United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner who, represented by counsel, brings this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed the
immediate complaint through his counsel on December 7, 2015.
ECF No. 1. Defendants have filed a motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 27), plaintiff has responded (ECF No. 29),
and defendants have replied (ECF No. 30). On April 26, 2017,
the court held a hearing on the motion. For the reasons
stated hereafter, the court recommends that defendants'
motion be granted.
states that, prior to his incarceration, he was a federal
prosecutor. ECF No. 1 at 1. The complaint does not specify
what division of the federal government plaintiff worked in,
but documents attached to his opposition indicate that he
worked for the Federal Trade Commission. ECF No. 29-2 at
4. Plaintiff claims that, as a result of his former position
as a “prosecutor, ” other inmates have made
“physical attacks and attempts on his life.” ECF
No. 1 at 3. The complaint only describes one such attack in
any appreciable detail.
states that, on March 30, 1997, he was in the Pleasant Valley
State Prison (“PVSP”) day room with approximately
one-hundred and fifty other inmates. Id. at 3. He
claims that “the mass media” had already
identified him as a former prosecutor and, as a consequence,
an inmate named Shelton attempted to murder him by slitting
his jugular vein. Id. Plaintiff was treated for his
injury and, on May 23, 1997, was transferred to California
Men's Colony- East (“CMCE”). Id. at
arrival at CMCE, plaintiff claims to have reached a
“mutual understanding” with Associate Warden Ted
McAlister (who is not a party to this suit). Id.
Plaintiff states he offered not to take legal action against
the California Department of Corrections (“CDCR”)
for failing to protect him from the 1997 attack at PVSP if,
in exchange, McAlister would protect him from further attack
by assigning him to a single-man cell. Id. The
complaint provides that this “mutual
understanding” was entirely verbal and never committed
to writing. Id. Plaintiff recounts that he was
brought to McAlister's office shortly after arriving at
CMCE. Id. McAlister purportedly asked after
Plaintiff's litigative intentions by inquiring “Are
you going to do your Ralph Nader thing?” Id.
Plaintiff states that he responded by saying “Let me
relieve you of those concerns. I want to do my time as safely
as possible. I want to stay here at CMC-East. So, if you
leave me alone, I'll leave you alone.” Id.
At this, McAlister allegedly pounded his desk
enthusiastically and said “Done!” Id.
The complaint does not provide what specific terms, if any,
this verbal agreement was construed to contain. Notably
absent are specific terms as to how plaintiff was to be
‘left alone', how long he was to be ‘left
alone', and whether this agreement was intended to extend
beyond McAlister's jurisdiction at CMCE.
states that he was housed to his satisfaction in a single-man
cell at CMCE until, on an unspecified date, the CDCR lowered
his inmate designation from Level III to Level II.
Id. After this change of status, he was transferred
to the California Health Care Facility (“CHCF”),
where defendant Brian Duffy acted as warden. Id. at
2, 4. On October 6, 2015 and, while incarcerated at CHCF,
plaintiff's request for an “S-Suffix” or
single-man cell designation was denied. Id. at 3.
on the foregoing facts, plaintiff's complaint raises two
claims. First, he alleges that defendants violated his Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendment rights by declining to grant him
single-man cell designation. Id. at 6. He claims
that his assignment to a double cell or dormitory places him
“under conditions posing a risk of harm.”
Id. Second, he alleges that defendants violated his
due process rights by failing to honor the “mutual
agreement” he reached with Warden McAlister at CMCE.
terms of relief, plaintiff requests a permanent injunction
which provides that: (1) defendants are prohibited from
transferring plaintiff to a double cell or dormitory housing;
(2) defendants are prohibited from placing plaintiff in a
dangerous prison population setting; (3) defendants shall
exercise their administrative authority to code plaintiff as
a single-cell (“S” suffix) inmate; and (4)
defendants shall continue adhering to the agreement struck
with Warden McAlister. ECF No. 1 at 8. Plaintiff also
requests reasonable attorney fees and costs pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1988 and any other relief the court deems just.
Applicable Legal Standards
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate when there is “no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which
the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the
determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is
insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in
favor of the nonmovant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523
U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle
Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468,
1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion
asks whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement
to require submission to a jury.
principal purpose of Rule 56 is to isolate and dispose of
factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thus, the rule
functions to “‘pierce the pleadings and to assess
the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for
trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963
amendments). Procedurally, under summary judgment practice,
the moving party bears the initial responsibility of
presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those
portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any,
that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir.
2001) (en banc). If the moving party meets its burden with a
properly supported motion, the burden then shifts to the
opposing party to present specific facts that show there is a
genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e);
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Auvil v. CBS
“60 Minutes”, 67 F.3d 816, 819 (9th Cir.
focus on where the burden of proof lies as to the factual
issue in question is crucial to summary judgment procedures.
Depending on which party bears that burden, the party seeking
summary judgment does not necessarily need to submit any
evidence of its own. When the opposing party would have the
burden of proof on a dispositive issue at trial, the moving
party need not produce evidence which negates the
opponent's claim. See, e.g., Lujan v. National
Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990). Rather,
the moving party need only point to matters which demonstrate
the absence of a genuine material factual issue. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24 (“[W]here the
nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a
dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be
made in reliance solely on the ‘pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file.'”). Indeed, summary judgment should be
entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on ...