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Sahibi v. Gonzaes

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2017

BORJAS GONZAES, et al., Defendants.



         I. Procedural History

         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 Brandon Cope, Borjas Gonzales, Mario Lozano, Howard Smith, and Stan, and on a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendant Crounse.

         Before the Court is Defendant Crounse's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 92.) Plaintiff filed an opposition. (ECF No. 108.) Defendant filed a reply. (ECF No. 111.) The matter is submitted. Local Rule 230(l).

         II. Legal Standard

         The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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); Wash. Mut. Inc. v. United States, 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). “If undisputed evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner shows a failure to exhaust, a defendant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1166. If material facts are disputed, summary judgment should be denied, and the Court should decide disputed factual questions relevant to exhaustion “in the same manner a judge rather than a jury decides disputed factual questions relevant to jurisdiction and venue.” Id. at 1169-71.

         Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). In judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011).

         III. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiff's claims arise out of a July 13, 2013 incident at California Correctional Institution. Plaintiff claims that, on that date, he was released from his cell for Ramadan services when Defendant Gonzales began to make disparaging remarks toward him. An altercation occurred between Plaintiff and Defendant Gonzales. Plaintiff was subdued and handcuffed. Plaintiff alleges various acts by Defendant Gonzales and others during the encounter were excessive. Based on these allegations, the Court has permitted Plaintiff to proceed on an excessive force claim against Defendants Gonzales, Smith, Cope, Lozano and Stan. Such claim, however, is limited to Defendants' actions after Plaintiff was handcuffed.

         Plaintiff received a Rules Violation Report (“RVR”) in relation to this incident. On November 14, 2013, he appeared before Defendant Crounse for his disciplinary hearing. He asked Defendant Crounse to call Defendants Gonzales, Smith, Stan, Cope and Lozano as witnesses. He alleges Defendant Crounse stated that he would not be calling anyone “as staff reports gave a full account of the incident.” Plaintiff pointed out that Defendant Gonzales' report was missing and was critical as he was the primary officer. Plaintiff contends he was ignored and subsequently found guilty without being afforded a meaningful hearing. The Court has permitted him to proceed on a Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendant Crounse based on the denial of his right to call witnesses at his disciplinary hearing.

         IV. Analysis

         A. Due Process Claim

         1. Applicable Law Regarding Disciplinary Hearings

         The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from being deprived of liberty without due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). Under the due process clause, minimum procedural protections are required for prison disciplinary proceedings. These include: (1) written notice of the charges; (2) at least 24 hours between the time the prisoner receives written notice and the time of the hearing, so that the prisoner may prepare his defense; (3) a written statement by the fact finders of the evidence they rely on and reasons for taking disciplinary action; (4) the right of the prisoner to call witnesses in his defense, when permitting him to do so would not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals; and (5) legal assistance to the prisoner where the prisoner is illiterate or the issues presented are legally complex. Id. ...

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