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George v. Voong

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 10, 2017

M. VOONG, et al., Defendants.


         Plaintiff Richard E. George is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's complaint, filed September 21, 2016. Plaintiff consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge on September 29, 2016.



         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that “fail[] to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek[] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.



         Plaintiff is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and is housed at North Kern State Prison. Plaintiff brings this action challenging section 3177(b)(1)(B)(2) of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations which prohibits inmates serving sentences for life without the possibility of parole from participating in the Family Visit Program. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3177.

         Section 3177 provides for family visits which are extended overnight visits provided for eligible inmates and their immediate family members. However, [f]amily visiting is a privilege” and is limited to only eligible inmates.[1] Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3177(b). Specifically, section 3177 provides that family visits are not permitted for inmates that are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3177(b)(1)(B)(2).

         It is well settled that “[p]rison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution.” Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84 (1987). However, it has also long been recognized that imprisonment also carries with it the constraint on or loss of many significant rights. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 524 (1984); Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285 (1948); Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822, (1974); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 555 (1974). Prisoners are to be afforded those rights that are “not fundamentally inconsistent with imprisonment itself or incompatible with the objectives of incarceration.” Hudson, 468 U.S. at 523. In making this determination, the inquiry is two-fold. First, the Court must consider if the right at issue is fundamentally inconsistent with incarceration. Turner, 482 U.S. at 94-96. If the right is fundamentally inconsistent with incarceration the inquiry ends because “[p]risoners cannot claim the protection of those rights fundamentally inconsistent with their status as prisoners.” Gerber v. Hickman, 291 F.3d 617, 620 (9th Cir. 2002). If the right is not fundamentally inconsistent with incarceration, the Court then considers whether the regulation abridging the right is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest. Turner, 482 U.S. at 96-99.

         In Gerber v. Hickman, 291 F.3d 617, 619 (9th Cir. 2002), the Ninth Circuit addressed an inmate's challenge to section 3177[2] arguing that it infringed upon his right to procreate. By its very nature, incarceration removes an inmate from society. Pell, 417 U.S. 822-23. During incarceration, the right of intimate association is necessarily abridged. Gerber, 291 F.3d at 621. “Intimate association protects the kinds of relationships ‘that attend the creation and sustenance of a family-marriage, childbirth, the raising and education of children, and cohabitation with one's relatives. . . .' ” Id. (quoting Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 618 (1984)). The Ninth Circuit found that “most of the attributes of marriage-cohabitation, physical intimacy, and bearing and raising children-do not” survive incarceration. Gerber, 291 F.3d at 621 (there is no due process or Eighth Amendment right to conjugal or contact visits).

         Here, the regulation which Plaintiff is challenging does not prohibit Plaintiff from visiting with his family, but does not allow him to have extended overnight visits with his family. It is well settled that prisoners have no rights to contact or conjugal visits. Gerber, 291 F.3d at 621. The right to overnight visits with your family members is fundamentally inconsistent with incarceration. Therefore, Plaintiff is unable to state a claim that section 3177 violates a fundamental right that he retains as a prisoner.[3] Jones v. Nichols, 639 F. App'x 433, 434 (9th Cir. 2016) (“The district court properly dismissed Jones's due process claim because Jones failed to allege facts sufficient to show that he had a constitutionally protected liberty interest in overnight family visits.”).

         Further, the Ninth Circuit held in Gerber, that inmates sentenced to life sentences were not similarly situated to other inmates and therefore, there is no equal protection ...

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