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Solomon v. C/O I. Castaneda

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 5, 2016

C/O I. CASTANEDA, et al., Defendants.



         Vincent Solomon, a California state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action under the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983) against various officials of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.[1] Solomon’s action arises out of his incarceration at California Correctional Institution-Corcoran. Solomon is currently incarcerated at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility-Corcoran.


         This Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.[2] Because this Court has previously set forth the screening requirements in its Initial Screening Order, it does not repeat them herein.


         In his Complaint raised seven claims. (1) an excessive force claim against C/O Castaneda, C/O Sanchez, R.N. Settles, and Sgt. Press. (2) A destruction of personal property claim against C/O Sanchez, C/O Bank, C/O Castaneda, and Sgt. Press. (3) A denial of medical care or retaliation claim against Dr. Tate. (4) CDW Reed, Capt. Madsen, and Lt. Lopez improperly permitted Sgt. Press to process both his staff complaint and CDCR 602 appeal; and that Sgt. Press and C/O Plotnik destroyed his medical appliances. (5) Capt. Madsen violated Solomon’s due process rights. (6) Lt. Lopez, Lt. Johnson, and CDW Reed refused to take disciplinary action against Sgt. Reed for the alleged use of excessive force. (7) Warden Stainer, D.A. Green, and Appeals Coordinator Sampson refused to bring criminal charges against the CDCR officers who allegedly violated Solomon’s rights, and Chief Appeals Officer Hodges did not timely respond to his inmate grievance In its Initial Screening Order the Court found that Count 1 stated a claim against C/O Castaneda, Sgt Press, and R.N. Settles. The Court dismissed Count 1 against C/O Sanchez with leave to amend. Count III against Dr. Tate was dismissed with leave to amend. In all other respects the Complaint was dismissed without leave to amend.

         The Court also cautioned Solomon that although it appeared he had exhausted his administrative remedies as against C/O Castaneda, C/O Sanchez, Sgt. Press, and C/O Plotnik, he had not as against the other Defendants.


         Claim 1. Alleges that on November 23, 2011, C/O Castaneda came to Solomon’s cell intending to kill or otherwise harm him through the use of pepper-spray and a T-16 grenade. Solomon further alleges that in forcibly removing him from his cell Castaneda and C/O Sanchez used excessive force to restrain him, i.e., use of hand-cuffs that were too small. Solomon also alleges that Sgt. Press and C/O Banks dragged him across the floor, deprived him of a decontamination shower, and forced Solomon to sleep in his contaminated clothes for a period of eight days. Finally, Solomon alleges that RN Settles neither did anything to stop Sgt. Press and C/O Banks from dragging him across the floor nor report them for this misconduct.[3]

         Claim 2. Again alleges that C/O Sanchez, C/O Bank, C/O Castaneda, and Sgt. Press removed and destroyed Solomon’s personal property; including, legal work, law books, family photos, magazines, orthopedic shoes, and both pairs of eyeglasses.

         Claim 3. This claim, directed at Dr. Tate, alleges several separate incidents in that Dr. Tate:

(1) November 8, 2009 - improperly wrote Solomon up and terminated his morphine medication.
(2) May 5, 2011 - terminated Solomon’s pain medications.
(3) August 11, 2011 - terminated Solomon’s medical chronos.
(4) December 15, 2011 - deprived Solomon of his eyeglasses and orthopedic shoes.
(5) December 20, 2011 - removed personal pictures from Solomon’s cell.
(6) January 2012 - pasted Solomon’s website page in the medical center.

         Claim 4. A separate claim against R.N. Settles for: (1) failing to protect him from Sgt. Press and C/O Banks; (2) refusal to push Solomon in a wheel chair; (3) refusal to provide necessary medical assistance (the use of an inhaler to alleviate asthma); and (4) failure to report the misconduct of Sgt. Press and C/O Banks.

         Claim 5. Alleges that CDW Reed, Capt. Madsen, and Lt. Lopez improperly permitted Sgt. Press to process both his staff complaint and CDCR 602 appeal.

         Claim 6. Although somewhat unclear, this claim appears to combine in a single claim unrelated allegations against several Defendants.

(1) An excessive force claim against C/O Sanchez and C/O Castaneda.
(2) A claim against R.N. Settles for failure to treat the injuries Solomon suffered as a result of the excessive use of force.
(3) A claim against Dr. Tate for failure to treat the injuries Solomon suffered as a result of the excessive use of force.

         For relief Solomon requests: (1) policy changes that allow inmates to press criminal charges against correctional officials; (2) $100, 000 in damages for being held in the SHU; (3) $1.5 million in punitive damages; (4) $1.5 million for pain and suffering; and (5) $10, 000 for lost/destroyed property.

         Solomon initiated two grievances that were processed through the Third Level of Review: Log No. CCI-12-00040 and Log No. CCI-12-00048. Log No. CCI-12-00040.

I. APPELLANT'S ARGUMENT: It is the appellant's position that on November 23, 2011, Correctional Officer (CO) Casteneda came to his cell with a clear intention to kill him. The appellant claims that he was called to the cell front with a lie that he was receiving legal mail, which CO Casteneda never gave him. The appellant stated he got back on his bed and asked the whereabouts of Correctional Sergeant (Sgt.) R. Press and Sgt Rolland. He further claims that CO S. Sanchez and Casteneda kept putting him in single cuffs, cutting his wrists and hands causing him to bleed. He hurt his shoulder and has a broken bone in his right wrist. They also refused to move the appellant to a lower bunk, lower tier pursuant to his medical chrono. They told him that Sgt. Press told them to do what they wanted to do to the appellant. This is when CO Casteneda sprayed the appellant while he was on his bed. He closed the food port, and then opened it over and over spraying the appellant until the can was empty. The appellant then claims CO Casteneda went and got a T-16 grenade, opened his food port three times and sprayed him and one time he threw T-16 in his cell. He claims that Sgt. Press put him in tank number 122 and forced him to eat three sack lunches off the floor, sleep on the floor and no shower. Sgt. Press also allowed COs S. Sanchez and Casteneda to destroy his legal work, family photos and other items in his cell. The appellant is requesting a full investigation by the District Attorney; he wants to press charges against all CDCR staff involved to prove CO Casteneda and Sgt. Press are lying.
II SECOND LEVEL'S DECISION: The reviewer affirmed that an appropriate supervisory staff was assigned to conduct an inquiry into this matter. The inquiry included a review of the submitted material and an interview of the involved parties. In order to determine the facts, the inquiry arising from this appeal included an interview of the appellant; interview of department employees; and review of current policies, laws, and procedures. Additional research may have included interviews of other inmates or review of the appellant's central file. The Second Level of Review (SLR) noted that all staff personnel matters are confidential in nature and the appellant will only be notified whether the actions of staff were or were not in compliance with policy. The SLR found that the staff did not violate policy. The SLR partially granted the appeal in that an inquiry was conducted.
A. FINDINGS: Upon review of the documentation submitted, it is determined that the appellant's allegations have been reviewed and evaluated by administrative staff and an inquiry has been completed at the SLR. In the event that staff conduct was riot in compliance with policy, the institution would take the appropriate course of action. All staff personnel matters are confidential in nature and not privy to the inquiries of other staff, the general public, or the inmate population, and would not be released to the appellant. In this case, the institution has reported to the appellant that an inquiry was conducted, and the actions of staff were determined to be in compliance with policy. The Third Level of Review (TLR) notes that although the appellant has the right to submit an appeal as a staff complaint, the request for administrative action regarding staff; the placement of documentation in a staff member's personnel file; that a staff member be reprimanded; or the request for monetary compensation is beyond the scope of the appeals process. The TLR reviewed the findings of the confidential inquiry and concurs with the findings of the SLR; that the actions of staff were in compliance with departmental policy. No relief is provided at the TLR.
California Penal Code Section: 832.5, 832.7, 832.8 California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section: 3001, 3004, 3084.1, 3268, 3270, 3287, 3380 CDCR Operations Manual, Section: 31140.14
C. ORDER: No changes or modifications are required by the Institution.

         This decision exhausts the administrative remedy available to the appellant within CDCR.[4]

         Log No. CCI-12-00048

I APPELLANT'S ARGUMENT: It is the appellant's position that Correctional Officer (CO) Plotnik failed to inventory all of his personal property and/or illegally destroyed it, including his television (TV), eyeglasses and orthopedic shoes. The appellant relates that on November 23, 2011, he was involved in an altercation with a correctional officer, which resulted in staff spraying him with a chemical agent, placing him in handcuffs and removing him from his cell. He relates that a few days later he was given his personal property, which CO Plotnik inventoried and packed. The appellant states that he informed staff that his personal magazines, books, ear buds, 300 family photos, hygiene products (one and one half bags of shampoo and one-half deodorant), thermal top and bottom, eyeglasses, orthopedic shoes and digital TV were destroyed or confiscated illegally. The appellant acknowledges that the TV in question was damaged due to rain leaking into his cell. The appellant acknowledges that staff exchanged the TV; however, he was issued a 1999 RCA, when his was a brand new digital TV. He believes he is entitled to a new digital flat screen TV.
In Section "D" of this appeal, the appellant adds a new issue regarding Correctional Sergeant (Sgt.) R. Press' involvement during the First Level of Review (FLR). The appellant claims that he and Sgt. Press have been involved in previous incidents and that his judgment toward him is tainted. Furthermore, the appellant alleges that Sgt. Press and CO Plotnik admitted to opening all of his personal and legal letters along with removing all of his magazines from their plastic covers in an effort to search his property. Since Sgt. Press and CO Plotnik failed to return the magazines into their covers, they are responsible for exposing them to chemical agent. The appellant requests on appeal full compensation for his damaged, destroyed and confiscated personal property.
II SECOND LEVEL'S DECISION: The reviewer found that staff are not responsible for the appellant's damaged or alleged missing property. The reviewer considered the appellant's concerns and provided him a detailed response, addressing each of his concerns. The reviewer affirms that the appellant assaulted a correctional officer on or about November 23, 2011, which resulted in him being sprayed with a chemical agent, handcuffed and removed from his cell. On November 25, 2011, CO Plotnik inventoried and packed the appellant's property. A CDC Form 1083, Inmate Property Inventory was completed and the appellant was given an opportunity to review and sign it; however, he refused. The appellant's property was transported to Receiving and Release (R&R) on the same day. On November 28, 2011, the appellant was issued his property by CO Grant. The appellant informed CO Grant that the aforementioned items were missing. On February 10, 2012, the reviewer interviewed CO Plotnik regarding the issues of this appeal. CO Plotnik stated that when he collected the appellant's property, there were magazines that had other inmate's names and numbers on them, which appeared to be crossed out. There were other magazines, without covers, that did not have any identification on them at all. CO Plotnik added that some of the magazines were so contaminated with chemical agents that he was unable to read the covers. As for the missing photos, ear buds and hygiene products, CO Plotnik verified that he inventoried and packed whatever was in the appellant's cell. The reviewer relates that during the appeal process, developed information revealed that the appellant routinely exchanged magazines with other inmates and that his books were located in two other cells. In that the appellant was involved in an incident, that required the use of chemical agent, coupled with the information that the appellant exchanged his magazines with other inmates and loaned out his books, the institution denies the appellant's request for full compensation of his personal property. As for the alleged damaged or confiscated TV, the reviewer affirms that the appellant's TV was damaged due rain leaking into his cell. On November 21, 2011, the appellant was issued a replacement TV. The appellant signed a Security Housing Unit (SHU) Property-Release of Liability/Compensation Form, dated November 21, 201 l. The reviewer states that by signing this form and accepting the TV, the institution/CDCR is released from any further liability.
As for the appellant's alleged missing eyeglasses, CO Plotnik informed the reviewer that he discovered two pair of eyeglasses when he was inventoried and packed the appellant's property. Since CDCR Operations Manual, Section 54030, Article 43, only allows SHU inmates to possess one pair of eyeglasses, CO Plotnik took the eyeglasses to the medical department who determined that one pair of eyeglasses had been obtained through legal means. There was no receipt for the second pair of eyeglasses. Upon issuance, CO Plotnik asked the appellant how he wanted to dispose of the second pair of eyeglasses. The appellant informed him to just get rid of them. CO Plotnik states that because of the appellant's statement, he elected to place them in a secure area.
As for the appellant's confiscated orthopedic shoes, the reviewer states that CO Plotnik informed him that during a review of the appellant's central file, it was determined that Dr. H. Tate rescinded the appellant's prior CDCR Form 7410, Comprehensive Accommodation Chrono for orthopedic shoes. The two pair of orthopedic shoes were confiscated and sent to R&R. The appellant was issued a pair of state shoes appropriate for inmates assigned to the SHU. On February 11, 2012, the reviewer interviewed the appellant and asked how he would like to dispose of the non-allowable property, pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section (CCR) 3191 (c). The appellant informed the reviewer that he would not choose any of the choices in CCR 3191(c) and again requested full compensation for the orthopedic shoes and one pair of eyeglasses.
As for the appellant's claim that Sgt. Press was inappropriately involved in the appeal process, the reviewer concludes that this claim is false. The appellant has failed to produce any evidence that substantiates his claim of impropriety. Despite the appellant's disagreement with the FLR decision, ...

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