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Sahibi v. Gonzales

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 23, 2017

BORJAS GONZALES, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983. The action proceeds on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendants Cope, Gonzales, Lozano, Smith, and Stane, and on a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendant Crounse.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's May 5, 2017 motion seeking disclosure of an unredacted inmate housing roster. (ECF No. 109.) Defendants filed an opposition. (ECF No. 113.) Plaintiff filed a reply. (ECF No. 118.) In addition, the Court ordered Defendants to submit the unredacted roster to the Court in camera. (ECF Nos. 115, 117.) The matter is submitted. Local Rule 230(l).

         I. Basis for Plaintiff's Motion

         On April 5, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion to compel. (ECF No. 102.) Therein, the Court ruled, in relevant part, as follows:

Request No. 30 seeks the inmate housing roster for Plaintiff's housing unit for the date of the incident at issue in this case. Defendants objected to this request on grounds of confidentiality, safety and security, and third party privacy. The declaration submitted by Defendants in support of their privilege log addressed only the defendant officers' confidential information; it articulated no basis for withholding the inmate housing roster. In their opposition to the motion to compel, Defendants cite only to generalized concerns regarding the release of confidential inmate information to other inmates.
This declaration is insufficient to support Defendants' claim of privilege. Additionally, the only asserted basis for maintaining the confidentially of these documents is state law concerning confidentiality and privacy. The Court finds these justifications unpersuasive grounds for withholding discovery. Moreover, the Court concludes that a roster of inmates housed on Plaintiff's unit at the time the incident occurred may be relevant and necessary for the identification of potential inmate witnesses. There appears to be no alternative means available to Plaintiff to obtain this information. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the housing roster must be produced to Plaintiff.
However, to the extent the roster contains confidential inmate information beyond the inmate's first initial, last name, and CDCR number, such information may be redacted, without prejudice to Plaintiff seeking disclosure of the redacted information upon a showing of good cause.

(ECF No. 102 at 5.)

         Defendants redacted the inmates' cell numbers from the housing roster and provided the roster to Plaintiff. (See ECF Nos. 109, 113.) Plaintiff now moves for disclosure of the cell numbers on the ground that he is unable to identify the inmate witnesses he is trying to locate. Plaintiff states that he knows only where the inmates lived, not their names or CDCR numbers. (ECF No. 109.) Thus, a list of names and CDCR numbers is of essentially no use.

         Defendants contend that their redaction of the cell numbers is in compliance with the Court's order which, according to Defendants, allowed them to redact “confidential information.” (ECF No. 113 at 1.) Defendants also contend that release of cell numbers to Plaintiff will jeopardize institutional safety and security. More specifically, the cell numbers will allow Plaintiff, a known member of a security threat group, to identify individuals that did not assist him during the excessive force incident, and to then retaliate against those individuals. Defendants submit a declaration in support of withholding cell numbers based on these concerns.

         Plaintiff claims that, without the cell information, he will be unable to identify the witnesses and thus is unable to subpoena them for trial. Plaintiff also states that Defendants' security concerns are without merit. First, Plaintiff contends that some of the inmates he seeks are of a different race and/or were in their cells at the time of the incident. Thus, they could not or would not have come to his aid. Second, Plaintiff points out that two fellow inmates were in the vicinity of the incident and did not come to his aid. These inmates were identified in incident reports provided to Plaintiff and they also were his co-defendants in a criminal trial arising out of this incident. However, in the four years since the incident occurred, these two inmates have not been subject to any reprisals for failing to assist Plaintiff. (ECF No. 118.)

         II. Discussion

         The Court begins by noting that Defendants' redaction of inmate cell numbers is not in compliance with the Court's order on the motion to compel. The Court allowed Defendants to redact “confidential inmate information, ” not whatever information the Defendants considered confidential. Indeed, the Court expressly rejected Defendants' general assertions with regard to confidentiality. Although “confidential inmate information” was not defined ...

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