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Collins v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

September 18, 2019

SCOTT FORREST COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
RON DAVIS, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 20

          VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In this action, pro se plaintiff Scott Forrest Collins, a prisoner confined at San Quentin State Prison (“SQSP”), challenges the prison’s policy for conducting unclothed body searches of condemned inmates. Defendant Ron Davis is the SQSP warden. Both parties have consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction. Dkt. Nos. 3, 15.

         Mr. Collins asserts the following claims against Mr. Davis in his official and individual capacities: (1) violation of his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, (2) violation of his right to religious exercise under the Religious Land Use and Institutional Person Act (“RLUIPA”), (3) violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches, (4) violation of his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment, and (5) violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process. Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 17-26; Dkt. No. 8 at 2. Mr. Collins seeks an injunction, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 27-34.

         Mr. Davis moves for summary judgment on the merits as to all asserted claims. In addition, Mr. Davis moves for summary judgment on the basis that the Eleventh Amendment bars Mr. Collins’s claims for damages against Mr. Davis in his official capacity, that Mr. Collins’s RLUIPA claim for damages against Mr. Davis in his individual capacity seeks a remedy that is not available under that statute, and that Mr. Collins has not made the requisite showing for injunctive relief under RLUIPA. Finally, Mr. Davis contends that he is entitled to qualified immunity as to Mr. Collins’s constitutional claims and that Mr. Collins may not recover punitive damages. Dkt. No. 20. Mr. Collins opposes summary judgment as to all matters. Dkt. No. 21.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants Mr. Davis’s summary judgment motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted:

         A. San Quentin State Prison

         SQSP is a California state prison that houses convicted prisoners, including those who have been condemned to death. See Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 4; Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 10. Condemned inmates are housed in four different units: East Block, Donner Section, the Adjustment Center, and North Segregation. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 4; Dkt. No. 22 ¶¶ 10, 12. Most condemned inmates are held in the East Block. Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 4. Donner Section serves as overflow for the East Block. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 10. The most violent condemned prisoners are held in the Adjustment Center. Id. ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 4. North Segregation houses condemned prisoners who have demonstrated particularly good behavior and who do not have enemies among the other prisoners (referred to as “enemy concerns”). Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 4.

         North Segregation is a more desirable housing unit for condemned prisoners because those housed there have open-tier access and more out-of-cell time.[1] Id. ¶ 5. Generally, to be eligible for placement in North Segregation, inmates must be discipline-free for at least five consecutive years and cannot have any enemy concerns.[2] Id. Housing capacity in North Segregation is limited, and vacancies typically occur only when an inmate dies or seeks a transfer to another condemned housing unit. Id. There is a waitlist for inmates seeking to be housed in North Segregation. Id.; see also Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 31.

         SQSP classifies condemned prisoners by security level, which determines the kind of housing and programs to which they can be assigned. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 13; see also Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 10. SQSP also classifies prisoners by “grade” according to security risk and disciplinary issues. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 9; Dkt. No. 25-6 at 4. Grade A inmates are considered general population inmates, who do not present unusual security risks and have demonstrated a discipline-free adjustment to incarceration. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 11. Condemned Grade B inmates are those with disciplinary concerns or enhanced security risks. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 12. As a general matter, Grade A prisoners have more privileges and fewer restrictions than Grade B prisoners. See Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 6. However, their privileges and restrictions may also depend on their housing assignment. See Id. ¶ 5.

         B. Mr. Collins

         Mr. Collins is currently housed in the East Block. Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶¶ 7, 15; Dkt. No. 20-3 ¶ 6. Like all condemned prisoners, Mr. Collins is classified as a security level 4 inmate, which qualifies him for maximum security custody. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 13. Given this custody level, Mr. Collins must be under direct and constant supervision. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 10; see also Dkt. No. 20-3 ¶ 10. Mr. Collins is also classified as a Grade A inmate with respect to his security risks and discipline concerns. Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶¶ 7, 15; Dkt. No. 20-3 ¶ 6.

         In addition to his security level and grade classification, Mr. Collins’s Strategic Offender Management System (“SOMS”) file is annotated with the following labels: (1) “DEA, ” which means that he is serving a death sentence; (2) “VIO, ” meaning he has a history of violent behavior; and (3) “ARS, ” meaning he has a history of arson. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 8, Ex. A. The DEA and VIO labels were affixed to his record on December 29, 2014, and the ARS label was affixed on March 20, 1991. Id.

         Mr. Collins’s SOMS record indicates that he has six non-confidential enemies, all of whom are condemned prisoners at SQSP. Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 9, Ex. B. Mr. Collins must be kept away from these prisoners at all times. Id. ¶ 9. In addition, according to Mr. Davis, Mr. Collins’s SOMS record indicates that he has seven confidential enemies from whom he also must be isolated at all times. Id. Mr. Davis does not identify the seven prisoners who are confidential enemies of Mr. Collins.

         Mr. Collins disputes that he has any enemies at all, but he provides specific evidence as to only one of them, Randy Garcia. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 30. Mr. Garcia is one of the six prisoners identified as non-confidential enemies in Mr. Collins’s SOMS file. Dkt. No. 20-2 at ¶ 9, Ex. B. Mr. Garcia submitted a declaration in support of Mr. Collins’s summary judgment opposition testifying that he has known Mr. Collins for over 20 years, that they have always been on good terms, and that the two of them have never been enemies. Dkt. No. 23 ¶ 5, 9. According to Mr. Garcia, over 15 years ago, he and other individuals listed as Mr. Collins’s non-confidential enemies were erroneously accused of assaulting Mr. Collins, and that following an investigation, all charges were dropped. Id. ¶ 4. Mr. Collins asserts that he has not received any serious rules violations reports for violence or contraband for over 20 years. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 13, Ex. C at 1. Prison records indicate that he has been discipline-free since 2003. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 34.

         On January 3, 2018, Mr. Collins’s case came before the Unit Classification Committee (“UCC”) for a review and possible adjustment of his security level assessment and his classification. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶¶ 10, 11. That review considered 42 review periods from December 1996 (when Mr. Collins first arrived at SQSP) to December 25, 2017. Id., Ex. C. at 1. The UCC noted that Mr. Collins had a mandatory minimum placement score of 60 based on his “condemned” status and had remained discipline-free since 2003. Id. However, the UCC also noted Mr. Collins alleged gang associations dating back to the 1990s. Id., Ex. C at 1–4. The UCC considered a probation officer’s report dated December 17, 1996 indicating that Mr. Collins is a non-validated associate of the Mexican Mafia. Id., Ex. C at 1. The UCC also considered a CDCR-1030 Form dated December 21, 1999, noting that Mr. Collins is likely to be murdered by affiliates of the Mexican Mafia prison gang for misrepresenting himself as the liaison and representative of the Mexican Mafia in the Adjustment Center housing unit. Id., Ex. C at 1, 4. The UCC also noted a CDCR-128-G Form dated March 21, 2002, which states that Mr. Collins was the victim of a stabbing assault on the yard in which he sustained 28 puncture wounds. Id. Other information in Mr. Collins’s inmate central file indicates that he is also a non-validated member of the Barrio Watts street gang, [3] as well as an association of the Aryan Brotherhood. Id., Ex. C at 44. Based on its review of his file, case factors, and input from committee members, the UCC decided to retain Mr. Collins’s current Grade A classification status. Id. ¶ 11. The UCC also denied him East Block worker-status due to safety concerns. Id. In November 2015, Mr. Collins was referred for consideration for placement on the North Segregation waitlist, as he had been discipline-free since 2003 and had no in-custody predatory behavior. Id. ¶ 14; see also Dkt. No. 25-10 at 1. However, given his gang history and the risks to his own safety described above, the UCC decided not to place him in North Segregation. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 14.

         Mr. Collins denies that he has any recent or relevant gang associations. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 29 (“With respect to gang association, I have tried to avoid gangs and what passes for prison politics for nearly 20 years.”); see also Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 31; Dkt. No. 25-10 at 1 (“I have no enemy concerns here. All my 1030s stem from one individual and my program has been messed up ever since.”). Mr. Collins denies that he was stabbed in the prison yard in 2002. Id. Mr. Collins asserts that no security concerns justify the denial of his request to be placed in North Segregation or at least on its waiting list because he has no enemies housed there. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 31.

         C. SQSP’s Operating Procedures Manual

         SQSP’s Operational Procedure 608, also known as the Condemned Manual (“the SQSP Manual”), sets forth criteria and standards that govern the operation of the Specialized Housing Division, which is responsible for the day-to-day programming of all condemned male inmates housed at SQSP. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶¶ 15, 18, Ex. D at 1. The Correctional Captain and Associate Warden assigned to the Specialized Housing Division review the SQSP Manual annually, and any changes are submitted for approval to Mr. Davis in his role as the Warden. Id. ¶ 17, Ex. D at 1; Dkt. No. 20-3 ¶ 8.

         Sections 422 and 4115 of the SQSP Manual state the circumstances in which prisoners must undergo unclothed body searches, or strip searches, at SQSP. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 16, Ex. D at 11, 22–24. The specific procedures for conducting an unclothed body search in California state prisons is described in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Operations Manual as follows:

The inmate subject to the search shall disrobe completely, and staff shall inspect and search each item of clothing and visually inspect the inmate’s body. The inmate shall face the staff member who shall visually inspect the inmate’s hair, ears, mouth, nose, body, armpits, hands, scrotum, genitals, and legs. The inmate shall turn away from staff upon instruction and staff shall then inspect the inmate’s back, buttocks, thighs, toes, bottom of the feet, and lastly, the anal area by having the inmate bend over, spread the cheeks of their buttocks, and cough. Unclothed body searches of inmates by staff of the opposite biological sex shall only be conducted in emergency situations.

Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 19; Dkt. No. 25-3 § 52050.16; see also Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶¶ 24-25.

         For Grade A prisoners like Mr. Collins, Section 422 of the SQSP Manual provides:

Upon a Condemned Grade A inmate entering a condemned housing unit, the Condemned Grade A inmate will be immediately placed in a holding cell and given an unclothed body search, unless the Condemned Grade A inmate is returned to the condemned housing unit after being escorted under direct supervision and control of custody staff during the entire time the Condemned Grade A inmate is outside of the condemned housing unit, i.e., escort to the Central Health Services Building (CHSB) for a medical appointment. All inmates will be given an unclothed body search prior to leaving their cell at any time. If a Condemned Grade A inmate has been under supervision and control of custody staff during the entire escort, then the Condemned Grade A inmate will be returned to his assigned cell without an unclothed body search.

Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 19, Ex. D at 11. Section 4115 of the SQSP Manual details yard release procedures. Dkt. No. 20-2 ¶ 20, Ex. D at 22. All prisoners housed in the East Block, such as Mr. Collins, are required to undergo unclothed body searches in their cells before they may exit the housing unit and go to the yard. Id. Officers must also search the prisoners’ clothing. Id. According to the SQSP Manual, a prisoner will not undergo an unclothed body search upon returning to his cell if he has been “escorted under direct supervision and control of custody staff during the entire time” he has been outside his cell. Id.

         According to Mr. Davis, SQSP conducts frequent and routine unclothed body searches of condemned prisoners housed in the East Block because those prisoners housed there generally present an increased risk to the safety and security of the institution, staff, and other prisoners due to the nature of their crimes, enemy concerns, and in-custody behavior. Id. ¶ 22. Mr. Davis acknowledges that unclothed body searches are always performed before East Block prisoners are permitted to exit their cells for any purpose. Id. ¶¶ 22, 24, 27. When searches are conducted in an inmate’s cell, the officer stands in the four-foot wide cell opening to obstruct the line of sight into the cell. Id. ¶ 24. When the searches are conducted in holding cells, officers are trained to stand around the inmates as they disrobe to preserve their privacy. Id. The unclothed body searches do not involve any touching. Id. The inmates’ clothes are also inspected with an X-ray machine known as a Rapiscan. Id.

         Mr. Collins states that since September 2016, he has been subjected to approximately 1, 000 strip searches while housed in the East Block. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 25. He states that he has missed religious services, showers, and exercise yard time “so as not to have to undergo strip searches.” Id. In March 2017, Mr. Collins filed a grievance concerning the SQSP strip search policy. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 26; Dkt. No. 25-9 at 1; Dkt. No. 20-3 ¶ 11. That grievance was denied at three levels of review, including by Mr. Davis at the second level. Dkt. No. 22 ¶ 26; Dkt. No. 25-9 at 2, 5–6; Dkt. No. 20-3 ¶ 11. Having exhausted his administrative remedies, Mr. Collins filed a verified complaint commencing this action on December 6, 2017. Dkt. No. 1.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party may move for summary judgment on a “claim or defense” or “part of . . . a claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when, after adequate discovery, there is no genuine issue as to any material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.; see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–23 (1986). Material facts are those that might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is “genuine” if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion, and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. S. Calif. Gas. Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 888 (9th Cir. 2003).

         On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may discharge its burden of production either (1) by “produc[ing] evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case” or (2) after suitable discovery, by “show[ing] that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element of its claim or defense to discharge its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Cos., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1103 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324–25.

         Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the opposing party must then set forth specific facts showing that there is some genuine issue for trial in order to defeat the motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. “A party opposing summary judgment may not simply question the credibility of the movant to foreclose summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254. “Instead, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and by its own evidence set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Far Out Prods., Inc. v. Oskar,247 F.3d 986, 997 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotations omitted). The non-moving party must produce “specific evidence, through affidavits or admissible discovery material, to show that the dispute exists.” Bhan v. NME Hosps., Inc.,929 F.2d 1404, 1409 (9th Cir. 1991). Conclusory or ...


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