United States District Court, N.D. California
GREGORY L. FLETCHER, Plaintiff,
CORRECTIONAL COUNSELOR I BRENDA LOMELI, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT; AND DENYING THEIR MOTION TO DISMISS AS
GONZALEZ ROGERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Gregory L. Fletcher, a state prisoner currently incarcerated
at California State Prison - Corcoran (“CSP -
Corcoran”) brings the instant pro se action,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, stemming from
constitutional violations resulting during his previous
incarceration at Salinas Valley State Prison
(“SVSP”), where he claims he had safety concerns.
The time frame of the alleged violations is from when
Plaintiff was first endorsed to be transferred from the
California Health Care Facility (“CHCF”) to SVSP
on May 22, 2017 through December 8, 2017, when Plaintiff
was transferred out of SVSP to the Substance Abuse Treatment
Facility (“SATF”). Dkt. 1 at 1.
operative pleading is Plaintiff's original complaint
(dkt. 1), in which he sought monetary damages against the
following Defendants at SVSP: the Warden; Correctional
Counselor I (“CCI”) Brenda Lomeli; former CCI
Garcia; Captain N. Gonzalez; Sergeant R. Gomez; and various
following summary of Plaintiff's claims is taken from the
Court's January 16, 2019 service order, which states as
Plaintiff's claims arise from Defendants' alleged
deliberate indifference to his safety needs stemming from an
incident on November 30, 2017 in which Plaintiff claims that
he “had an attempt[ed] assassination made on his
life” (apparently he suffered a blow to the head, which
rendered him unconscious) even after Plaintiff requested that
Defendants remove him from being housed SVSP because he
claimed his life was in danger. Dkt. 1 at 9. Plaintiff claims
that for the “next 6 1/2 to seven months [he] still
suffer[red] from severe pain [and] head injurie[s], blurry
vision in [his] right eye, severe headaches, . . . fear for
his safety, anxiety and despo[n]dency.” Id. at
Dkt. 9 at 2. The Court found that, liberally construed,
Plaintiff stated a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim that
Defendants Garcia, Lomeli, Gonzalez, and Gomez were
deliberately indifferent to his safety needs. Id.
The Court dismissed without prejudice Plaintiff's
remaining claims of retaliation, supervisory liability
against the SVSP Warden, and those against the Doe
Defendants. Id. at 2-4. The Court directed the Clerk
of the Court to serve the complaint and issued a briefing
schedule for the served Defendants to file a dispositive
motion. See Id. at 4-7.
March 19, 2019, Defendants Garcia, Lomeli, Gonzalez, and
Gomez (hereinafter “Defendants”) filed the
instant Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss.
Dkt. 21. They argue that (1) Plaintiff's claims fail
because he only partially exhausted his administrative
remedies; (2) there is no evidence that Defendants violated
Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights; and (3) Defendants
are entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at 6-7.
Specifically, Defendants argue that: (a) Plaintiff
“failed to properly exhaust his available
administrative remedies against Defendants Lomeli and Gomez
in accordance with California Code of Regulations, Title 15,
§ 3084.3(d), because he failed to identify them in his
inmate appeals before filing this lawsuit”; (b)
Plaintiff “has failed to allege facts that would
demonstrate that Defendants had sufficient knowledge of any
known risk”; and (c) Defendants are entitled to
qualified immunity for Plaintiff's damages claims because
a reasonable officer in each Defendant's position would
not have believed that he had sufficient information to
conclude Plaintiff faced an unreasonable risk of harm.
Id. at 6-8.
filed an opposition, and Defendants filed their reply. Dkts.
reasons outlined below, the Court GRANTS Defendants'
motion for summary judgment and DENIES their motion to
dismiss as moot.
time of the events set forth in his complaint, Plaintiff was
an inmate housed in SVSP. Dkt. 1 at 8.
Garcia, Lomeli, Gonzalez, and Gomez are, or were at the time
of the events alleged in Plaintiff's complaint, members
of the custody staff at SVSP. See Id. at 2-3.
Relevant SVSP Policies
Facility Security Levels
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
(“CDCR”) designates “[e]ach camp, facility,
or area of a facility complex” “at a security
level based on its physical security and housing
capability.” Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3377. The
classification or “security” levels are as
(a) Level I facilities and camps consist primarily of open
dormitories with a low security perimeter.
(b) Level II facilities consist primarily of open dormitories
with a secure perimeter, which may include armed coverage.
(c) Level III facilities primarily have a secure perimeter
with armed coverage and housing units with cells adjacent to
(d) Level IV facilities have a secure perimeter with internal
and external armed coverage and housing units described in
section 3377(c), or cell block housing with cells
non-adjacent to exterior walls.
Inmate Transfers and the Classification Process
Plaintiff alleges that he was transferred from CHCF to a
prison with safety concerns, the Court also includes the
relevant procedure relating to inmate transfers and the
classification process. Any inmate transferred from a
facility other than a reception center shall require a
classification committee action and endorsement by a
classification staff representative (“CSR”). Cal.
Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3379(a)(1). California Code of
Regulations, Title 15, § 3379(a)(1) states as follows:
(a) Transfer requirements.
(1) Unless exempted within this subsection, any inmate
transfer shall require a classification committee action and
endorsement by a classification staff representative (CSR) or
expedited transfer approval by the Chief of the Population
Management Unit. A classification committee action and CSR
endorsement is not required in the cases of illegal aliens
transferring for the purpose of deportation proceedings and
expedited transfers warranted under emergent circumstances,
including but not limited to inmate medical or mental health
needs and transfers from one restricted housing unit to a
similar restricted housing unit. Additionally, a
classification committee action is not required for an inmate
transfer from a reception center.
the classification process, California Code of Regulations,
Title 15, § 3375 states in part as follows:
(a) The classification process shall be uniformly applied,
commencing upon reception of a person committed to the
custody of the Secretary and shall continue throughout the
time the individual remains under the Secretary's
jurisdiction. Each inmate shall be individually classified in
accordance with this article . . . .
(b) The classification process shall take into consideration
the inmate's needs, interests and desires, his/her
behavior and placement score in keeping with the Department
and institution's/facility's program and security
missions and public safety.
(c) Each determination affecting an inmate's placement
within an institution/facility, transfer between facilities,
program participation, privilege groups, or custody
designation shall be made by a classification committee
composed of staff knowledgeable in the classification
Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3375 (a)-(c).
Background Relating to Plaintiff's Safety Concerns and
Letters Sent by Plaintiff Relating to Safety Concerns at
complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the CCI, Correctional
Counselor II (“CCII”), Sergeant, Lieutenant,
Captain, and the Warden “all knew that if [they] sen[t]
[him] back to [SVSP] that [he] could be killed or murder[ed],
because [he] had show[n] them all a letter from Congress of
the United States[, ] House of Representatives . . . the
Joint Commission . . . and the Substance Abuse and Mental
[Health] Service[s] Administration
(“SAMHSA”)”. Dkt. 1 at 8, 17, 18, 19.
Plaintiff attached to his complaint an April 11, 2016 letter
from the United States House of Representatives concerning
“situations at [SVSP]” that was responded to by
Sam Farr, a member of Congress. Id. at 17. Mr. Farr
stated that Plaintiff's concerns involved “an issue
that is mo[re] properly within the jurisdiction of state
government, ” and he referred Plaintiff to his
“representative in the California legislature,
Assemblyman Luis Alejo.” Id. at 17. Plaintiff
also attached to his complaint an April 12, 2017 letter from
The Joint Commission “in response to the concerns [he]
shared with The Joint Commission concerning [SVSP], ”
and informed Plaintiff that SVSP “is not currently
accredited by The Joint Commission.” Id. at
18. Plaintiff was advised to “contact the organization
directly for resolution” or the “State Department
of Health” because the Joint Commission had “no
authority to evaluate the information [Plaintiff]
reported.” Id. Finally, Plaintiff attached to
his complaint an April 25, 2016 letter from SAMHSA relating
to his concerns about “[his] safety and the safety [of]
others, as well as prison conditions in [SVSP]” and
advised Plaintiff that SAMHSA is “not a direct provider
of [such] services” and did not “investigate
situations like the one [he] describe[d] . . . .”
Id. at 19. Instead, Plaintiff was advised that
“[i]f he believe[d] that [his] civil liberties have
been violated, [he] may contact the Disability Rights of
California (DRC), Office of Clients' Rights.”
Endorsement to SVSP on May 22, 2017
who is classified as a “Level II” inmate, states
that on May 22, 2017, he was assigned to be housed with
“Level IV” inmates at SVSP, thereby placing his
safety in jeopardy. Dkt. 1 at 8.
to a “Non-Committee Endorsement” dated May 22,
2017, Plaintiff was authorized for transfer from CHCF to
SVSP. Id. at 8, 15. The endorsement of Plaintiff to
SVSP was based upon a “[d]ouble override”
“to facilitate necessary EOP treatment.”
Id. at 15 (footnote added). The endorsement further
noted “lower bunk concerns” for Plaintiff, who
uses a walker and a cane. Id.; see also Id.
at 34. The endorsement also noted enemy concerns “at
SVSP Facility A, however placement at SVSP Facility D can be
accommodated” and instructed that “[s]taff are to
house accordingly.” Id. at 15. In addition,
the CSR noted that on February 28, 2017, Plaintiff was
transferred from CHCF to CHCF Department of State Hospitals
(“DSH”). Id. The CSR further noted that
Plaintiff was designated as a High Risk Medical based on his
Medical Classification Chrono dated April 23, 2017.
Id. Plaintiff was “clinically discharged on
5/19/2017 at the EOP [Level of Care].” Id.
Finally, the CSR notes as follows:
CHCF recommended [Mule Creek State Prison
(“MCSP”)]-II [Sensitive Needs Yard]/EOP [with
alternative to] SATF-II SNY/EOP. Placement is based on
inmates' case factors, housing and transportation
availability, departmental needs and [California Penal Code
§] 5068 consideration.
Id. (brackets and footnote added).
Placement at SVSP and Plaintiff's ...