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Nible v. Fink

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 26, 2019

WILLIAM L. NIBLE, Plaintiff,
FINK, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff William L. Nible, a California prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a lawsuit against several staff members of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) in San Diego, California. (ECF No. 46.) Defendants T. Fink and T. Diaz moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims against them. (ECF No. 56.) Magistrate Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that this Court grant the motion for summary judgment in its entirety. (“R&R, ” ECF No. 71.) Judge Montenegro ordered any objections to be filed within thirty days of the issuance of the R&R. (Id. at 23.) Plaintiff requested and received two extensions in which to file objections, and subsequently filed timely objections. (“Obj., ” ECF No. 78.)

         Having reviewed the briefing on the motion for summary judgment, Judge Montenegro's R&R, and Plaintiff's objections, the Court ADOPTS the R&R.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Judge Montenegro's R&R contains a thorough and accurate recitation of the factual and procedural histories underlying the instant motion for summary judgment. (R&R at 1-6.) This Order incorporates by reference the background as set forth therein.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth a district court's duties regarding a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The district court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection is made, ” and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673-76 (1980). In the absence of a timely objection, however, “the Court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note (citing Campbell v. U.S. Dist. Court, 501 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir. 1974)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Court will review de novo those parts of the R&R to which Plaintiff objects and will review for clear error the parts of the R&R to which Plaintiff does not object.[1]

         A. Procedural Due Process Cause of Action

          Plaintiff alleges his due process rights were violated through Defendants' confiscation of the rune set. Judge Montenegro first found that Defendants misapplied prison regulations when they confiscated Plaintiff's rune set. (R&R at 15.) Therefore, the confiscation was in violation of established state procedure and was unauthorized. (Id.) The Court agrees and further adds that the rune set was returned to the vendor following Defendants' confiscation of the set, but the vendor would not accept the set because pieces were missing. (ECF No. 64, at 28.) There is no evidence this was the fault of Plaintiff, as Plaintiff was never permitted to be in possession of the set. The missing pieces likely were inadvertently lost through Defendants' actions. Thus, the failure of Defendants to ensure the rune set remained complete when the set was in their possession could be seen as a deprivation of Plaintiff's property.

         However, even if Defendants intentionally or unintentionally deprived Plaintiff of his property, Judge Montenegro found that an adequate postdeprivation remedy for this violation is available to Plaintiff, through the California Government Claims Act. (R&R at 15.) “[A]n unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state employee does not constitute a violation of the procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful postdeprivation remedy for the loss is available.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). After the incident, Plaintiff submitted a claim to the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. (Id. (citing ECF No. 64, at 52).) In his claim, Plaintiff alleged Defendant Fink refused to allow Plaintiff to keep his religious items and caused the items to be destroyed, sending only half of the set back to the vendor. (ECF No. 64, at 53.) The Board rejected Plaintiff's claim, (id. at 52), but the process provided a meaningful postdeprivation remedy for Plaintiff nonetheless. Judge Montenegro therefore found Defendants did not violate Plaintiff's due process rights and recommends the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment for this claim.

         Plaintiff objects, arguing that Judge Montenegro applied the wrong legal standard and “should have looked to the ruling” in Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974). (Obj. at 6-7.) Plaintiff acknowledges that the Procunier holding was overturned in part by Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 (1989). Thornburgh held that the less deferential standard of Martinez-whereby prison regulations authorizing mail censorship must be “generally necessary” to protect a legitimate governmental interest-is limited to regulations concerning outgoing personal correspondence from prisoners. Id. at 407-13. But regulations regarding incoming mail are valid if they are reasonably related to penological interests. Id. This holding is not relevant here, as the Court is not analyzing whether the prison regulations regarding mail are reasonable. What is material is the postdeprivation remedy that exists for Plaintiff following the confiscation of his incoming mail. See Hudson, 468 U.S. at 533. Because Plaintiff had access to, and in fact used, an adequate postdeprivation remedy after the confiscation of the rune set, there was no violation of Plaintiff's due process rights. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on this claim. The Court ADOPTS the R&R and GRANTS Defendants' motion for this claim.

         B. Equal ...

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