United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
GONZALEZ ROGERS United States District Judge.
a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 filed by Plaintiff Lamont Puckett, a state
prisoner currently housed at the California Medical Facility
(“CMF”), alleging constitutional violations
during his previous incarceration at the Correctional
Training Facility (“CTF”). The operative
complaint is the amended complaint. He alleges that on March 11,
2015, Defendants CTF Plant Maintenance Mechanics Jamie
Cortes, J. Venegas, and A. Chavez violated his First
Amendment rights by authoring a false Serious Rules Violation
Report (“RVR”) and causing Plaintiff to be placed
into Administrative Segregation (“ad-seg”). Dkt.
14 at 7-10.Plaintiff claims that Defendants actions
were retaliatory because he had filed a grievance against
Defendant Cortes on April 10, 2014. Id. at 4, 7-8.
He seeks monetary and punitive damages.
Order dated April 3, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff's
amended complaint and determined that he stated a cognizable
First Amendment claim relating to Defendants based on the
Plaintiff claims that Defendants Cortes, Venegas, and Chavez
violated his First Amendment rights by “authoring a
false, untrue and fake Serious Rules Violation Report and
causing Plaintiff's immediate removal from the CTF
mainline and placed into, and rehoused in
‘Administrative Segregation, ' aka the
‘Hole.'” Plaintiff alleges that as a direct
result of Defendants' aforementioned actions, he was
initially placed and retained in Administrative Segregation
on or about August 2014. Plaintiff further claims that during
the disciplinary hearing on March 25, 2015, he was found
“NOT GUILTY” of the charges alleged in the
Serious Rules Violation Report. However, Plaintiff claims
that even after he was found to be not guilty, he remained in
Administrative Segregation and was later transferred to CMF.
Dkt. 12 at 3 (citations omitted). Plaintiff also alleged that
Defendants' aforementioned actions were in retaliation
for a previous grievance he filed against Defendant Cortes.
Dkt. 14 at 4, 7-8. The Court then directed the Clerk of the
Court to serve the amended complaint and issued a briefing
schedule for the served Defendants to file a dispositive
motion. See Dkt. 12 at 3-7.
parties are presently before the Court on Defendants'
dispositive motion. Dkt. 22. Defendants move this Court to
dismiss Plaintiff's claim against Defendants Chavez,
Cortes, and Venegas, for failure to state a claim that
Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment.
Id. at 6-7. Defendants also move for summary
judgment on Plaintiff's First Amendment claim against all
named Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff has failed to
exhaust administrative remedies, as required by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Id.
Plaintiff has filed an opposition to Defendants' motion
for summary judgment. Dkt. 30. Defendants have filed a reply
to Plaintiff's opposition. Dkt. 32. Plaintiff has also
filed a surreply. Dkt. 35.
read and considered the papers submitted in connection with
this matter, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants'
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
central issue presented in Defendants' motion for summary
judgment is whether Plaintiff properly exhausted his
administrative remedies as to his First Amendment claim.
Before turning to the facts of this case, the Court briefly
reviews the requirements of the PLRA and administrative
review process applicable to California prisoners.
PLRA requires a prisoner to exhaust all “available
administrative remedies” before bringing an action with
respect to prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
“[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all
inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general
circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege
excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).
of all “available” remedies is mandatory; those
remedies neither need to meet federal standards, nor must
they be “plain, speedy, and effective.” Booth
v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739-40 (2001). The PLRA
requires proper exhaustion of administrative
remedies. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83 (2006).
“Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an
agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules
because no adjudicative system can function effectively
without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its
proceedings.” Id. at 90-91. Thus, compliance
with prison grievance procedures is required by the PLRA to
exhaust properly. Id.
CDCR provides its inmates and parolees the right to appeal
administratively “any departmental decision, action,
condition, or policy which they can demonstrate as having an
adverse effect upon their welfare.” Cal. Code Regs.
tit. 15, § 3084.1(a). It also provides its inmates the
right to file administrative appeals alleging misconduct by
correctional officers. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §
3084.1(e). On January 28, 2011, certain revisions to the
California prison regulations governing inmate grievances
became operative. See History, Note 11, Cal. Code
Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2. In order to exhaust all
available administrative remedies within this system, a
prisoner must submit his complaint on CDCR Form 602
(“602 appeal”) and proceed through three levels
of appeal: (1) first formal level appeal filed with one of
the institution's appeal coordinators, (2) second formal
level appeal filed with the institution head or designee, and
(3) third formal level appeal filed with the CDCR director or
designee (i.e., “Director's level” or
“Secretary's level”). Cal. Code Regs. tit.
15, §§ 3084.1(b), 3084.7. Under specific
circumstances, the first level of review may be bypassed, and
the 602 appeal is forwarded directly to the second level of
review (“SLR”). Id. The third level of
review (“TLR”) constitutes the decision of the
Secretary of the CDCR and exhausts a prisoner's
administrative remedies. Id. § 3084.7(d)(3). A
California prisoner is required to submit an inmate appeal at
the appropriate level and proceed to the highest level of
review available to him. Butler v. Adams, 397 F.3d
1181, 1183 (9th Cir. 2005).
level of detail in an administrative grievance necessary to
exhaust a claim properly is determined by the prison's
applicable grievance procedures. Jones v. Bock, 549
U.S. 199, 218 (2007). The level of specificity required in
the appeal is described in the California Code of Regulations
The inmate or parolee shall list all staff member(s) involved
and shall describe their involvement in the issue. To assist
in the identification of staff members, the inmate or parolee
shall include the staff member's last name, first
initial, title or position, if known, and the dates of the
staff member's involvement in the issue under appeal.
Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.2(a)(3) (emphasis
added). The initial grievance must be filed within 30
calendar days of the action or event being protested, and
inmates must seek review at each successive level within 30
calendar days of receiving an adverse decision at a lower
level. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.8(b)(1). The
appeals coordinator can reject or “screen out” an
appeal for various reasons, including failure to comply with
the time limit, omission of necessary supporting documents,
or duplication of a previous appeal. Id. §
3084.3(c). When the grievance is not rejected or screened
out, the inmate must pursue the grievance through each level
of review to exhaust remedies. Id. § 3084.5. A
“cancellation or rejection” of an appeal
“does not exhaust administrative remedies.”
Id. § 3084.1(b).
Plaintiff's Cognizable First Amendment Claim
mentioned above, Plaintiff claims in his amended complaint
that Defendants Chavez, Cortes, and Venegas “author[ed]
a false, untrue and fake Serious [RVR]” on March 11,
2015. Dkt. 14 at 9-10. Plaintiff claims that Defendants
retaliated against him for filing an unrelated 602 appeal
against Defendant Cortes on April 10, 2014. Id. at
4, 7-8. Plaintiff alleges that as a direct result of
Defendants' aforementioned actions, he was initially
placed and retained in ad-seg on or about August 2014.
Id. at 5-8. Plaintiff further claims that during the
disciplinary hearing on March 25, 2015, he was found
“NOT GUILTY” of the charges alleged in the
Serious RVR. Id. at 8-9. However, Plaintiff claims
that even after he was found to be not guilty, he remained in
ad-seg and was later transferred to CMF. Id. at 9.
Court found that, liberally construed, Plaintiff's
allegations satisfied the pleading requirements for a First
Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants Chavez,
Cortes, and Venegas.
Plaintiff's Administrative Appeals
have submitted evidence that there are three administrative
appeals that Plaintiff submitted to the Office of Appeals
(“OOA”),  all of which were accepted by, and
received a decision from, the OOA. Voong Decl. ¶ 6, Ex.
A. These administrative appeals include log nos.
MCSP-00-02301, CTF-14-00708, and CTF-14-02081. Id.
these three administrative appeals, the record shows that
Plaintiff did not exhaust any other appeals at the OOA after
the third aforementioned appeal (CTF-14-02081) was denied on
October 1, 2014. Id. The record also shows that
Plaintiff submitted two other administrative appeals, log
nos. CTF-15-00612 and CTF-15-00471, which were both
cancelled. Id., Ex. F. The Court elaborates on these
aforementioned relevant administrative appeals below. appeal
was denied at the TLR. Id.
Administrative Appeal Log No. MCSP-00-02301
September 12, 2000, Plaintiff submitted MCSP-00-02301while he
was incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison
(“MCSP”). Id., Ex. B. Therein, he alleged that a
correctional officer at MCSP conducted a cell search and
confiscated some legal documents. Id. On August 3,
2001, the appeal was denied at the TLR. Id.
Administrative Appeal Log No. CTF-14-00708
April 10, 2014, Plaintiff submitted CTF-14-00708, in which he
complained that on March 22, 2014, Defendant Cortes made
“totally inappropriate and unprovoked” comments
toward Plaintiff. Id., Ex. C. Specifically,
Plaintiff claimed that he was drinking coffee during a break
from working at the CTF Engineer Shop, and Defendant Cortes
walked by and said: “You want some cream for that
coffee, that coffee tastes like d--k huh?” Id.
Plaintiff added that Defendant Cortes has displayed a
“consistent pattern” of “entering the
engineer shop [and] making vile and unprofessional comments .
. . .” Id. On October 1, 2014, the appeal was
denied at the TLR. Id.
Administrative Appeal Log No. CTF-14-02081
November 18, 2014, Plaintiff submitted CTF-14-02081, in which
he complained that Defendant Venegas was retaliating against
him for filing an appeal against Defendant Cortes.
Id., Ex. D. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that on
August 21, 2014, Defendant Venegas asked him if he was going
to “drop his 602 on J. Cortez . . . .”
Id. Plaintiff replied, “You have no right
asking that question.” Id. From August 21,
2014 to November 18, 2014 (the date CTF-14-00708 was filed),
Plaintiff claimed that Defendant Venegas “ha[d] been
aggressively trying to argue and provoke [him],
unprofessionally calling [him] out . . . .”
appeal was bypassed at the first level of review.
December 2, 2014, CTF-14-02081 was marked as “ACCEPTED
at the SLR on that date. Id.
January 12, 2015, CTF-14-02081 was partially granted at the
SLR. Id. On January 2, 2015, Plaintiff was
sent a letter from the interviewer, CTF Correctional Plant
Manager (“CPM”) B. Homsany, and CTF Hiring
Authority B. Raso, entitled “STAFF COMPLAINT RESPONSE -
APPEAL #CTF-S--0281 SECOND LEVEL RESPONSE, ”
You were interviewed on December 17, 2015 by Anthony Wagner.
In addition you were also interviewed by Bill Homsany on
January 2, 2015 and you stated that Stationary Engineer
Venegas has been retaliating against you regarding your
complaint you filed with employee J. Cortes. You also
indicated that there has been some racial discrimination by
Mr. Venegas for some time.
An Appeal Inquiry has been conducted and reviewed by
the hiring authority.
The following individuals were interviewed: Correctional
Officer D. Duran and Stationary Engineer A. Chavez. As a
result of your staff misconduct allegation the following
information was reviewed: Appeal Log # CTF-S-14-02081. Staff
did violate CDCR policy with the issues raised.
An Appeal Inquiry into your allegation has been/is being
ALL STAFF PERSONNEL MATTERS ARE CONFIDENTIAL IN
NATURE. As such the details of any inquiry or
investigation will not be shared by staff, members of the
public, or offender appellants. Although you have a right to
submit a staff complaint, a request for administrative action
regarding staff or the placement of documentation in a staff
member's personnel file is beyond the scope of the staff
complaint process. Allegations of staff misconduct do not
limit or restrict the availability of further relief via the
inmate appeals process.
Id., Ex. F. At the bottom of the letter, there are
further instructions, stating:
If you wish to appeal the decision, you must submit your
staff complaint appeal through all levels of appeal review up
to, and including, the Secretary's Level of Review. Once
a decision has been rendered at the Third Level, your
administrative remedies will be considered exhausted.
Id. Dissatisfied with the second level
response, Plaintiff submitted his appeal to the TLR on
February 8, 2015, stating as follows:
I am not satisfied as the 2nd level response states: An
Appeal Inquiry into your allegation has been/is being
conducted. Therefore, I do not know if this appeal is
complete or Investigation is continuing. I am appealing to
[the] 3rd level to exhaust administrative remedies in order
to file a tort with [the] Court for punitive damages.
Id., Ex. D.
April 27, 2015, Plaintiff's appeal was denied at the TLR,
which stated as follows:
Upon review of the documentation submitted, the Third Level
of Review (TLR) finds that the appellant's allegations
were appropriately reviewed and evaluated by the
administrative staff. The TLR notes that all staff personnel
matters are confidential in nature and will not be disclosed
to other staff, the inmate population, the general public, or
the appellant. The appellant was informed that if the conduct
of staff was determined to not be in compliance with policy,
the institution would take the appropriate course of action.
In this case, the SLR informed the appellant that an inquiry
was completed and disclosed the determination of the inquiry
to the appellant. The TLR reviewed the confidential inquiry
and concurs with the determination of the SLR. The TLR notes
that, while appellant has the right to submit an appeal as a
staff complaint, requests for: administrative action
regarding staff; the placements of documentation in a staff
member's personnel file; to reprimand staff; to remove
staff from a position; and/or requests for monetary
compensation are beyond the scope of the appeals process. The
TLR finds the institution's response complies with
departmental policy. Therefore, no further relief shall be
afforded at the TLR.
Id., Ex. D.
Administrative Appeal Log No. CTF-15-00471
March 9, 2015, Plaintiff submitted CTF-15-00471, in which he
complained that CPM Homsany and Correctional Plant Supervisor
(“CPS”) A. Wagner failed to act when he appraised
them in November and December 2014 of a “threat”
made by Defendant Venegas. Id., Ex. F. Plaintiff was
told to “find another job” because all Defendant
Venegas had to do was say he was “afraid or threatend
[sic] by [Plaintiff] and they will transfer [Plaintiff] in a
blink of [an] eye [with] no questions.” Id.
Plaintiff then attached documentation showing that on March
4, 2015, he was issued an RVR for threatening staff.
Id. Plaintiff denied threatening Defendant Venegas.