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Suarez v. Beard

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 20, 2017

JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.


          HAYWOOD S GILLIAMUR, Jr. United States District Judge

         Re: Dkt. No. 28 Plaintiff, a California prisoner currently incarcerated at California State Prison - Solano (“CSP-Solano”), filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants conducted security/welfare checks at Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”), where he was previously housed, in a manner that constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Now pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 28. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED and the motion for summary judgment is DENIED without prejudice to refiling.


         The amended complaint makes the following allegations.

         During the relevant time period - August 2, 2015 to November 28, 2015[1] - Plaintiff was housed in the Security Housing Unit (“SHU”) at PBSP. Dkt. No. 13 (“Am. Compl.”) at 7.

         The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) had recently instituted security/welfare checks in all administrative segregation units (“ASUs”), psychiatric services units (“PSUs”), Security Housing Units (“SHUs”), and condemned housing units. Dkt. No. 13 (“Am. Compl.”) at 3. The security/welfare checks are conducted every thirty minutes using the Guard One system, which involves a hand-held “pipe, ” a metal disc that is attached to each cell door, and a software program. Id. at 3 and 8. The officer conducting housing unit rounds is required to touch the end of the pipe to the disc on the cell door. Id. The pipe records the time and location of each security/welfare check. Id.

         On August 2, 2015, at 10:00 p.m., security/welfare checks commenced in PBSP SHU. Id. The security/welfare checks cause the following noises, which, according to Plaintiff, make it impossible for inmates, including Plaintiff, to sleep. Every thirty minutes an alarm sounds in the rotunda of each cell block to remind the floor correctional officers to conduct the security/welfare check. Am. Compl. at 7. To enter a pod, the floor correctional officer removes the large metal lock, which is attached to the pod door by a large metal chain; the removal causes a loud sound of metal hitting metal. Id. at 8. The tower booth correctional officer then remotely opens the pod door for the floor correctional officer, causing a loud mechanical sound as the pod door slams open. Id. When the correctional officer exits the pod, the pod door slams shut, causing an “extremely loud” sound. Id. at 9.

         The pipe makes a long banging sound when the metal pipe hits the metal disc. Am. Compl. at 8. This banging sound is even louder when correctional officers intentionally or lazily hit the disc harder than is necessary, and this sound echoes throughout the pods in each cellblock. Id. Sometimes correctional officers hit the buttons multiple times if they initially fail to make proper contact. Id.

         From 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., when the pipe makes contact with the disc, it emits a high-pitched piercing beep, which can be heard in neighboring blocks. Am. Compl. at 8. During the night hours, 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., the pipes do not emit sound when they make contact with the disc. Id. During the night hours, some correctional officers will shine a flashlight into each cell as they conduct the security/welfare check. Id. It takes correctional officers approximately ten to fifteen minutes to conduct security/welfare checks for each pod. Id. at 10.

         In conducting the security/welfare checks, correctional officers ascend and descend a thirteen-step metal staircase, causing a loud stomping sound as the correctional officers' boots make contact with the metal steps. Am. Compl. at 9. In addition, correctional officers carry a lot of equipment on their persons, such as keys, which loudly jingle as they walk throughout the pod. Id.

         Due to the design of PBSP SHU, sounds in each pod/cell block are amplified and sound as if they are happening inside or in front of an inmate's cell, regardless of where the sound is generated. Am. Compl. at 9. During the relevant time period Plaintiff could clearly hear all the noise generated by the security/welfare checks, including the sound of the five other pod doors in his block slamming open and closed; the noise generated by the pipe being deployed in other pods; and the opening and closing of his block's front door. Id.

         Prior to the security/welfare checks, the pod door opened and closed thirteen to fourteen times within a 24-hour period, and only four of those times at night. Am. Compl. at 10. Since the security/welfare checks commenced, the pod doors open and close forty-eight times a day, and correctional officers ascend and descend the stairs forty-eight more times than before. Id. at 9.

         During the relevant time period, the “excessive and loud noise” created by the security/welfare checks lasted for ten to fifteen minutes every half hour, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Am. Compl. at 10. The noise prevented Plaintiff from sleeping longer than thirty minutes, day or night, and caused him mental and physical suffering, including dizzy spells, severe headaches, body pains, depression, and stress. Am. Compl. at 10.

         Plaintiff has named as defendants the correctional officers who conducted the security/welfare checks in a manner that exacerbated the noise, such as by unnecessarily and intentionally hitting the metal disc harder than necessary, stomping up the stairs, letting their keys jingle loudly, flashing their flashlight in his face, and making the pod door open and close louder than normal. Am. Compl. at 11-13. Plaintiff has also named as defendants the correctional officers who reviewed and rejected his requests that ...

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