United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER ADOPTING, IN PART, AND MODIFYING, IN PART,
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
HONORABLE LARRY ALAN BURNS United States District Judge
Garcia has filed five retaliation lawsuits and over 100
prison appeals in his seven years at R.J. Donovan
Correctional Facility. This action is among the latest.
Garcia's claims involve a librarian refusing to move a
photocopier; a guard refusing to process a grievance as
confidential correspondence; and an officer refusing to stop
a nurse from touching Garcia's I.D. When these defendants
failed to comply with Garcia's demands, he filed
grievances accusing them of breaking prison regulations. The
defendants made records disputing his grievances as false,
abusive, and improper. Garcia then filed this lawsuit against
defendants for retaliating against him for filing grievances.
prison grievance process was designed to check officials from
suppressing prisoner's exercise of Constitutional rights.
But retaliation claims “are prone to abuse since
prisoners can claim retaliation for every decision they
dislike.” Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79
(2d Cir. 1996). That abuse is particularly insidious when
inmates repurpose retaliation law to threaten the brave men
and women tasked with the difficult job of guarding them.
That's the case here.
is serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend.
Three years ago, he sued twelve prison officials for
retaliation. The magistrate judge recommended granting
summary judgment as to all of the defendants except one.
Garcia filed several objections to the Report and
Recommendation. The Court adopts the R&R for the most
part, but modifies it to grant summary judgment as to all
corrections officer may not retaliate against a prisoner for
exercising his First Amendment right to report staff
misconduct, ” but courts must also “defer to
reasonable decisions of prison officials.” Shepard
v. Quillen, 840 F.3d 686, 688 (9th Cir. 2016).
“When a prisoner claims retaliation, we strike this
balance by requiring” the prisoner “to show that
a state actor took some adverse action because of the
prisoner's protected conduct.” Id.
(alterations omitted). The prisoner must also show that
“the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate
correctional goal.” Id. Summary judgment is
appropriate if the moving party shows there's no genuine
dispute as to a material fact essential to the claim or
claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
A. The Court modifies the R&R to grant summary
judgment for Officer Cariman.
Supreme Court has warned that when prisoners sue correction
officials, the lower courts must "afford appropriate
deference and flexibility to state officials trying to manage
a volatile environment." Sandin v. Conner, 515
U.S. 472, 482 (1995). The Ninth Circuit has acknowledged that
in Sandin, the high court “specifically
expressed its disapproval of excessive judicial involvement
in day-to-day prison management, which often squanders
judicial resources with little offsetting benefit to
anyone.” Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807
(9th Cir. 1995) (alterations omitted). In particular, our
circuit has emphasized that deference should be given
“to prison officials in the evaluation of proffered
legitimate penological reasons for conduct alleged to be
retaliatory.” Id. That sensible guidance
R&R recommended granting summary judgment as to all but
one defendant: Officer Cariman. Garcia's retaliation
claim against Cariman is based on two encounters.
first happened in July 2013 while Cariman was supervising
inmates receiving medication. Cariman says Garcia accused the
duty nurse of contaminating Garcia's medicine by handling
other inmates' identification cards. The nurse told
Garcia to take his medication or leave. Garcia refused to
provide his card or take his medication. Garcia demanded that
Cariman take action. But Cariman told Garcia the same thing
as the nurse: take the medicine or forfeit treatment and
leave. Garcia returned to his cell and composed a Form
Form 22 confirms Cariman's version of events:
“Cariman . . . while you were conducting youre Post
Assignment duties . . . as med-line Security personnel, I
reported to you how the on-duty (LVN) was endangering I/M
health and safety . . . through cross contamination . . .
[by] taking physical possession of [inmate] I.D.s or
demanding them to place such on the counter . . . . In
response you demanded I comply or I would forfeit treatment .
. . . Because of such, I am requesting to be provided cause
or a legitimate penological interest for youre failure to
ensure inmate safety.” (Errors in
second encounter happened two weeks after Garcia filed this
Form 22. Garcia was getting his medication and repeated the
same drill: Garcia argued with the dispensing nurse about
identification, medication, and contamination. Cariman
stepped-in and Garcia argued with him. Specifically, Garcia
said, “You are retaliating, because I wrote you up last
week.” Cariman says Garcia was noncompliant and
disrupting the pill line-he told Garcia to “cuff
up” and put him in a holding cell. Then Cariman wrote a
Rules Violation Report documenting Garcia's interference.
The RVR tells the same basic story as Cariman's
opposition picks out various facts in Cariman's account
and says they didn't happen. For example, Cariman says
that Garcia caused a disruption of about 10 to 15
minutes-Garcia says it was 10 to 15 seconds. Cariman says he
approached Garcia at the window. Garcia says it wasn't at
the window. Cariman says Garcia called him a “mama
pinga.” Garcia says he's never heard that
R&R recommended against granting summary judgment for
Cariman because the magistrate judge perceived that there
were too many conflicting facts surrounding the encounter
between Garcia and Cariman in the pill line. As an example,
the magistrate judge pointed out that there was a dispute
whether Garcia took his medication or showed his
identification to Cariman. The Court acknowledges these minor
discrepancies but concludes, contrary to the magistrate
judge, that the discrepancies don't concern materials
the discrepancies does require specific discussion: Garcia
says he told Cariman that he filed a grievance against him
and Cariman replied: “Oh yeah! . . .you wrote me up! .
. . then turn around and cuff-up!” But regardless of
who's telling the truth-and crediting Garcia's
account as the Court must under the summary judgment
standard-there are two reasons that quote doesn't get
Garcia to a jury.
Cariman agrees that Garcia told him, “You are
retaliating because I wrote you up last week, ”
and, that Cariman told Garcia “to cuff
up.” Garcia hasn't created a material dispute by
merely adding some selective dialogue, or by using ellipses
to leave out part of the conversation, and then asking the
Court to speculate that Cariman cuffed Garcia
because Garcia said he filed the Form
22.Nelson v. Pima Cmty. Coll., 83 F.3d 1075, 1081 (9th
Cir. 1996) (claim that plaintiff “did one thing, ...