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Wilkins v. Livingston

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 19, 2019

KEENAN G. WILKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID O. LIVINGSTON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES DONATO United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner, proceeds with a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Previously, while multiple motions for summary judgment were fully briefed and pending, plaintiff filed motions to amend and motions to compel, though he had not first sought the discovery from defendants. The Court vacated all pending motions and permitted plaintiff an opportunity to file a third amended complaint to contain all the claims he wished to pursue. Plaintiff has filed a third amended complaint.

         DISCUSSION

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the Court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. at 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The United States Supreme Court has explained the “plausible on its face” standard of Twombly: “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         LEGAL CLAIMS

         Plaintiff's allegations arise from his detention at Martinez Detention Facility. Plaintiff was a convicted prisoner who was transferred to Martinez Detention Facility. Plaintiff alleges that his due process rights were violated in being placed in Administrative Segregation (“Ad. Seg.”) and retained there, the conditions in Ad. Seg. violated the Eighth Amendment, his rights under the Equal Protection Clause were violated, he was denied access to the courts, a defendant retaliated against plaintiff due to his protected conduct and there was a violation of his medical privacy rights.

         Due Process

         Interests that are procedurally protected by the Due Process Clause may arise from two sources; the Due Process Clause itself and laws of the states. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-27 (1976). In the prison context, these interests are generally ones pertaining to liberty. Changes in conditions so severe as to affect the sentence imposed in an unexpected manner implicate the Due Process Clause itself, whether or not they are authorized by state law. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995) (citing Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 493 (1980) (transfer to mental hospital), and Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221-22 (1990) (involuntary administration of psychotropic drugs)).

         Deprivations that are authorized by state law and are less severe or more closely related to the expected terms of confinement may also amount to deprivations of a procedurally protected liberty interest, provided that (1) state statutes or regulations narrowly restrict the power of prison officials to impose the deprivation, i.e., give the inmate a kind of right to avoid it, and (2) the liberty in question is one of “real substance.” See id. at 477-87. Generally, “real substance” will be limited to freedom from (1) a restraint that imposes “atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life, ” id. at 484, or (2) state action that “will inevitably affect the duration of [a] sentence, ” id. at 487.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in Ad. Seg. for eight months for unknown reasons without any due process and he was denied participation in periodic reviews that retained him in Ad. Seg. He also presents allegations that the deprivations while in Ad. Seg. were atypical and significant hardships. This is sufficient to state a due process claim against Livingston, Vanderlind, Vannoy and Wilson.

         Conditions of Confinement and Exercise

         The Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, but neither does it permit inhumane ones. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). The Eighth Amendment imposes duties on these officials, who must provide all prisoners with the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care and personal safety. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832; DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200 (1989); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246 (9th Cir. 1982). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when two requirements are met: (1) the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently serious, Farmer, at 834 (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)), and (2) the prison official possesses a sufficiently culpable state of mind, id. (citing Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297). Prisoners may be entitled to appropriate materials to clean their cells depending on the overall squalor of the institution. See Hoptowit v. Spellman, 753 F.2d 779, 784 (9th Cir. 1985).

         Exercise is one of the basic human necessities protected by the Eighth Amendment. See LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1457 (9th Cir. 1993); Toussaint v. Rushen, 553 F.Supp. 1365, 1380 (N.D. Cal. 1983), aff'd in part and vacated in part, 722 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1984). Some form of regular exercise, including outdoor exercise, “is extremely important to the psychological and physical well-being” of prisoners. See Spain v. Procunier, 600 F.2d 189, 199 (9th Cir. 1979).

         Prison officials therefore may not deprive prisoners of regular exercise. See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 597 F.Supp. 1388, 1393 (N.D. Cal. 1984) aff'd in part and rev'd in part, 801 F.2d 1080 (9th Cir. 1986). Although the Ninth Circuit did not specify the “minimum amount of weekly exercise that must be afforded to detainees who spend the bulk of their time inside their cells, ” the court held that ninety minutes per week of exercise, which is the equivalent of slightly less than ...


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