United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT DOCKET NO. 64
M. CHEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pro se prisoner's civil rights action for
damages, Morris Roberson complains about prison
officials' handling of a disciplinary charge,
administrative segregation, and housing decisions. Defendants
now move for summary judgment and Mr. Roberson opposes the
motion. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants'
motion for summary judgment will be granted and judgment
entered in their favor.
The Claims For Relief
Court has found three cognizable due process claims in this
action: (1) a claim that hearing officer Meredith violated
Mr. Roberson's right to due process at a disciplinary
rehearing on September 6, 2012; (2) a claim that Defendants
Lopez, Hughes, and Garcia violated Mr. Roberson's right
to due process by failing to prevent his transfer to the
Corcoran SHU after he informed them that the SHU term was
premised on a disciplinary decision that had been set aside;
and (3) a due process claim against Defendants Mascarenas and
Sandor for failing to release Mr. Roberson from the SHU once
he informed them that his SHU term was premised on a
disciplinary decision that had been set aside. See
Docket No. 17.
second and third claims are based on a sequence of events.
Although there are many details - in part because the
division of labor in the California prison system allocates
decision-making to a variety of officials -- it helps to have
a basic roadmap about the nature of the claims asserted in
this case. The basic sequence of events that unfolded over
several months in 2012 is as follows:
1. Mr. Roberson allegedly participated in a riot and was put
in administrative segregation that day pending resolution of
a disciplinary charge against him;
2. A hearing was held and Mr. Roberson was found guilty of
rioting, was assessed a 90-day loss of credits, and was
referred to the classification committee;
3. The classification committee imposed a 5-month SHU term
for the disciplinary offense and an indeterminate SHU term
for him being a disruptive inmate (because this was his
second rioting offense);
4. The disciplinary decision was vacated and ordered reheard
because of a procedural deficiency at the original hearing;
5. A rehearing was held, at which Mr. Roberson again was
found guilty of rioting; and
6. Mr. Roberson was then sent to the SHU.
Roberson's theory is basically that, once the original
disciplinary decision was vacated, the SHU terms assessed by
the classification committee should have been vacated and
that it was improper to send him to the SHU without holding a
new classification hearing even though he was found guilty at
the rehearing on disciplinary charge on which the SHU terms
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.
The Parties and Relevant Time Period
relevant time period in this action is from April 22, 2012
through about April 2013, although almost all of the
important events happened in 2012.
Roberson was a prisoner housed at Salinas Valley State Prison
until he was transferred to the security housing unit (SHU)
at Corcoran State Prison on September 11, 2012.
are six Defendants remaining in this action. Correctional
counselor Hughes, correctional counselor Garcia, and
correctional sergeant Lopez worked in the administrative
segregation unit at Salinas Valley. Correctional lieutenant
Meredith acted as the senior hearing officer at the September
6, 2012, rehearing at Salinas Valley on the rule violation
report issued to Mr. Roberson. Correctional counselor
Mascarenas reviewed inmate files at Corcoran and made
recommendations to classification committees about those
inmates, including Mr. Roberson. Defendant Sandor worked as
the chief deputy warden at Corcoran during the relevant time,
and chaired three of Mr. Roberson's classification
Mr. Roberson's 2011 Rioting Offense
involving about two dozen inmates occurred at Salinas Valley
on January 20, 2011. A rule violation report (RVR) was issued
to Mr. Roberson, charging him with participating in that
riot. Docket No. 79 at 6-9, 15. He was found guilty and
assessed a 90-day loss of credits.
The April 22 Riot and the Consequences for Mr.
occurred on April 22, 2012, at Salinas Valley. According to
the Incident Report, 14 inmates were involved, including Mr.
Roberson. Id. at 29.
same day, Mr. Roberson was placed in the administrative
segregation unit (ad-seg). A CDCR-114D was issued to him that day,
explaining that he was being placed ad-seg because he and 13
other “Black (Crip) inmates” had been observed by
staff fighting in the yard and refusing to get down on the
ground when ordered to do so. Id. at 31. The
CDCR-114D stated: “Due to the aforementioned, your
continued presence on Facility ‘C' is deemed a
threat to the safety and security of the institution, staff,
and inmate population. Therefore, you will remain in [ad-seg
until] the completion of the RVR/D.A. disciplinary process
and administrative review for your future appropriate housing
and programming needs.” Id. The ad-seg
placement was approved on April 23 by a facility captain.
April 26, 2012, the Institutional Classification Committee
(ICC) met with Mr. Roberson for an initial
review of his ad-seg placement. The ICC decided to request a
90-day extension of Mr. Roberson's ad-seg placement to
allow time to complete the disciplinary process for Mr.
Roberson's participation in the April 22 riot. Docket No.
79 at 32. The ICC thus referred the matter to the
classification staff representative (CSR) for approval of the
90-day ad-seg extension. Id. The CSR approved the
90-day ad-seg extension. Id. at 33.
violation report (RVR) was issued to Mr. Roberson on May 2,
2012, charging him with “participation in a riot”
on April 22, 2012. Id. at 34. The RVR was written by
correctional officer (C/O) Murphy, who described the fighting
occurring that day on the yard, including two inmates kicking
a third inmate who was “motionless on the ground while
being kicked. Three more inmates, inmates Robinson (F-70309),
Roberson (C-83614), and Williams (AE-1790), then ran into the
scene and started fighting inmates Brown, Davis, and
Richardson.” Id. Staff gave orders for the
inmates to stop, then fired pepper spray and “40MM
direct rounds” toward the inmates, who eventually
stopped fighting and got down on the ground as ordered.
Id. at 34-35.
The Original Hearing On the RVR
Investigative Employee (IE) was assigned for the RVR.
See Docket No. 79 at 40. The IE report prepared in
May 2012 stated that the IE had informed Mr. Roberson that
the IE “will be acting as a fact finder for the Senior
Hearing Officer.” Id. The IE report stated
that Mr. Roberson “is requesting photographs of all
weapons found on the yard and photographs of all inmates
involved. He is also requesting any camera footage found on
yard. Inmate ROBERSON also had questions for Inmate
witnesses.” Id. The IE recorded the questions
asked of, and the answers given by, two inmate-witnesses Mr.
Roberson wanted questioned: those inmates denied fighting
with Mr. Roberson and denied that Mr. Roberson was involved
in the incident on April 22. Id.
1, 2012, a hearing was held on the RVR. (This will sometimes
be referred to as the “original hearing, ” to
distinguish it from the September 6, 2012
“rehearing” discussed later.) At the original
hearing, Mr. Roberson was found guilty of participating in a
riot and was assessed a 90-day loss of credits. Id.
at 37. He also was “referred to ICC for program review
and possible SHU Term Assessment.” Id.
regulation then in effect, “[a]n inmate whose conduct
endangers the safety of others or the security of the
institution shall be housed in a SHU. Cal. Code Regs. tit 15,
§ 3341.5(c) (as amended through April 5, 2012). An
inmate may be assigned to the SHU if the “inmate has
been found guilty of an offense for which a determinate term
of confinement has been assessed or is deemed to be a threat
to the safety of others or the security of the
institution.” Id. at § 3341.5(c)(1).
“Assignment to a SHU may be for an indeterminate or for
a fixed period of time.” Id. at §
memorandum from CDCR headquarters dated August 26, 2002 -- a
decade before the relevant events in this case -- discussed
imposing indeterminate SHU terms for “disruptive
inmates.” Docket No. 80-1 at 9. The memorandum cited
§ 3341.5(c) as authority, and stated that prison
officials could consider indeterminate SHU terms for
“inmates who complete a Determinate Security Housing
Unit (SHU) term and continue to pose a threat to the safety
of others or security of the institution. This perceived
threat may be based on the inmate's behavior while in SHU
housing or due to the inmate's disciplinary history while
housed in the California Department of Corrections.”
Docket No. 80-1 at 9. One of the “examples of inmates
who may qualify for consideration of Indeterminate SHU
status” was “inmates who have been . . . assessed
two Determinate SHU terms for participation in a riot.”
captain Hughes states in his declaration that in 2012 it was
not necessary for there to be a guilty finding on the
“RVRs for riots or SHU-able offenses . . . before an
inmate was considered for indeterminate SHU placement”;
merely being charged was sufficient for an inmate to receive
an indeterminate SHU term. Docket No. 68 at 5. The CDCR's
Operations Manual provided that, when the inmate was in
ad-seg due to a pending disciplinary matter, the
classification committee hearing “shall assume the
alleged misconduct or criminal activities to be factual as
reported in the segregation order.” Docket No. 79 at
103 (DOM § 52080.27.1). Custody captain Hughes explains
that the administrative decision under § 3341.5(c) as to
whether the inmate posed a threat to safety and security
“could be made on many factors, including being charged
with an RVR. For example, in many cases, inmates will choose
to defer a hearing on their RVR until they learn whether the
local district attorney plans to prosecute them, because
inmates do not want to make incriminating statements in their
RVR hearing. In the meantime, the prison has the authority to
give those inmates indeterminate SHU terms while they await
the district attorney's decision, even though they have
not yet been found guilty of the RVR or any new criminal
charges.” Docket No. 68 at 10.
28, 2012, Mr. Roberson appeared before the ICC again. Docket
No. 79 at 43. No defendant participated in this ICC hearing.
Mr. Roberson states that, at this hearing, the ICC elected to
release him back to the C Yard because the RVR had not yet
been completed, but he did not feel comfortable returning to
the C Yard because C/O Murphy worked there. Docket No. 16 at
6-7. It is undisputed, however, that he was not released to
the C-yard and instead remained in ad-seg. The ICC report for
the June 28 hearing noted that the RVR disciplinary process
was not yet complete because, although Mr. Roberson had been
found guilty, the RVR was awaiting final signatures and
awaiting a possible referral to the district attorney for
prosecution. Docket No. 79 at 43. The ICC report noted that
Mr. Roberson's projected minimum eligible release date
(MERD) -- apparently for the SHU term he would get for being
found guilty of participating in a riot -- was August 15,
2012; the ICC therefore elected to retain him in ad-seg
pending completion of the disciplinary process. Id.
The CSR approved a 45-day extension in ad-seg to allow
completion of the disciplinary process. Id. at 44.
13, 2012, another CDCR-114D was issued to Mr. Roberson
stating that he was being “retained in [ad-seg] pending
ICC review and a possible SHU term assessment/ indeterminate
SHU placement.” Id. at 46.
19, 2012, Mr. Roberson appeared before the ICC. The ICC noted
that Mr. Roberson had been found guilty of participating in a
riot, “a Division D and SHU-able offense, ” and
elected to impose a 5-month SHU term with a MERD of August
15, 2012, based on Mr. Roberson having been found guilty of
participating in a riot. Id. at 48. More
significantly, the ICC determined that Mr. Roberson had
received two SHU terms for participating in two riots within
the last two years (i.e., the riot on April 22, 2012, and the
riot on January 20, 2011), and he thus met the criteria for
indeterminate SHU placement. Id. The committee noted
that Mr. Roberson's “behavior clearly demonstrates
a propensity for Violence and disruptive behavior which
endangers the safety of others, as well as the security of
the Institution.” Id. The ICC referred Mr.
Roberson to a CSR with a recommendation that he be
transferred to the SHU at Corcoran or Tehachapi “to serve
an indeterminate SHU term upon completion of MERD of
8-15-12” on the 5-month SHU term. Id. Mr.
Roberson was to be retained in ad-seg pending CSR review and
30, 2012, the CSR approved the ICC's recommendation for a
5-month SHU term plus an indeterminate SHU term. Docket No.
79 at 50. Mr. Roberson thus was “endorsed” to the
Corcoran SHU to serve an indeterminate SHU term upon
expiration of his MERD on the 5-month SHU term. The CSR's
note stated: “Inmate has proven to be a threat to the
security of the institution as noted in the ICC action of
7-19-12. Please review case within 180 days for consideration
of release from SHU.” Id. The CSR approved Mr.
Roberson's retention in ad-seg until his transfer to the
Corcoran SHU. Id.
Inmate Appeal ...