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Davis v. Yates

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 19, 2019

CHARLES T. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES A. YATES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS ON QUALIFIED IMMUNITY GROUNDS (DOC. NOS. 85, 96)

         Plaintiff Charles T. Davis is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On September 21, 2018, the undersigned issued an order denying a motion to dismiss this action on qualified immunity grounds brought on behalf of defendants James A. Yates and Matthew Cate. (Doc. No. 96.)

         On October 18, 2018, defendants filed an interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit seeking review of that order. (Doc. No. 100.) On June 13, 2019, the Ninth Circuit vacated this court's order and remanded the action with instructions to grant defendants' motion to dismiss in light of the intervening decision in Hines v. Youseff, 914 F.3d 1218 (9th Cir. 2019), cert. denied sub nom. Smith v. Schwarzenegger, No. 18-1590, 2019 WL 4921481 (U.S. Oct. 7, 2019).[1] (Doc. No. 103.)

         In Hines, a consolidated appeal, the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of housing inmates in a hyperendemic area for Valley Fever under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. 914 F.3d at 1226-27. The Ninth Circuit defined the right at issue in the consolidated appeals before it as “the right to be free from heightened exposure to Valley Fever spores.” Id. at 1228. It then concluded that such a constitutional right was not clearly established at the time the defendant officials acted.[2]

         The undersigned pauses to note that in Hines, the Ninth Circuit did not decide whether exposing inmates to a heightened risk of Valley Fever violates or could ever violate the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 1229 (“The courts below did not decide whether exposing inmates to a heightened risk of Valley Fever violates the Eighth Amendment. Neither do we.”).[3] Instead, the Ninth Circuit, proceeded “straight to the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis: whether a right to not face a heightened risk was ‘clearly established' at the time” the officials in the cases before the court had acted.[4] Id.

         Therefore, as directed by the Ninth Circuit's June 13, 2019 order, the undersigned will grant defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint in this action on the grounds that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity in this case.

         Accordingly:

         1. Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 85) is granted;

         2. In keeping with the Ninth Circuit's decision in Hines, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim based on his alleged exposure to Valley Fever;

         3. Plaintiff s Eighth Amendment claim against defendants based on exposure to Valley Fever is dismissed with prejudice on qualified immunity grounds; and

         4. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] The Ninth Circuit's June 13, 2019 order in this case was given effect via the mandate issued on July 5, 2019. (Doc. No. 104.) However, on July 12, 2019, the Ninth Circuit recalled its mandate for the limited purpose of permitting plaintiff to file a petition for rehearing. (Doc. No. 105.) After reviewing his petition, the Ninth Circuit denied plaintiff's petition for rehearing on ...


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