endanger the institution[']s security.” Id.

         On July 28, 2009, Plaintiff was validated as an EME associate. D' Agostino Decl., Ex. B at 1. Defendants Kingston, McClure, and Buechne signed the CDCR 128 B-2 “validation chrono” (an institutional record) and dated it July 28, 2009. Id. However, Plaintiff claims that he did not receive notice of his gang validation until August 7, 2009. Dkt. 1 at 13. On that date, Plaintiff claims to that he only learned about his gang validation during an interview with Lt. Keener. Id. Plaintiff informed Lt. Keener that he “was never brought back to [the ICC], ” and requested for a copy of his validation chrono. Id. Lt. Keener then provided Plaintiff with a copy of his validation chrono. Id.

         On August 9, 2009, Plaintiff filed a 602 inmate appeal requesting for the removal of his gang validation status and to be released from ad-seg. Id. at 14; see infra Discussion B.2.a.

         On December 2, 2009, an amended validation chrono was issued to correct the date of a confidential source item used to validate Plaintiff. D' Agostino Decl., Ex. C at 1. Defendants Kissel, Rojers, and McClure signed the corrected validation chrono. Id.

         On December 9, 2009, Plaintiff appeared at another ICC hearing, during which he was notified that he would likely be transferred to the PBSP SHU, to serve an indeterminate term as a validated EME associate. D' Agostino Decl., Ex. D at 1.

         On January 13, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred to PBSP. D' Agostino Decl., Ex. I.

         On January 21, 2010, Plaintiff appeared at an ICC hearing attended by Defendants Smith, Cruse, Randow, and Cappello. Dkt. 1 at 17. Plaintiff claims that these Defendants informed him that he was “re-validated on 12/2/09.” Id. Plaintiff responded as follows, “Why, I was not given an opportunity to refute the evidence. ICC at [CSP-]Corcoran said that I was not going to be re-validated and if I were to be, I would be notified and given an opportunity to refute the charges.” Id. Plaintiff added: “I am not a prison gang associate. The evidence used against me are [sic] false and unreliable.” Id. at 17-18. The aforementioned Defendants “told Plaintiff that's not what we[']re here for, you could appeal your validation but right now we[']re still gonna house you in SHU per your validation status of 2/02/09.” Id. at 18. According to the ICC hearing notes, Plaintiff seemed confused by the transfer, stating as follows: “Why did I get transferred here? I had a hardship to stay at COR-SHU [CSP-Corcoran SHU], I was endorsed there and th[e]y put me here at the last minute.” D' Agostino Decl., Ex. E at 1. The committee advised Plaintiff that, as a validated EME associate, he had been transferred to PBSP in order to serve an indeterminate term at the PBSP SHU. Id. The committee further advised Plaintiff that he would be “retain[ed] in [ad-seg] pending housing availability in PBSP SHU.” Id. Plaintiff was also “informed that the Department recognized avenues for release from SHU are through the debriefing process or through being determined to be an inactive prison gang member or associate . . . .” Id. Because the “last source document used in the validation process [was] dated 04/13/09, indicating recent (within 6 years) of gang activity, ” Plaintiff would be “eligible for an Active/Inactive Review after 2/11/2015.” Id.

         On May 15, 2014, the IGI conducted an investigation regarding Plaintiff's gang status and determined that he “met the criteria for inactive gang status and recommended his gang status as an associate of the Mexican Mafia (EME) Security Threat ...


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