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Haraszewski v. Knipp

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 27, 2018

KNIPP, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges defendants retaliated against him, interfered with his mail, placed him in segregation as a punitive measure, and deprived him of his property. On December 2017, this court issued an Order and Findings and Recommendations granting plaintiff's motion to amend his third amended complaint and recommending dismissal of a number of clams. Plaintiff filed objections. He argues that he has alleged a claim for deprivation of property. Upon review of the objections, and for the reasons set forth below, this court finds plaintiff has a potentially cognizable claim on that basis. Accordingly, to clarify the record, the court will vacate both its November 7, 2017 Order and its December 28, 2017 Order and Findings and Recommendations and replace them with this Amended Order and Findings and Recommendations.

         The court considers here plaintiff's third amended complaint for screening and his motion to amend the third amended complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds plaintiff has stated potentially cognizable claims against some defendants, recommends dismissal of other claims and defendants, and orders service of the third amended complaint.

         I. Allegations of the Third Amended Complaint[1]

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison (“MCSP”) and his allegations involve conduct occurring there. Plaintiff identifies the following defendants: Ray Garcia, Mailroom Supervisor; D. Casagrande, Mailroom Supervisor; J. Dowdy, Mailroom Supervisor; T. Reece, mailroom employee; K. Sherlock, mailroom employee; B. Alkire, “CSR;” J. Lizarraga, “CDW (A) Chairperson;” P. Vanni, “AW;” Lieutenant Austin; Sergeant Sepulveda; and five unnamed defendants identified by plaintiff as “Yard Officer A;” “Yard Officer B;” “ISU Officer 1;” “ISU Sergeant 2;” and “ISU Lieutenant 3.” (ECF No. 42 at 1.)

         Plaintiff states that he is alleging four claims: (1) punitive segregation; (2) taking property as punishment; (3) threats of violence in retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights; and (4) mail tampering. First, plaintiff contends that on November 26, 2011 he was removed from his cell by “Officers A & B, ” whose names he does not recall. (ECF No. 42 at 3.) Those officers also removed a large bag of papers, books, and photos. The officers then processed plaintiff for placement in segregated housing. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff was told to sign a 114D “placement notice.” He refused to sign it because it stated only that he was being investigated as a “threat to the safety and security” of the prison due to his possession of “harassing materials.” (Id.) He had three formal hearings, one interrogation, and two informal discussions with Captain Harrington, but no one has provided an explanation for his placement in segregation. Plaintiff contends Captain Harrington admitted to him that the 114D form did not provide sufficient reasons for his placement in segregated housing. Plaintiff quotes a document dated December 14, 2011 and signed by “B. Alkire.” The document states that the 114D “does not provide sufficient information to the inmate to afford him the opportunity to present a defense . . . . the action of 12-1-11 indicates the inmates is being retained in ASU pending an investigation, however does not clearly document or identify the reason for the investigation and fails to provide justification for continued ASU placement. A new CDC 114D should be issued to document the current and correct reasons for retention in ASU.” (Id.) Plaintiff states that he never received a new 114D. He was released from segregation on December 31, 2011.

         Plaintiff states that he believes defendant Sergeant Sepulveda ordered the confiscation of his property. He believes defendant Lieutenant Austin, who signed the “lock-up order, ” is responsible for his segregation but he does not know where Austin may have gotten information that provided a basis for the segregation. (Id. at 5-6.)

         Plaintiff further states that defendants Alkire, Vanni, and Lizarraga “would seem to know a lot as well” because their names “appear on classification documents that confirm a lack of evidence for keeping me segregated.” (Id. at 5.)

         He contends three ISU officers threatened him during the November 29, 2011 interrogation while he was in segregation. They told plaintiff that if he did not stop complaining about the seizure of his property and his segregation, he would experience “police harassment” and would be transferred to a “real prison, where people like you get their teeth knocked out every day.” (Id. at 7.)

         Thereafter, plaintiff spent several months attempting to have his seized property returned. (Id. at 6.) In April 2012, one of the three ISU officers who had interrogated him in November and defendant Sepulveda confronted him about his requests. The ISU officer told plaintiff to “stop sending fucking paperwork, ” that plaintiff had already received his property, and “snarl[ed] ‘I already gave you your shit back and now I told you to get the fuck out, and I won't tell you again.'” (Id.) Plaintiff states that he had only received three pages of the hundreds of pages of documents seized. However, because he feared retaliation from the ISU officer, he stopped trying to get his other property returned. (Id. at 6-7.)

         Plaintiff finally contends he has been subjected to tampering and withholding of his mail over the last several years. First, he contends the habeas corpus petition he mailed when he was in segregated housing on December 11, 2011, was not mailed to the court until August 2012. (ECF No. 42 at 8.) He also contends that he put nine other letters out for mailing on December 11, 2011 and none of them were placed in the mail until August 2012. Plaintiff states that defendant Ray Garcia, the mailroom supervisor at the time, was responsible. He also states that it is “likely that other staff” were involved. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims that 40% of his mail has been affected in various ways over “half a decade.” (ECF No. 42 at 9.) He specifically identifies a batch of seven letters he received on July 12, 2017, some of which had been sent up to sixteen days prior. He also identifies two books he was sent as Christmas gifts in 2013 that he never received. (Id.) Plaintiff specifically identifies: (1) defendant Garcia as responsible for failing to mail the ten letters when plaintiff was in segregation in December 2011; (2) defendants Garcia and Reese for failing to deliver numerous magazines and letters, improperly opening his mail outside his presence, and delaying both incoming and outgoing mail during the time period December 2011 through December 2013; (3) defendants Casagrande and Sherlock for delaying his mail, rejecting magazines and letters without notification to plaintiff, removing pages from letters without notification to plaintiff, and rejecting a book during the time period January 2014 to January 2015; and (4) defendant Dowdy for delay in incoming and outgoing mail, non-delivery of numerous letters and magazines, and refusal to deliver a book since January 2015. (Id. at 10.)

         Plaintiff seeks the following relief: (1) an injunction preventing future mail tampering; (2) an injunction preventing future retaliatory action; (3) punitive damages; and (4) compensatory damages. (ECF No. 42 at 3.)

         II. Does Plaintiff State Claims Cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983?

         A. Placement in Segregation

         Assignment to segregation is an administrative measure rather than a disciplinary measure and is “essentially a matter of administrative discretion.” Bruce v. Ylst, 351 F.3d 1283, 1287 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Munoz v. Rowland, 104 F.3d 1096, 1098 (9th Cir. 1997)). To satisfy due process, the administrative segregation process must include an informal non-adversary hearing within a reasonable time after being segregated, notice of the charges or the reasons segregation is being considered, and an opportunity for the inmate to present his views. Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1100 (9th Cir. 1986), abrogated in part on other grounds by Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472, 481 (1995). “We specifically find that the due process clause does not require detailed written notice of charges.” Toussaint, 801 F.2d at 1100-01. However, due process does require notice that is sufficient to allow the inmate to have a “meaningful” opportunity to be heard. See Reyes v. Horel, No. C 08-4561 RMW, 2012 WL 762043, at *7-8 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2012).

         The gist of plaintiff's claim appears to be that the notice he was given was insufficient to permit him to defend himself at the hearing. Plaintiff states that the notice provided stated only that he was being investigated as a “threat to the safety and security” of the prison due to his possession of “harassing materials.” Plaintiff further states that defendant Austin signed this notice. The court finds that, liberally construing the complaint, plaintiff has stated a ...

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