United States District Court, N.D. California
MICHAEL J. VERA, Plaintiff,
ERIC GOUKER, et al, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET
J. DAVILA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a pretrial detainee, filed a pro se civil rights complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against employees at the Santa
Cruz County Sheriffs Department. The Court found the
complaint, (Docket No. 1), liberally construed, stated a
cognizable Fourteenth Amendment claim of deliberate
indifference for placement in conditions that amounted to
punishment, and ordered service of the complaint on
Defendants. (Docket No. 12.)
Eric Gouker and Jenna Baldwin filed a motion for summary
judgment (Docket No. 21, hereinafter "Mot."), and
declarations and exhibits in support thereof. Plaintiff did not
file an opposition although given an opportunity to do so.
For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is
time of the filing of the complaint, Plaintiff was in custody
at the Santa Cruz County Jail ("Jail"), presumably
as a pretrial detainee. Plaintiff claims that on June 22,
2018, he was taken from the Jail's general population to
solitary confinement, where he was placed in a cell without
lights or plumbing for ten days and deprived of all his
property. (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff claims he was never given
any incident report or any type of explanation.
(Id.) Plaintiff claims "this was done" by
Defendants Eric Gouker and Jenna Baldwin, both classification
officers, "for personal reasons I believe, and to get me
to take a deal in court faster." (Id.)
Liberally construed, the Court found the allegations of
Plaintiffs unjustified and unexplained placement in
conditions that amount to punishment were sufficient to state
a deliberate indifference claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Docket No. 12 at 2.) The Court dismissed the
claim involving the random and unauthorized deprivation of
property for failure to state a claim. (Id. at 2-3.)
Statement of Facts
Gouker is a Supervising Correctional Officer at the Jail and
was so at the time of the underlying events. (Gouker Decl.
¶ 2.) His duties include assigning, supervising,
training and evaluating the work of subordinate staff.
(Id.) Furthermore, as the Classification Supervisor,
Defendant Gouker reviews, investigates and responds to
grievances related to housing, custody level, and all other
classification specific grievances. (Id.) He was
also responsible for a daily review of all inmates that are
administratively separated throughout the facility.
Jenna Baldwin is also a Supervising Correctional Officer at
the Jail and was so at the time of the underlying events.
(Baldwin Decl. ¶ 1.) Her duties include supervising and
participating in the work of booking, guarding, supervising,
transporting and releasing inmates in the Santa Cruz County
Detention Facilities, insuring inmates' safety and
security, training correctional officers, and doing other
work as required. (Id. at ¶2.)
21, 2018, while Defendant Baldwin was on shift as a
Classification Officer at the Jail, she observed a fight
involving approximately 29 male inmates on the top tier of
the "F-unit" in the Jail. (Baldwin Decl. ¶ 5;
Gouker Decl. ¶ 5.) She called for assistance, entered
F-unit, and assisted in breaking up the fight and defusing
the situation. (Baldwin Decl. ¶ 5.)
Gouker investigated the circumstances regarding the fight,
and three independent sources confirmed to him that
Plaintiff, a high-ranking, documented gang member, had
directed the fight to take place. (Gouker Decl. ¶ 6.)
During the investigation, Defendant Gouker also learned that
Plaintiff, through fear and intimidation, was controlling the
actions of inmates at a different jail facility in Santa Cruz
County. (Id. at ¶ 7, Ex. I.) Based on
Plaintiffs high-level of influence within the Jail system,
his involvement in directing the fight to take place, and the
unique, dangerous circumstances regarding the fight,
Defendant Gouker decided that it was necessary, for the
safety and security of Jail staff and inmates, to transfer
Plaintiff to the Santa Clara County Jail. (Id. at
¶ 8.) Defendant Gouker determined that transferring
Plaintiff to Santa Clara County Jail would provide his own
Jail staff necessary time to address the circumstances of the
fight and to make sure it did not happen again. (Id.
at ¶ 9.) Plaintiff was transported to the Santa Cruz
County Jail on June 22, 2018. (Id. at ¶ 10.) On
July 2, 2018, Plaintiff was transferred back to the Santa
Cruz County Jail, accompanied by Defendant Baldwin, and
placed in administrative segregation based on the continued
safety risks he posed to Jail staff and inmates. (Gouker
Decl. ¶¶ 11-12, Ex. F; Baldwin Decl. ¶ 7.)
3, 2018, Plaintiff submitted an inmate grievance, No.
AO49433, asking to be placed in general population. (Gouker
Decl. ¶ 13.) Defendant Gouker investigated the grievance
and made written findings, which were also provided to
Plaintiff. (Id.) The findings stated, "Inmate
Vera is pending transfer to a general population unit."
(Id., Ex. B.)
6, 2018, while Plaintiff was pending transfer to the general
population unit, Plaintiff addressed an "Inmate Request
Form" to Defendant Gouker, calling him a "snake
liar" and threatening Defendant Gouker's life and
Jail staff. (Gouker Decl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff wrote that
"an insane attack by me could prove lethal, why put your
staff at risk? Im [sic] not gonna do that, but you cant [sic]
know that for sure...." (Id., Ex. C.) Based on
Plaintiffs threats, Defendant Gouker and Jail staff
determined that it was in the best interest of the safety and
security of Jail staff and inmates to keep Plaintiff in
administrative segregation. (Id. at ¶ 15.)
10, 2018, Plaintiff submitted another inmate grievance, No.
A020254, complaining that he was put "in stripes"
for the content of his July 6, 2018 "Inmate Request
Form" to Defendant Gouker. (Gouker Decl. ¶ 16.)
Jail staff investigated the grievance and made written
findings, which were also provided to Plaintiff.
(Id. at ¶ 17.) The findings state, in part,
that "the Sheriffs Office takes such threats
seriously" and that Jail ...