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Hardy v. Sisson

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 7, 2017

KRISTIN HARDY, Plaintiff,
v.
D. SISSON, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          CRAIG M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 50), plaintiff's opposition thereto (Doc. 60), and defendant's reply brief (Doc. 62).

         I.BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         This action proceeds on plaintiff's second amended complaint (Doc. 22) against defendant Sisson, in his official capacity, on the claim that defendant Sisson violated plaintiff's Due Process rights during a prison disciplinary proceeding. Plaintiff alleges defendant Sisson arbitrarily refused to allow plaintiff to question his witness. All other defendants and claims have been dismissed. Defendant moves for summary judgment arguing: 1) plaintiff's official capacity claim fails as a matter of law; 2) plaintiff fails to state a claim for injunctive relief; 3) and plaintiff's due process rights were not violated.

         B. Defendant's Evidence

         Defendant has submitted a statement of undisputed facts in support of the motion for summary judgment. The statement of undisputed facts is supported by defendant Sisson's declaration and defendant's responses to plaintiff's interrogatories. Defendant also provided a copy of the Rules Violation Report, plaintiff's Institutional Classification Committee decision, plaintiff's inmate grievance with decisions, and a declaration of records by the prison litigation coordinator authenticating the records provided.

         The relevant evidence defendant has submitted is summarized as follows:

• At the time relevant to this action, defendant Sisson was a correctional lieutenant employed by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) at High Desert State Prison (HDSP);
• While housed at Pleasant Valley State Prison, plaintiff was issued a prison rules violation report (RVR) for battery on an inmate. According to the RVR, on August 15, 2011, while administering the morning medication, Licensed Vocational Nurse Hernandez was approached by Inmate Sams for his medication. Inmate Sams was holding a towel to the right side of his face. Nurse Hernandez asked Sams what happened and Sams stated that Hardy [plaintiff] hit him in the middle of the night. Sams removed the towel from his face to reveal swelling to the right jaw and a cut next to his right eye. Nurse Hernandez notified Correctional Officer Hernandez of Sams' injures, who in turn notified Correctional Sergeant Mendez of the incident.
• On September 16, 2011, plaintiff was found guilty of battery on an inmate by Senior Hearing Officer Perry.
• As a result of the RVR findings, plaintiff was placed in a Security Housing Unit (SHU) from August 15, 2011 until October 20, 2011.
• Plaintiff successfully appealed the disciplinary findings through the administrative grievance process. As a result, the RVR was vacated, the lost credits were restored, and the disciplinary was ordered reissued and reheard.
• The RVR was reissued, and on February 2, 2012, it was reheard by Senior Hearing Officer Dotson. Dotson found plaintiff guilty of the charge.
• Plaintiff again successfully appealed the disciplinary findings through the administrative grievance process. The third level decision ordered the rules violation reissued and reheard finding the senior hearing officer could not deny plaintiff's request to have the reporting employee present.
• On April 1, 2012, plaintiff was transferred to HDSP.
• On October 16, 2012, plaintiff appeared before defendant Sisson for a second rehearing of the RVR.
• Plaintiff plead not guilty to the prison disciplinary charge, and submitted a written statement in his defense. Plaintiff claimed he was not guilty because there was a lack of visual evidence; a lack of investigation; a lack of witness credibility; no marks, cuts or scratches on plaintiff's hands consistent with a battery; he made no admission of committing the battery; and the reporting employee was not sure if plaintiff committed the battery.
• Plaintiff requested three witnesses at the hearing: the reporting employee, Nurse C. Hernandez, Correctional Sergeant J. Mendez, and Correctional Officer J. Hernandez. Because plaintiff had been transferred to HDSP, the witnesses would be questioned by telephone.
• Plaintiff had an investigative employee (IE) assigned to assist him.
Plaintiff asked questions of these three staff members through the IE, who documented their responses in the IE report.
• According to the IE report, plaintiff asked Officer Hernandez and Sergeant Mendez the same two questions: 1) if they witnessed plaintiff commit a battery on Sams, and 2) if plaintiff admitted to them that he committed a battery on Sams. Both witnesses answered “no” to the questions. Plaintiff also asked six questions of the reporting employee, Nurse Hernandez. Plaintiff asked her 1) if she visually witnessed plaintiff commit a battery on inmate Sams, to which she replied, “no;” 2) if she observed plaintiff at all while she was administering the morning medication, to which she replied, “Yes he was looking out of the cell;” 3) whether plaintiff admitted to her that he battered Sams, to which she replied, “I didn't ask him;” 4) whether she noticed any blood on him when she competed a 7219 report, to which she replied, “I don't recall;” 5) whether there were any marks, cuts, or scrapes on plaintiff's hands and knuckles ...

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