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Castro v. Unnamed Defendants

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 23, 2017

UNNAMED DEFENDANTS, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Glenn S. Martinez Castro (“Plaintiff”) is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint against Defendant Correctional Officer Elias for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This claim arises out of an alleged disturbance on January 25, 2013 in a holding tank at Wasco State Prison. (ECF No. 31.)

         On May 5, 2016, Defendant Elias filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, arguing Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 403 (2014). (ECF No. 51.) On October 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed an opposition, (ECF No. 57), and on October 12, 2016, Defendant filed a reply to the opposition, (ECF No. 59.)[1] Defendants' motion is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(1).

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Statutory Exhaustion Requirement

         Section 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion is required regardless of the relief sought by the prisoner and regardless of the relief offered by the process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001), and the exhaustion requirement applies to all prisoner suits relating to prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

         B. 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); Albino, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014); 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 failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, and Defendant bears the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007); Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166. Defendant must “prove that there was an available administrative remedy, and that the prisoner did not exhaust that available remedy.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172. If the Defendant carries this burden, the burden of production shifts to Plaintiff “to come forward with evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him.” Id. “If undisputed evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner shows a failure to exhaust, a defendant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56.” Id. at 1166. However, “[i]f material facts are disputed, summary judgment should be denied, and the district judge rather than a jury should determine the facts.” Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. Summary of CDCR's Administrative Review Process

         The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has an administrative grievance system for prisoner complaints. Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15 § 3084.1. The process is initiated by submitting a CDCR Form 602 describing the issue and the relief requested. Id. at § 3084.2(a). Three levels of review are involved-a first level review, a second level review and a third level review. Id. at § 3084.7. Bypassing a level of review may result in rejection of the appeal. Id. at § 3084.6(b)(15). Under § 1997e, a prisoner has exhausted his administrative remedies when he receives a decision at the third level. See Barry v. Ratelle, 985 F.Supp. 1235, 1237-38 (S.D. Cal. 1997).

         B. Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff's lawsuit concerns alleged events when he was an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at Wasco State Prison. Plaintiff alleges, in relevant part, as follows:

         On January 25, 2013, Plaintiff and five other general population (GP) inmates were sent to Receiving and Release to await bus transfer to Calipatria State Prison. The inmates were placed in a “regular” holding tank. At some point, Correctional Officer Ward, a non-party, came to the cell door and told the inmates that they were being disruptive and loud, and that if they continued to be loud, he would place them in the cell by the metal detector. (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 31, p. 3.)

         Plaintiff “confronted” Officer Ward, asking him if the tank he referred to was a protective custody tank. Officer Ward informed the inmates that they were being moved to the tank he referred to. Plaintiff asked Officer Ward “if that was a protective custody tank and why we were being placed in the obvious (s.n.y.) labeled cell?” (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 31, p. 3.) Officer Ward told Plaintiff that he and the other inmates were going to be placed in the other tank because they were being too loud.

         Plaintiff alleges that “all general population inmates were placed inside the (sny) holding tank by Officer Ward, with protective custody inmates already inside which resulted in a group disturbance between (general population) and (protective custody) inmates.” (Id.)

         Defendant Elias, along with ten other correctional officers, responded to the disturbance. Defendant Elias instructed all of the inmates to “get down.” Plaintiff, along with all of the other inmates, lay face down in a “eagle-spread” position. Plaintiff alleges that at that point, the following occurred:

Correctional Officers then opened the holding cell door; over (10) officers entered with hand held metal batons fully extended, screaming at all inmates running in the holding tank Defendant Elias stating, “this isn't B-yard, bitches, ” (B yard is a special needs yard), while immediately physically assaulting plaintiff and all other (GP) inmates with their metal batons, multiple times over plaintiff's head, torso, legs, and continuously on the (left knee) plaintiff's left knee is still badly damaged. Various correctional officers also assaulted plaintiff repeated times. After the two to three minute assault from Defendant M. Elias, and the other officers, plaintiff and all other (GP) inmates were then handcuffed picked up, pushed and thrown against cell bars while and the ground while being escorted to another area. . .

(Second Am. Compl., at pp. 3-4.) (errors in original).

         The inmates were taken to one-man holding cages, and put in the holding cages, two men to a cage. Plaintiff alleges that he was “violently” shoved into the cage by Defendant Elias. Defendant Elias and other officers began questioning the inmates while they were in the holding cages. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Elias and the other officers left the area and returned.

         Upon his return, Defendant Elias apologized, stating that “we had no idea you all were (GP) inmates, we want to apologize to all of you.” Defendant Elias repeatedly apologized to the inmates and directed officers to move the inmates to the holding cages they were originally in. Defendant Elias and another officer, Garlo, “began to explain to us the mistake of placing us in a (SNY) labeled holding tank was not intentional.” (Second Am. Compl., at p. 4.) They also informed the inmates that they would not receive a disciplinary charge. At that point, the buses that were to transport the inmates to Calipatria State Prison arrived. Plaintiff alleges that both Officer Garlo and Defendant Elias “tried rushing Plaintiff and all other inmates to putting on our jumpsuits and to get on the bus and leave as soon as possible.” (Id.)

         Registered Nurse (“RN”) Johnson and RN Abella were both on duty at receiving and release at the time. Officer Garlo continued to direct the inmates to hurry on to the bus. Plaintiff spoke to Officer Garlo and Defendant Elias, “bringing to their attention we have not received medical attention or have been checked by the RNs on duty.” (Second Am. Compl. at p. 4-5.) After “over an hour, ” Officer Garlo agreed to let Plaintiff and the other inmates be seen by RNs Johnson and Abella. Plaintiff was escorted to the RN's office. Plaintiff explained to RN Johnson “what had occurred and how Plaintiff received injuries and what started the incident.” (Id. at 5.) RN Johnson began to record Plaintiff's injuries on a medical report. RNs ...

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