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Williams v. Kernan

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 14, 2019

SCOTT KERNAN, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff James David Williams, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility (“CTF”), filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging his rights were violated by CTF prison officials based on their involvement in Plaintiff's unclothed body search on June 29, 2016. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         Upon conducting an initial review of the complaint, the Court determined that, liberally construed, Plaintiff's allegations were sufficient to state cognizable claims for the violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment and issued service on the following named Defendants: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) Secretary Scott Kernan; CTF Warden S. Hatton; Investigative Services Unit (“ISU”) Lieutenant V. Khan; ISU Sergeant S. Kelley; ISU Correctional Officers Z. Brown and Officer S. Patterson; and CTF Appeals Coordinator J. Truett. Dkt. 7 at 2 (citing Byrd v. Maricopa Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 629 F.3d 1135, 1142 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc); Byrd v. Maricopa Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 845 F.3d 919, 922-25 (9th Cir. 2017) (“Byrd II”)). The Court dismissed his claims against the Doe Defendants without prejudice to move to file an amended complaint to add them as named defendants. Id. at 3 (citing Brass v. County of Los Angeles, 328 F.3d 1192, 1195-98 (9th Cir. 2003)). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested to do so by adding two named Defendants to this action: ISU Correctional Sergeant S. Rodriguez and ISU Correctional Officer R. Salas, who were also employed by CTF during the time frame at issue. See Dkts. 16, 17.

         The served Defendants-Defendants Kernan, Hatton, Khan, Kelley, Brown, and Patterson-previously filed a motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment as to the Eighth Amendment claim. See Dkt. 14. In an Order dated March 14, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' motions as to served Defendants Khan, Kelley, Truett, Brown, and Patterson and as to unserved Defendants Rodriguez and Salas. See Dkt. 29. In the same Order, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Kernan and Hatton no later than twenty-eight days from the filing date of the March 14, 2019 Order “if Plaintiff believes he can provide sufficient facts from which it can be inferred that Defendants Kernan and Hatton are liable under Section 1983.” Id. at 29-30. The Court further noted as follows: “If Plaintiff fails to do so, Defendants Kernan and Hatton will remain dismissed and the dismissal will be without leave to amend and without further order from the Court.” Id. at 30. The Court notes that Plaintiff failed to amend his claims as to Defendants Kernan and Hatton in the time provided, and thus, the claims against Defendants Kernan and Hatton will remain DISMISSED without leave to amend and without further order from the Court.

         Concurrently and in a separately-filed Order, the Court found the complaint stated cognizable claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and ordered Defendants Brown, Patterson, Rodriguez, and Salas (hereinafter “Defendants”) to file a dispositive motion thereon. Dkt. 30. Defendants have since filed a motion for partial dismissal and motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 37. Plaintiff filed an opposition (dkt. 38), along with a declaration, exhibits and separate statement of facts (dkts. 38-1, 38-2, 39), and Defendants filed a reply[1] (dkt. 40). Having read and considered the papers submitted and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion for partial dismissal and motion for summary judgment as to the remaining claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.


         A. The Parties

         At the time of the events set forth in his complaint, Plaintiff was a state prisoner who was incarcerated at CTF, which is where he is still currently incarcerated. See Dkt. 1 at 1. Also during the time frame at issue, the following remaining Defendants were employed by the CDCR and CTF, including remaining Defendants Brown (a male officer) and Patterson (a female officer) as well as two other male officers, Defendants Rodriguez and Salas, who have since been served.

         B. Plaintiff's Version

         The following background relating to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim is taken from the Court's March 14, 2019 and January 5, 2018 Orders:

Plaintiff claims that on June 29, 2016, Defendants Brown and Patterson, along with [Defendants Rodriguez and Salas] subjected him to “cruel and unusual sexual invasion of privacy [and] sexual misconduct” when they forced him to do an “open-public full body strip search . . . [t]hen a rectum/cavity search.[FN 4]” Dkt. 1 at 3. Furthermore, Defendant Patterson, who is a female officer, was present during the search and took “sexually suggestive photographs” of Plaintiff while he was partially nude. Id. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Brown laughed at him during the cavity search. Id. at 5. Plaintiff adds that Defendants did not explain “the purpose of the photos . . . nor what authorize[d] them” to take such photos. Id.
[FN 4:] Plaintiff had initially alleged that Defendants ordered him to submit to a “rectum/cavity search.” Dkt. 1 at 3. However, Defendants clarify that Plaintiff was not subject to a cavity search, which would have been conducted in a medical setting under the supervision of a doctor. See Brown. Decl. ¶ 9; see also Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3287(b)(5). In his declaration, Plaintiff again alleges that he was subjected to a “Cavity Search.” See Pl. Decl. ¶ 6. In their reply, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's aforementioned allegation is “misleading” because the “unclothed body search was strictly a visual inspection of [Plaintiff's] body.” Dkt. 27 at 5. Defendants again clarify that no “cavity search” was performed because such a search “may only be performed by medical professionals when there is a need to extricate items concealed in the inmates' body cavities.” Id. at 6. Nothing in the record indicates that there was any need to extricate such items from Plaintiff's body cavity. Plaintiff does not dispute Defendants' clarification. Therefore, the Court need not address Plaintiff's allegations relating to any “rectum/cavity search.”

Dkt. 29 at 1-3 (citing Dkt. 7 at 2) (brackets and footnotes added). Plaintiff claims that such treatment of inmates has violated his constitutional rights and that female correctional officers are still being allowed to take partially nude photographs of male inmates. Dkt. 1 at 6.

         C. Defendants' Version

         In the instant pending dispositive motion, the remaining Defendants have elaborated more on the factual background of Plaintiff's claim, and the Court includes it as Defendants' version below.

I. Brown and Salas's Conduct.
Around June 29, 2016, the Investigative Services Unit (ISU) at [CTF] received a tip that Williams and his cellmate [inmate Jason Smith][3]might be in possession of cellular phones, which prisoners are not allowed to have. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 4; Rodriguez Decl. at ¶ 5.) On June 29, 2016, Defendant Brown-who is an ISU officer-arrived at Williams's housing unit shortly after 6:00 a.m. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 4.) Williams and his cellmate were asked to exit the cell. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Brown's colleague, Defendant Salas, performed a clothed body search of Williams and his cellmate, which consisted of a pat-down and the use of a handheld metal detector. (Id.; Salas Decl. at ¶ 4.)
Although the clothed body search with a handheld metal detector had negative results for contraband, Brown was not convinced that Williams was not concealing contraband on his person. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 6.) Brown and Salas escorted Williams to the housing unit's shower area for the purpose of performing an unclothed body search. (Id.) Such searches are routinely performed in shower areas because the showers are private, more spacious than cells, and because no other inmates have a direct view inside the shower area, as they would of a cell. (Id. at ¶ 7.) And unclothed body searches are generally conducted early in the morning to limit the amount of disturbance on the housing unit's programming and operations. (Id. at ¶ 4.)
Also, early-morning times are favored because most inmates, except for a few who have work assignments, are inside their cells until shortly after 7:00 a.m., when the morning release for breakfast occurs. (Id.)
The unclothed body search that Brown and Salas performed was strictly visual and lasted approximately one minute. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 8; Salas Decl. at ¶ 5.) The search did not include any physical touching. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 9.) The body search consisted only of a visual inspection of Williams's hair, mouth, armpits, arms, palms, and feet. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Williams was also required to bend forward at the waist, spread his buttocks, and cough several times. (Id.) This was necessary to ensure that he did not conceal contraband in his anal cavity, which is how inmates often conceal drugs and other forbidden items. (Id.) Overall, such unclothed body searches are routinely done as part of inspections of inmates, and they may be conducted often times on an unannounced and random basis. (Id. at ¶ 10; Rodriguez Decl. at ¶¶ 7, 10, & 12.) On June 29, 2016, several other cell and body searches were performed, including a body search of Williams's cellmate. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 13; Rodriguez Decl. at ¶ 12.)
Thereafter, Brown and Salas proceeded to search Williams's cell. (Brown Decl., ECF No. 14-3, at ¶ 12.) The cell search confirmed the information that ISU had received, as two cellphones and two chargers were found hidden behind and inside a mattress. (Id.) The cellphones had Internet, camera, and GPS capabilities. (Id.) Brown and Salas confiscated the items as contraband. (Id.)
II. Patterson's Photographs of Plaintiff.
Like Brown and Salas, Patterson is an ISU officer at CTF. (Patterson Decl., ECF No. 14-2, at ¶ 4.) Patterson is assigned to Investigations and she investigates inmates for possession and introduction of contraband into the prison, and any criminal activity within the institution. (Id.) She is also tasked with investigating and documenting inmates' Security Threat Group (STG) status. (Id.)
STG refers to any group of offenders that prison officials reasonably believe poses a threat to the physical safety of other inmates and staff due to the very nature of the groups. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Some of these groups at CTF include the Bloods, Crips, Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood, and Black Guerilla Family. (Id.) One of the indicia of STG membership is the use of gang tattoos. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Photographing inmates and their tattoos to document their STG status is an essential part of Patterson's job responsibilities as an investigator. (Id. at ¶ 10.) These photographs are for the sole internal use of ISU. (Id. at ¶ 11.)
Although Patterson was not the only ISU officer able to photograph inmates, she was assigned to take photographs on June 29, 2016. (Patterson Decl., ECF No. 14-2, at ¶ 10.) Patterson took several photographs of Williams, including four default shots of his front, back, left side, and right side. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Some of the photographs also include close-up shots of Williams's tattoo on his back. (Id.) Williams wore white underwear briefs in all the photographs, and the only exposed areas of his body were his arms, legs, and torso. (Id.) Williams was not nude. (Id.) Patterson likely gave Williams verbal commands, but in keeping with the ethical code of the job, she did not touch him or make any sexual, derogatory, or humiliating remarks. (Id. at ¶ 13.)
Williams complained that copies of the photographs were never provided to him. (See Compl., ECF No. 1, at 11 (requesting “[t]o receive the Photos that were taken of me partially nude”).) At the request of the Attorney General's Office, arrangements were made at the prison for Williams to view copies of all the photographs that were taken of him on June 29, 2016, so that he might satisfy himself that the photographs are not sexually suggestive. (See Declaration of E. Galvan, ECF No. 15-1, at ¶ 5.) Williams was issued a pass to meet the Litigation Coordinator of the Correctional Training Facility on April 11, 2018. (Id.) Williams viewed the photographs without any incident. (Id. at ¶ 6.)
III. Rodriguez's Conduct.
On June 29, 2016, Rodriguez was an ISU sergeant at Correctional Training Facility State Prison. (Rodriguez Decl., at ¶ 1.) Rodriguez was present when Brown and Salas performed the clothed body search on Plaintiff outside of his cell. (Id. at ΒΆ 11.) But he was not present during ...

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