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Allen v. Stanislaus County

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 24, 2017

COLUMBUS ALLEN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
STANISLAUS COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING IN PART FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND REFERRING MATTER BACK TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE (Doc. Nos. 71, 76)

         Plaintiff Columbus Allen, Jr. is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.

         In his complaint plaintiff alleges the following claims, found by the court on screening to be cognizable, and all stemming from his incarceration at the Stanislaus County Jail following his arrest on murder charges: against defendants County of Stanislaus, Puthuff, Christianson, Captain Duncan, and Lieutenant Lloyd for denial of outdoor exercise; against defendants Lieutenant Suarez, Sergeant Galles, Sergeant Truffa, Mauldin, Meyers and Williams for a due process violation for denial of access to telephone privileges; against defendants Sergeant Radza, Williams, Aziz, Maze and Cardoza for failure to protect; and against Defendants Lieutenant Clifton, Sergeant Radza, and Cardoza for retaliation. (Doc. No. 12.)

         On April 22, 2016, the defendants moved for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 71.) On February 3, 2017, the assigned magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations recommending that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (Doc. No. 76.) Specifically, the findings and recommendations recommended that defendants motion for summary judgment be denied as to plaintiff's: alleged failure to exhaust his administrative remedies; outdoor exercise claim; failure to protect claim; retaliation claim; and on the grounds that the PLRA barred his claims for compensatory damages due to a lack of physical injury. (Doc. No. 76 at 32-33.) The findings and recommendations recommended that defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted only as to plaintiff's due process claim based upon the alleged denial of telephone privileges following his arrest. (Id. at 33.) The findings and recommendations were served on the parties and contained notice that objections thereto were to be filed within thirty days. (Id. at 33.) Plaintiff filed his objections to the findings and recommendations on March 1, 2017. (Doc. No. 77.) On March 3, 2017, defendants also filed objections to the findings and recommendations. (Doc. No. 78.) On March 9, 2017, defendants filed a response to plaintiff's objections. (Doc. No. 80.) On March 20, 2017, plaintiff filed a document styled as “objections to defendants' objections.” (Doc. No. 82.)[1]

         In their objections to the findings and recommendations defendants contend that the magistrate judge erred in recommending that their motion for summary judgment be denied. (Doc. No. 78.) Specifically, defendants argue that their motion for summary judgment should have been granted due to plaintiff's failure to adequately exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit and on qualified immunity grounds. (Id. at 2-3, 5-6.) In addition, they argue that on the merits, summary judgment should be granted in their favor on plaintiff's claims based on the alleged denial of outdoor exercise, failure to protect, retaliation, municipality liability under Monell, and supervisorial liability. (Id. at 3-5.) The undersigned has reviewed defendants' objections and finds them to be, in large part, the same arguments advanced below, which were fully and adequately addressed in the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations. Because the court finds defendants' arguments to be unpersuasive, the findings and recommendations will be adopted with respect to these issues and claims.

         In his objections, plaintiff argues that the magistrate judge erred as a matter of law in recommending that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted as to the claim that plaintiff's due process rights were violated following his arrest when he was denied access to a telephone, as required under state law. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned agrees.

         In the pending findings and recommendations it was concluded that defendants were entitled to summary judgment in their favor with respect to plaintiff's due process claim that he was unlawfully denied access to a telephone for seventeen hours following his arrest while being held in a safety cell. Specifically, the magistrate judge concluded:

An arrestee is entitled to at least three completed telephone calls immediately upon booking, except when physically impossible, as in this instance. See Cal. Penal Code § 851.5.
Plaintiff was not denied the right to telephone privileges, but rather the right was merely delayed for less than 24 hours based on the physical circumstances of his placement in a safety cell due to the nature of the alleged commitment offense, i.e. murder of a police officer, and there is no showing of prejudice. Accordingly, Defendants Lieutenant Suarez, Sergeant Galles, Sergeant Truffa, Mauldin, Meyers, and Williams are entitled to summary judgment on this claim.

(Doc. No. 76 at 23.)

         The court declines to adopt this aspect of the findings and recommendations.[2] Plaintiff has alleged in his verified complaint[3] that upon arrest he was placed in a “safety cell/rubber room” for approximately seventeen hours and denied every request to utilize a telephone. (Doc. No. 1 at 20-21.) According to evidence submitted by defendants on summary judgment, upon arrest, plaintiff was placed in a safety cell at the jail as a potential suicide risk based solely on the nature of the offense for which he had been arrested (i.e. murder of a law enforcement officer). (See Doc. No. 71-2 at 2, 71-6 at 103.)

         In addressing California law requiring that an arrestee be allowed telephone access within three hours of arrest to contact an attorney, a bail bondsmen, or a relative or other person, the Ninth Circuit, has explained:

The California statute at issue drastically limits an officer's discretion. It requires that an arrestee be permitted to make three telephone calls. Its mandatory language entitles an arrestee to phone calls “immediately upon being booked” or “no later than three hours after arrest, ” providing exceptions only for physical impossibility. Cal. Penal Code § 851.5(e). As required by the test applied in 1991, the statute uses mandatory language to bind an officer's discretion regarding whether to permit an arrestee to use a telephone. Under [Hewitt v.] Helms[, 459 U.S. 460 (1983)], it was clearly established that the California statute created a liberty interest.
* * *
Given the clarity of the statute and the law defining liberty interests at the time, no reasonable officer could have believed that denying Carlo telephone calls did ...

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