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Castaneda v. Sherman

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 13, 2020

SHERMAN, et al., Defendants.



         Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit. (Doc. 56.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion on November 6, 2019, and Defendants filed a reply. (Docs. 60-62.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part and that Hacker and Sherman be dismissed as defendants.


         A. Plaintiff's Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff's claims stem from events that occurred while he was incarcerated at Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran (SATF), High Desert State Prison (HDSP), and Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). (Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts (SUF), ¶ 2, Doc. 61 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that, while at SATF, prison staff intentionally placed assaultive inmates in his cell. (Doc. 13 at 7.) Plaintiff states that he attempted to report staff's conduct to the unit classification committee (UCC), including Associate Warden Collins, Correctional Captain Hacker, and Correctional Counselor Williams, but the committee made no changes to Plaintiff's housing assignment at that time. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that, once he finished addressing the UCC, Defendant Collins told Plaintiff that if he reported the assaults, Collins would ensure that Plaintiff was hurt or killed by other inmates. (Id. at 8.)

         Plaintiff nevertheless reported the assaults, and was then placed in administrative segregation (ad-seg) and approved for transfer to HDSP. (Id.) Since other inmates in ad-seg were also approved for transfer to HDSP, if Plaintiff were transferred with them, his safety concerns would no longer be “localized.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he informed Correctional Counselor Peterson of his concerns, who responded that Plaintiff “had been warned to not report the in-cell assaults by defendant Collins, that there was a price to pay.” (Id. at 9.)

         Plaintiff was transferred to HDSP on December 11, 2015. (Id.) He informed HDSP's UCC of his safety concerns, which then approved him for transfer to KVSP. (Id.) Plaintiff was transferred on January 6, 2016. (Id.)

         Once at KVSP, Plaintiff informed Correctional Officer Acebedo of the events at SATF and HDSP. (Id.) Plaintiff appeared before KVSP's UCC on January 14, 2016, which included Defendant Acebedo and Correctional Officer Jones (not a defendant). (Id. at 10.). Plaintiff alleges that Acebedo told Plaintiff that he spoke with Defendant Williams at SATF and “had been advised to not allow plaintiff to escape his punishment, ” and that he planned to return Plaintiff to “A-yard.” (Id.) On January 21, 2016, Plaintiff again appeared before the UCC, which was headed by Warden Pfeiffer, and requested not to be returned to A-yard. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that, once Defendant Pfeiffer “came across the reference to ‘Attempted Murder of a C.O.' [Pfeiffer] said ‘send him back to A-yard.'” (Id.) Plaintiff states that he was placed in a cell with an inmate who was a “verified Mexican Mafia member, ” and that he was “kept prisoner in his cell by his cellmate.” (Id. at 11.)

         Plaintiff visited medical staff on January 25, 2016, and expressed suicidal “ideation as a result of custody actions.” (Id.) Medical staff sent Plaintiff to the Correctional Treatment Center (CTC) and placed him under psychiatric care. According to Plaintiff, on or about February 10, 2016, Defendant Acebedo visited Plaintiff at CTC and stated that he would “ensure that plaintiff was returned to A-yard.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that, on February 24, 2016, Acebedo instructed staff to return him to A-yard. (Id. at 12.) After the escorting officers departed, Plaintiff informed A-yard staff of his safety concerns, who then placed Plaintiff in a “holding cell at medical until arrangements could be made to return … [him] to Ad-Seg.” (Id.)

         B. Plaintiff's Attempts to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         Plaintiff exhausted two administrative grievances regarding the incidents underlying this action between August 21, 2015, the date Defendant Collins threatened Plaintiff, (see Spaich Decl., Ex. D, Doc. 56-4 at 55), and July 10, 2017, the date Plaintiff filed his operative complaint, (see Docs. 13, 20). (See Defs.' SUF, ¶ 15, Doc. 56-3 at 3; see also Spaich Decl., ¶ 10, Doc. 56-4 at 4.) In the first grievance (appeal log no. KVSP-16-00627), Plaintiff states the following:

On 8/21/15, at SATF, A.W. Collins threatened to have inmates assault me if I reported a PREA assault. The following week I reported it and Collins followed through on his threat. On or about 10/19/15, CCI Peterson told me that I would be assaulted no matter where I went. (These C.O.'s were addressed on a separate 602) On or about 1/10/16 and 1/14/16 I informed CCII Acevedo [sic], and some other counselors about safety concerns on A yard. I was placed in Ad-Seg but these individuals recommended I be returned to A yard…. In Ad-seg I notified the counselor (1/20/16) the seargent [sic] and Associate Warden (1/21/16) about these safety concerns. On 1/21/16 these individuals conspired to have me stabbed or killed by placing me back on A yard. On or about 2/1/16, CCII Acevedo told me that He was going to ensure that I was returned to A yard in spite of my safety concerns…. All of these individuals knew that I was going to be hurt or killed but intentionally ignored safety concerns in order to carry out the threat issued by A.W. Collins. Acevedo and another counselor carried out instructions issued by CCI Peterson and CCII Williams to have me hurt or killed.

(Spaich Decl., Ex. D, Doc. 56-4 at 55, 57.) Plaintiff further states, “I want this processed as a staff complaint against all of the KVSP personnel identified herein, as well as those alluded to but not I.D.'d [sic]. I want those to be identified to me.” (Id. at 55.)

         CDCR bypassed the first level of review and processed Plaintiff's grievance at the second and third levels. (See Id. at 53-60.) In its third-level review, CDCR states that “[i]t is appellant's position that after informing multiple staff of his safety concerns, the January 21, 2016, Classification Committee conspired to have him stabbed or killed by placing him back on the ‘A' yard.” (Id. at 53.) Staff denied the ...

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