Saffi v. Knight et al
FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Recommending That the 1 Complaint be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, signed by Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams on 12/11/2009. Objections to F&R due by 1/13/2010. (Sondheim, M)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA F R E S N O DIVISION
S H A N E SAFFI,
) ) 1 :0 7 -C V -0 0 2 7 1 -B L W -M H W (PC) P la in tif f , ) ) v. ) ) REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION S ID N E Y KNIGHT, et al, ) ) D e f e n d a n ts. ) _________________________________) P e n d in g before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendants' Motion for S u m m a ry Judgment (Docket No. 39) filed on August 3, 2009. The certificate of service o n the motion indicates the motion was mailed to Plaintiff at his address of record. P u rs u a n t to the Court's Second Informational Order, Motion to Dismiss Notice and S u m m a ry Judgment Notice (Docket No. 19), Plaintiff was advised of the need to file a re s p o n s e to motions pursuant to Local Rule 78-230(m). No response has been filed by th e Plaintiff as of November 3, 2009. P u rs u a n t to United States v. Real Property Located at Incline Village, 47 F.3d 1 5 1 1 , 1520 (9th Cir. 1995) default summary judgment is not proper unless movant's p a p e r are sufficient to support the motion or on their face the movant's papers reveal no g e n u in e issue of material fact. See also Marshall v. Gates, 44 F.3d 722, 725 (9th Cir. 1 9 9 5 ) (summary judgment may not be granted simply because opposing party violated a Report and Recommendation - Page 1
local rule, if movant did not meet burden of demonstrating absence of genuine issue for tria l). Accordingly, the Court will evaluate the motion for summary judgment on the m e rits . H a v in g fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal a rg u m e n ts are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest o f avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional p ro c e s s would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on th e record before this Court without oral argument. I. F a c tu a l Background. Plaintiff Shane Allen Saffi ("Saffi") filed a 42 U. S. C. § 1983 action against C o rre c tio n a l Officers Sidney Knight ("Knight"), J. Garza ("Garza") and W. Williams (" W illia m s " ) (collectively referred to as the "Defendants"), who are the only remaining D e f e n d a n ts . Defendants Carols, Miranda, Dunn and Clark have been previously d is m is s e d from this action. See Docket No. 32. Saffi alleges these three correctional o f f ic e rs used excessive force against him on April 17, 2006 and violated his Eighth A m e n d m e n t right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Defendants deny they v io la te d Saffi's constitutional rights and argue the Complaint should be dismissed based o n Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) due to Plaintiff's failure to file a writ of habeas c o rp u s to overturn the punishment Saffi received for the rules violation arising from the in c id e n t on April 17, 2006. Report and Recommendation - Page 2
Saffi was incarcerated at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("SATF") d u rin g the events of April 17, 2006. Defendants were correctional officers at SATF. On A p ril 17, 2006, Correctional Officer Garza received information that Saffi might be under th e influence of alcohol and that he had assaulted another inmate. Correctional Officers G a rz a and Williams approached Saffi in the yard at approximately 1330 hrs and advised h im of the accusations against him. Saffi was handcuffed and taken to the Facility D m e d ic a l center where he was placed in holding cell. Saffi did not struggle and was c o o p e ra tiv e with the officers. Garza and Williams both believed Saffi was under the in f lu e n c e of alcohol based on his slurred speech, strong scent of alcohol and his u n s te a d in e s s when escorting him. Plaintiff alleges that once they got to the Medical C lin ic , he was asked to turn around so the cuff could be removed. Plaintiff asked to s p e a k to a sergeant at which time he asserts that C/Os Knight, Garza and Williams g ra b b e d him by the head, while he was still handcuffed and threw him face first into the g ro u n d . He then states the C/O Knight kicked him three times in the face, C/O Garza k n e e le d on his head pinning it to the ground and that C/O Williams jumped onto his back a n d injured his spine. Plaintiff states that he was then placed in full restraints with a spit m a s k over his face and taken to the Program Office holding cell. Plaintiff requests that the Defendants be prosecuted for excessive force while he w a s in restraints. Plaintiff seeks money damages under Section 1983 for subjecting him to Cruel and Unusual Punishment.
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The Defendants present a different picture of what transpired between themselves a n d the Plaintiff based on their logs and reports. At approximately 1345, a radio call a s k e d for available officers to report to the medical center. Correctional Officers Knight a n d Tony Carlos1 ("Carlos") reported to the medical center. The officers were asked to tra n s f e r Saffi to the Program Office. Carlos handcuffed Saffi. As the officers were e s c o rtin g Saffi from the medical area, Saffi tried to pull away, was swinging his elbows a n d was attempting to kick Knight and Carlos. Using their body weight, the two officers f o rc e d Saffi to the ground and the alarm was sounded for additional staff to respond. Saffi tried to spit on the officers and a spit mask was placed on Plaintiff. Other re s p o n d in g officers escorted Saffi to the Program Office. Knight had no further in v o lv e m e n t with Saffi that day. As referenced earlier, Saffi alleges in his Complaint and states in his deposition th a t when he refused to turn around in the medical cell, that he was grabbed by the head a n d his face forced to the ground. He testifies he was kicked in the face three times by K n ig h t, Garza pinned his head to the ground while Williams jumped on his spine. Garza a n d Williams deny they were present when the altercation in the medical unit occurred. Knight states in his declaration that Officers Garza and Williams were not the responding o f f ic e rs to the medical area when the alarm was sounded. Knight also denies kicking S a f f i in the face. Correctional Officer Tony Carlos was dismissed from this lawsuit on October 27, 2008, Docket No. 32. Report and Recommendation - Page 4
Saffi alleges in his Complaint that he was hung upside down in the Program Office f ro m 2:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. In his deposition Saffi admits that none of the named D e f e n d a n ts (Knight, Williams or Garza) were the officers that escorted him to the P ro g ra m Office or that hung Saffi upside down. This fact is undisputed as Officers G a rz a , Williams and Knight all deny hanging Saffi upside down in the Program Office. Saffi claims he was never written up for having consumed alcohol or for having a s s a u lte d another inmate. Saffi claims in his Complaint he has 50 pages of reports and s u p p o rtin g documents showing falsified and contradicted reports. None of these alleged f a ls if ie d reports have been provided for the Court's review in response to the correctional o f f ic e rs ' declarations. Nor were any offender complaints submitted by Saffi regarding the a lle g e d medical injuries he suffered or his allegation of being hung upside down in the P ro g ra m Office. After the incident with Saffi, Knight completed a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") d o c u m e n tin g the force that he and Carlos used on Saffi in response to his resistive and a s s a u ltiv e behavior. Due to the RVR, charges of attempted aggravated battery against the c o rre c tio n officers were brought against Saffi. A hearing was held on May 9, 2006 by S e n io r Hearing Officer Baires. Saffi waived his right to call any witnesses and would not m a k e a statement, but did admit that he remembered spitting. Saffi was found guilty of a tte m p te d aggravated battery, a Division B(2) offense, and he received a loss of good tim e credits. Saffi was informed he was not eligible for restoration of his credits pursuant
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to California Code of Regulations, Title 15 § § 3327 and 3328. In order for an inmate to h a v e his forfeited credits restored, he must file a petition for writ of habeas corpus to o v e rtu rn the RVR and request a court order to restore the forfeited credits. It is u n d is p u te d that Saffi has not filed a writ of habeas corpus to restore his credits. Defendants lodged a copy of Plaintiff's deposition transcript in this matter, Docket N o . 40. The Court reviewed the deposition in order to determine additional facts that s h o u ld be viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. II. S ta n d a r d of Review S u m m a ry judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a ju d g m e n t as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of the s u m m a ry judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural s h o rtc u t," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or d e f e n s e s [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant u n w a rra n te d consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere e x is te n c e of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise p ro p e rly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no g e n u in e issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 Report and Recommendation - Page 6
(1986). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. See id. at 248. The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, id . at 255, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. Direct testimony of the n o n -m o v a n t must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1 1 5 9 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable in f e re n c e s from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th C ir. 1988). In addition, the Court must be "guided by the substantive evidentiary s ta n d a rd s that apply to the case." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a g e n u in e issue of material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (e n banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative e v id e n c e (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence o f evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato J o h n s o n , 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000). This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to s u p p o rt a jury verdict in her favor. Id. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond th e pleadings and show by "affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or a d m is sio n s on file" that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. III. A n a ly s is T h e threshold question is whether this civil rights action is barred by Heck v. Report and Recommendation - Page 7
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994), or, in other words, whether a favorable verdict h e re would necessarily imply the invalidity of Plaintiff's conviction for the rules v io la tio n . In Heck v. Humphrey, the Supreme Court held that, where a favorable verdict in a civil rights action would necessarily imply the invalidity of a plaintiff's conviction, h e must first prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, e x p u n g e d by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such d e te rm in a tio n , or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas c o rp u s . Id. As a result, "a claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or s e n te n c e that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983." Id. On the other hand, if "the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate th e invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should b e allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit." Id. at 487 (footnote o m itte d ). The Ninth Circuit has explained that Heck will apply to bar a claim if "a § 1983 p la in tif f could prevail only by negating `an element of the offense of which he has been c o n v ic te d .'" Cunningham v. Gates, 312 F.3d 1148, 1153-54 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Heck, 5 1 2 U.S. at 487 n.6). However, in circumstances in which the conviction and the § 1983 c la im do not arise from the same acts, Heck does not apply. Cunningham, 312 F.3d at 1155. In the present case, Defendants argue that Heck applies because Plaintiff was cited
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for a rules violation related to the April 17, 2006 incident, was found guilty of attempted a g g ra v a te d battery against correction officers pursuant to that RVR, he forfeited credits d u e to the violation and failed to file a writ of habeas corpus to have the forfeited credits re s to re d . Because the alleged excessive force claim arises out of the same facts as the R V R for attempted aggravated battery against the corrections officers and is f u n d a m e n ta lly inconsistent with the unlawful behavior for which § 1983 relief is sought, the § 1983 action should be dismissed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Plaintiff claims that excessive force was used on him by the Defendants and that h e was basically passive and did nothing to resist their efforts. But just the opposite was a lle g e d in the disciplinary offense proceedings at which Plaintiff was found guilty of a g g ra v a te d battery. To now find that the officer engaged in unconstitutional and e x c e s s iv e force would be directly contrary to the finding that Plaintiff was guilty of a s s a u ltin g the officers. The two are mutually exclusive and to now permit the Plaintiff to p ro c e e d with an action to recover money damages from the Defendants would require that th is Court in some fashion find that the original decision at the disciplinary hearing was le g a lly incorrect. Of course this Court can not do this, and Plaintiff's remedy was to p ro c e e d by writ of habeas corpus to have the finding of guilty, or his "judgment" set a s id e . See, Butterfield v. Bail, 120 F.3d 1023, 1024 (9th Cir. 1997) ("If the court c o n c lu d e s that the challenge would necessarily imply the invalidity of the judgment or
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continuing confinement, then the challenge must be brought as a petition for a writ of h a b e a s corpus, not under § 1983.") T h e Court cannot address the Plaintiff's claim that he was hung upside down in the P ro g ra m s Office as Plaintiff testified in his deposition that the named Defendants were n o t involved in hanging him upside down. Plaintiff has not provided the identification of th e correctional officers involved. While this allegation is very troubling to the Court, the c la im should be dismissed without prejudice based on Plaintiff's failure to be able to id e n tif y state actors who allegedly violated his civil rights. IV. R e c o m m e n d a tio n B a se d on the foregoing and being fully advised in the premises, the Court re c o m m e n d s that the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 39) be G R A N T E D and that the Complaint be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. W ritte n objections to this Report and Recommendation must be filed within thirty (3 0 ) days pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The document should be captioned " O b je c tio n s to Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation." The parties are advised th a t as result of failing to do so, that party may waive the right to raise factual and/or legal o b je c tio n s to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
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DATED: December 11, 2009
Honorable Mikel H. Williams U n ite d States Magistrate Judge
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