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Grizzle v. County of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 8, 2017

COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO et al., Defendants.




         Elliot Scott Grizzle (“Plaintiff”) is currently a state prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, who has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights during his incarceration as a pretrial detainee at San Diego County Jail. (Doc. 1.) Presently before the Court is select Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 55.)

         The Honorable Janis L. Sammartino has referred the matter to the undersigned Judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 72.1(c)(1)(d). After a thorough review of the pleadings and supporting documents, this Court recommends the motion to dismiss be GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND [1]

         At the time of filing his complaint, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the San Diego County Jail (“SDCJ”). (Doc. 1 at 10.) Upon his arrival at SDCJ on August 3, 2016, Plaintiff was immediately and inexplicably placed into administrative segregation.[2] (Doc. 1 at 11.) While being escorted to administrative segregation, Plaintiff asked the escorting officers why he was being placed into administrative segregation when during his previous incarceration, he had been housed in the general population. (Id.) The escorting officers did not know, and directed Plaintiff to file such an inquiry through an inmate request directed to “classification.” (Id.) On August 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed the inmate request as directed, giving the request to an SDCJ staff member during a mail pickup, but Plaintiff's request was never answered by “classification.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims he has suffered multiple harms as a result of his placement in administrative segregation. Plaintiff argues that due to the San Diego County Jail's daily schedule in the administrative segregation unit, Plaintiff has suffered from severe sleep deprivation, which has led to a slew of other physical and psychological issues. (Id. at 13.) In administrative segregation, televisions are turned on at 7 a.m. and set to a high volume. (Id. at 12.) Televisions remain on until 9:45 p.m. during the week and 10:45 p.m. on the weekends. (Id. at 11) After the televisions are turned off for the night, however, the lights still remain on a bright setting. (Id.) At 11:00 p.m., a count is done, requiring Plaintiff to get out of bed and to the cell door to show the SDCJ floor deputy doing the count an identifying wristband. (Id. at 12.) Following the 11:00 p.m. count, at 12:00 a.m., razors are passed out to inmates and picked up one hour later. (Id.) Plaintiff notes that the distribution and collection of razors is disruptively loud because the razors are passed through the slots in the cell doors. (Id.) Both the sliding of the slots in the cell door and the razor dropping from the slot to the floor on the other side of the door create cacophonic noises which disrupt the night. (Id.) Finally, after razors are collected at about 1:00 a.m., the lights are turned from a bright to a dim setting. (Id.)

         In the dim cell lights, those in administrative segregation are allowed their allotted time in the yard, which is an indoor room with no access to the outdoors or sunlight. (Id.) Those in administrative segregation may exercise or otherwise use the yard from 1:00 a.m. to about 3:30 a.m., forcing Plaintiff and other inmates and pretrial detainees in administrative segregation to choose between going to the yard during this time or taking advantage of the dimmed lights and sleeping. (Id.) At 3:30 a.m., after yard, another count is performed, again requiring inmates to get out of bed and to the cell door to show the deputy an identifying wristband. (Id.) This particular count requires potentially sleeping administrative segregation occupants to wake up. (Id.) During this count, the lights are turned to their bright setting once again. (Id.) Inmates are then served breakfast between 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. (Id.) After breakfast, the lights are dimmed until 7:00 a.m., at which time the televisions are turned back on and set to the same loud volume. (Id.)

         This daily schedule results in inmates and pretrial detainees, including Plaintiff, only being given the opportunity to sleep twice with the lights dimmed for two and a half hours each time. (Id.) However, one of those increments is during the yard time, so the inmate must forego the yard time in order to take advantage of the full five hours of dim lighting per night to sleep.

         Plaintiff began experiencing sleep deprivation within one week of his arrival. (Id. at 13.) This led to a multitude of other physical conditions, including headaches, muscle aches, inability to focus and think clearly, eye pain, high blood pressure, a lowered immune system, and severe lethargy and fatigue. (Id.) This sleep deprivation also had psychological effects. Shortly after arriving, Plaintiff began experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety due to the lack of sleep. (Id.)

         Almost immediately, Plaintiff began filing inmate grievance forms objecting to his placement in administrative segregation. (Id.) Plaintiff filed four total grievances. (Id. at 13, 16.) The grievance form has a place for a floor deputy's signature.[3] The first two of these forms were not signed by a floor deputy, but were delivered on Plaintiff's behalf. (Id. at 13.) The third grievance form was signed by Deputy Martinez on March 30, 2017, before it was delivered on Plaintiff's behalf and the fourth grievance form was signed by Deputy Garcia on April 14, 2017 before being similarly delivered. (Id. at 16.) During this time, Plaintiff also wrote a letter to Sheriff William Gore regarding Plaintiff's complaints. (Id. at 15.)

         Plaintiff now brings three causes of action based on the above set of facts. First, Plaintiff claims his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated when Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation without any notice, and then was denied an opportunity to be heard regarding this placement, despite his explicit request for notice and such a hearing. (Id. at 17.) Second, Plaintiff claims his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment has been violated by the schedule followed at SDCJ, causing Plaintiff's sleep deprivation. (Id.) Third and finally, Plaintiff claims his Eighth Amendment protection has also been violated both by the yard time being relegated to a sunless indoor room and the only time use of the room is allowed requiring Plaintiff to choose exercise or sleep in the dimmed lights. (Id. at 18.) Plaintiff requests damages and declarative relief. (Id. at 9.)

         Plaintiff has named 51 defendants in his complaint, including San Diego County, Sheriff William Gore, and various lieutenants, sergeants, corporals, and deputies who work at SDCJ and Plaintiff personally spoke to. (Id. at 3.) To date, not all of the defendants have been served. Those who have been served and have joined in the motion to dismiss before this Court are: William Gore, Carl Brewer, Thomas Camillieri, Benjamin Cole, Cristian Davila, Matthew Ellsworth, Gregory Epps, Eric Froistad, Jeremy Hepler, Edgar Huerta, Jesse Johns, Lena Lovelace, Ryan Lovelace, Nathan McKemy, Francis Mondragon, Jin Moon, Joseph Navarro, Patrick Newlander, Anthony Oliver, Christopher Olsen, Christopher Simms, Karl Warren, Anthony White, Kevin Kamoss, Jeffrey Wiliams, Harvey Seeley, Nicolai Ramos, Anthony Gallegos, Frank Bass, and Steven Cerda. (Collectively “Moving Defendants.”) Additionally, San Diego County and Deputies Agnew, Stratton, and Zepeda have been served, but have not joined in this motion to dismiss.[4]


         Moving Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the following grounds: (1) Plaintiff's housing in administrative segregation does not implicate due process protections, (2) Plaintiff's alleged inability to sleep and the timing of his recreation are insufficient to implicate the Eighth Amendment, and (3) the complaint fails to state any factually plausible claim for personal liability against the numerous defendants. (Doc. 55-1.)

         A. Legal Standard on Motion to Dismiss

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must accept all allegations of material fact pleaded in the complaint as true. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The Court must also construe the allegations in favor of the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, rather, it must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955) (internal quotations omitted).

         “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (alteration in original)). A court need not accept “legal conclusions” as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. “[T]o be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Despite the deference the court must pay to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that “the [plaintiff] can prove ...

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