Galicia v. Marsh et al

Filing 59

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that Defendant Marsh and Weatherford's Motion to Dismiss be granted; Due process claims against Defendants Marsh and Weatherford be Dismissed without prejudice; Plaintiff's Moiton to Amend the compl aint be denied as moot re 32 MOTION to AMEND the 9 Amended Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint, 31 MOTION to DISMISS and 28 MOTION to DISMISS ;referred to Judge Drozd, signed by Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone on 05/05/2017. Objections to F&R due (30-Day Deadline) (Martin-Gill, S)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 JOSE GALICIA, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 v. T. MARSH, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS’ MARSH AND WEATHERFORD’S MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND [ECF Nos. 28, 31, 32] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Defendant Marsh’s motion to dismiss, filed September 30, 2016, 19 20 Case No.: 1:16-cv-00011-DAD-SAB (PC) Plaintiff Jose Galicia is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action 17 18 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) and Defendant Weatherford’s motion to dismiss, filed October 13, 2016. 21 I. 22 RELEVANT HISTORY This action is proceeding against Defendants Guzman, Marsh, Weatherford, and Jennings for 23 24 due process violations in connection with a rules violation report and hearing for possession of a 25 deadly weapon.1 26 27 1 28 Defendants Marsh, Guzman and Jennings are represented by Deputy Attorney General Sean Lodholz, and Defendant Weatherford is represented by Kristina Doan Gruenberg. 1 1 2 On August 22, 2016, Defendants A. Guzman and J. Jennings filed an answer to the complaint. On August 23, 2016, the Court issued the discovery and scheduling order. 3 On September 30, 2016, Defendant Marsh filed the instant motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 28.) 4 On October 13, 2016, Defendant Weatherford filed a motion dismiss. (ECF No. 31.) 5 On October 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, and 6 lodged a second amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 32 & 33.) On November 2, 2016, Defendants A. 7 Guzman, M. Jennings, and T. Marsh filed an opposition to Plaintiff’s motion to amend. (ECF No. 37.) 8 On November 3, 2016, Defendant Weatherford joined in Defendants’ opposition. (ECF No. 38.) 9 Plaintiff filed a reply on December 27, 2016. (ECF No. 49.) 10 On November 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant Weatherford’s motion to 11 dismiss. (ECF No. 44.) Defendant Weatherford filed a reply on December 5, 2016. (ECF No. 46.) 12 II. 13 DISCUSSION 14 A. Motion to Dismiss Standard 15 A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a claim, 16 and dismissal is proper if there is a lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts 17 alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th 18 Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citations omitted). In resolving a 12(b)(6) motion, a court’s review is 19 generally limited to the operative pleading. Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass’n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 20 (9th Cir. 2010); Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007); Schneider v. California Dept. of 21 Corr., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998). 22 To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as 23 true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing 24 Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (quotation marks omitted); Conservation 25 Force, 646 F.3d at 1242; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The Court 26 must accept the factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non- 27 moving party, Daniels-Hall, 629 F.3d at 998; Sanders, 504 F.3d at 910; Morales v. City of Los 28 Angeles, 214 F.3d 1151, 1153 (9th Cir. 2000), and in this Circuit, pro se litigants are entitled to have 2 1 their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, Wilhelm v. Rotman, 2 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012); Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); Silva v. 3 Di Vittorio, 658 F.3d 1090, 1101 (9th Cir. 2011); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). 4 Defendant argues that the action should be dismissed on the ground that Plaintiff’s due process 5 claim him against him is barred by the favorable-termination rule announced in Heck v. Humphrey, 6 512 U.S. 477 (1994). 7 B. 8 On March 15, 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Corcoran State Prison and placed in 9 10 Complaint Allegations administrative segregation pending release to facility 3A. On March 20, 2013, Plaintiff arrived in facility 3A, housing unit 2 and was assigned to cell 11 212. Plaintiff was never asked to sign a document acknowledging that cell 212 was searched prior to 12 Plaintiff’s assignment as mandated by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 13 (CDCR) guidelines. 14 15 16 On March 27, 2013, Plaintiff appeared before the classification committee which chose to release Plaintiff to Facility 3A general population. On April 2, 2013, a mass search of facility 3A, housing unit 2 was conducted. During this 17 search a weapon was discovered in a cavity behind the door handle of Plaintiff’s cell door. The door 18 handle on the interior of Plaintiff’s cell door is secured by specialized screws designed to only 19 unscrew with the use of a specialized tool. No tool that could be used to remove the door handle was 20 ever found in Plaintiff’s cell or personal property. 21 22 23 On April 2, 2013, Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation and charged with possession of a deadly weapon. On April 10, 2013, Plaintiff was given ten minutes to view photographs of the alleged weapon. 24 Plaintiff contends that ten minutes was not enough time to formulate an adequate defense, based on 25 the photographs. 26 On July 18, 2013, correctional officer Guzman was assigned to serve as Plaintiff’s 27 investigative employee. Plaintiff forwarded a list of questions for four witnesses. Plaintiff did not 28 know the name of the fourth witness but provided his job title as “R & R Sergeant.” 3 1 2 3 On July 20, 2013, another inmate pled guilty to possession of the same weapon that Plaintiff was charged to have possessed. On July 20, 2013, Lieutenant Weatherford was the senior hearing officer who conducted the 4 disciplinary hearing of the inmate who pled guilty to possession of the weapon. During the 5 disciplinary hearing of the other inmate, Weatherford received exculpatory testimony exonerating 6 Plaintiff of the charge. Defendant Weatherford refused to record the statement and told inmate (John 7 Doe) to mind his own business. 8 9 On July 23, 2013, Defendant Guzman gave Plaintiff a copy of the interviews he conducted on three staff members, but refused to provide an explanation on why the fourth witness was not 10 questioned. Plaintiff asserts that the fourth witness could have explained that upon Plaintiff’s arrival 11 on 3A yard his personal property was x-rayed just a few days prior to the search. 12 On July 25, 2013, Plaintiff appeared before senior hearing officer (SHO) T. Marsh. SHO 13 Marsh was aware that someone else had already pled guilty to the same charge. Plaintiff was a little 14 concerned that Marsh was conducting his disciplinary hearing since he reviewed a grievance that 15 Plaintiff had previously filed. 16 Defendant Marsh seemed to have his mind made up prior to Plaintiff’s hearing for he simply 17 asked for a statement. When Plaintiff noticed that he was recording the statement, Defendant Marsh 18 told Plaintiff there was no need. Plaintiff asked why Marsh had not reviewed the interviews of the 19 three staff members, and he said it would not make a difference because he knew the weapon belonged 20 to Plaintiff who was a south sider and in need of a knife on the yard. 21 On August 10, 2013, Plaintiff received a written disposition signed by T. Marsh finding 22 Plaintiff guilty as charged. Based on the staff reports, Plaintiff was sentenced to a fifteen month term 23 in the security housing unit and accessed 360 days of forfeiture of credit. 24 Defendant Jennings was the Chief Disciplinary Officer (CDO) who oversaw the disciplinary 25 hearings of both inmates, John Doe and Plaintiff. Jennings duties as the CDO consist of making sure 26 disciplinary hearings conform with constitutional safeguards and take corrective action is necessary. 27 28 Plaintiff contends that the excessive typos and mistakes in the incident and disciplinary reports complicated his appeals process. 4 1 Plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering that the disciplinary conviction be expunged and to 2 restore the 360 days of forfeited credit; compensatory damages for the property that was confiscated; 3 punitive damages in an amount determined by the Court; and any other relief Plaintiff may be entitled. 4 C. 5 Defendant Marsh requests that the Court take judicial notice of Plaintiff’s abstract of judgment 6 Request for Judicial Notice from his underlying state criminal conviction. (ECF No. 29.) 7 Federal Rule of Evidence 201 permits the Court to take judicial notice at any time. A 8 judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either: (1) generally 9 known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court; or (2) capable of accurate and ready 10 determination by resort to sources who accuracy reasonably cannot be questioned. Fed. R. Evid. 11 201(b). Courts may take judicial notice of facts related to the case before it. Amphibious Partners, 12 LLC v. Redman, 534 F.3d 1357, 1361-1362 (10th Cir. 2008) (district court was entitled to take 13 judicial notice of its memorandum of order and judgment from previous case involving same parties). 14 This Court may judicially notice the records and filing of other court proceedings. Tellabs, Inc. v. 15 Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Bennett v. Medtronic, Inc., 285 F.3d 801, 802 16 n.2 (9th Cir. 2002). This includes documents filed in state courts. Harris v. Cnty. of Orange, 682 F.3d 17 1126, 1132 (9th Cir. 2012). 18 The Court takes judicial notice of the Exhibit A by Defendant as such document is appropriate 19 for judicial notice. (ECF No. 29, Ex. A.) Plaintiff is serving a fifteen year sentence for second degree 20 burglary with a firearm enhancement. (Id.) 21 22 D. Defendants Marsh and Weatherford’s Motions to Dismiss and Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend 23 As previously stated, Defendant T. Marsh was the SHO at Plaintiff’s July 25, 2013, 24 disciplinary hearing and found Plaintiff guilty of possessing a deadly weapon and assessed Plaintiff 25 360 days’ loss of goodtime credit. Plaintiff contends that T. Marsh was biased against him in violation 26 of the due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and requests, in part, that his disciplinary 27 conviction be expunged and the loss of 360 days of goodtime credit be restored. 28 5 1 Plaintiff contends that Defendant Weatherford had knowledge that another inmate pled guilty 2 to possession of the weapon that Plaintiff was accused of possessing, and failed to provide this 3 “exculpatory evidence” during Plaintiff’s disciplinary hearing. 4 Defendant Marsh argues that if Plaintiff is successful with respect to his claim that he was not 5 impartial during Plaintiff’s disciplinary hearing, it will necessarily invalidate his conviction and affect 6 the length of time he must serve. Therefore, the claim should be dismissed, without prejudice, as 7 Plaintiff must first invalidate his conviction by way of petition for writ of habeas corpus. 8 9 Defendant Weatherford also argues that if Plaintiff is successful with respect to his claim regarding the withholding of exculpatory evidence, it will necessarily invalidate Plaintiff’s conviction 10 and affect the length of time he must serve. In the alternative, Defendant Weatherford argues he is 11 entitled to qualified immunity. 12 “Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of 13 rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 14 (1974). With respect to prison disciplinary proceedings, the minimum procedural requirements that 15 must be met are: (1) written notice of the charges; (2) at least 24 hours between the time the prisoner 16 receives written notice and the time of the hearing, so that the prisoner may prepare his defense; (3) a 17 written statement by the fact finders of the evidence they rely on and reasons for taking disciplinary 18 action; (4) the right of the prisoner to call witnesses in his defense, when permitting him to do so 19 would not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals; and (5) legal assistance to 20 the prisoner where the prisoner is illiterate or the issues presented are legally complex. Id. at 563-71. 21 As long as the five minimum Wolff requirements are met, due process has been satisfied. Walker v. 22 Sumner, 14 F.3d 1415, 1420 (9th Cir. 1994), abrogated on other grounds by Sandin v. Connor, 515 23 U.S. 472 (1995). In addition, “some evidence” must support the decision of the hearing officer, 24 Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985), and the evidence must have some indicia of 25 reliability, Cato v. Rushen, 824 F.2d 703, 705 (9th Cir. 1987). The “some evidence” standard is not 26 particularly stringent and the relevant inquiry is whether “there is any evidence in the record that could 27 support the conclusion reached. . . .” Hill, 472 U.S. at 455-56 (emphasis added). Finally, embodied in 28 the protection of the individual against arbitrary action of government, Wolff, 418 U.S. at 558, is the 6 1 requirement that the decision maker be impartial, Edwards, 520 U.S. at 647; Wolff, 418 U.S. at 570- 2 71. “The due process requirements for a prison disciplinary hearing are in many respects less 3 demanding than those for criminal prosecution, but they are not so lax as to let stand the decision of a 4 biased hearing officer who dishonestly suppresses evidence of innocence.” Edwards, 520 U.S. at 647. 5 It has long been established that state prisoners cannot challenge the fact or duration of their 6 confinement in a section 1983 action and their sole remedy lies in habeas corpus relief. Wilkinson v. 7 Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005). Often referred to as the favorable termination rule or the Heck bar, 8 this exception to section 1983’s otherwise broad scope applies whenever state prisoners “seek to 9 invalidate the duration of their confinement-either directly through an injunction compelling speedier 10 release or indirectly through a judicial determination that necessarily implies the unlawfulness of the 11 State’s custody.” Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 81; Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 482, 486-487 (1994); 12 Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 644 (1997). Thus, “a state prisoner’s [section] 1983 action is 13 barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter 14 the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings)-if 15 success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.” Id. 16 at 81-82. 17 However, “challenges to disciplinary proceedings are barred by Heck only if the § 1983 action 18 would be seeking a judgment at odds with [the prisoner’s] conviction or with the State’s calculation of 19 time to be served.” Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 928-29 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (citing 20 Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 754-55. “If the invalidity of the disciplinary proceedings, and therefore the 21 restoration of good-time credits, would not necessarily affect the length of time to be served, then the 22 claim falls outside the core of habeas and may be brought in § 1983.” Nettles, 830 F.3d at 929; see 23 also Pratt v. Hedrick, No. C 13-4557 SI (pr), 2015 WL 3880383, at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 23, 2015) 24 (section 1983 challenge to disciplinary conviction not Heck-barred where “the removal of the rule 25 violation report or the restoration of time credits” would not necessarily result in a speedier release for 26 inmate with indeterminate life sentence and no parole date). 27 28 In this case, Plaintiff is serving a sentence of 15 year sentence and lost 360 days of good-time credit as a result of the rules violation for possession of a deadly weapon. Defendants argue that 7 1 Edwards is on point. In Edwards, the plaintiff alleged that his due process rights were violated 2 because the hearing officer did not allow him to call witnesses with exculpatory evidence, and was 3 biased and lied about the exculpatory witnesses. Edwards, 520 U.S. at 646-47. The Court held the 4 due process claim was barred by Heck because, if established, it would necessarily imply the 5 invalidity of the proceedings and forfeiture of time credits against him. The Court agrees. Plaintiff’s 6 due process claims against Defendants Marsh and Weatherford, if proven, would necessarily imply the 7 invalidity of his disciplinary rules violation. Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the holdings in 8 Heck and Edwards, regardless of the relief sought. 9 In his opposition, Plaintiff argues that the Supreme Court’s holding in Wilkinson applies here. 10 In Wilkinson v. Dotson, the Court addressed the relationship between section 1983 and habeas corpus 11 claims. Wilkinson involved a challenge to the state’s practice of applying new parole procedures 12 retroactively. The Supreme Court held that an inmate may raise a section 1983 challenge to seek 13 invalidation of “state procedures used to deny parole eligibility…and parole suitability, but he/she may 14 not seek “an injunction ordering his immediate or speedier release into the community.” Wilkinson, 15 544 U.S. at 82. There, the Court noted an inmate may seek as a remedy “consideration of a new 16 parole application” or “a new parole hearing,” which may or may not result in a grant of parole. Id. 17 The Court reiterated that the determination under Heck is whether success on a claim would 18 necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction or the punishment imposed. Id. at 80-81. 19 The instant action does not involve the parole board procedures and related due process rights. 20 Rather, the instant action involves a disciplinary conviction which resulted in the loss of good-time 21 credits. Plaintiff’s claim of a bias decision maker, if proven, would necessarily imply the invalidity of 22 his conviction and is, therefore, not cognizable section 1983 absence proof of success in overturning 23 the rules violation by way of habeas corpus relief. Thus, nothing in Wilkinson holds otherwise. 24 Plaintiff also argues that the decision in Peralta v. Vasquez, 467 F.3d 98 (2d Cir. 2006), should 25 control and Plaintiff should be allowed to amend the complaint to delete his claims for injunctive relief 26 for expungement of the disciplinary conviction and restoration of the good-time credits. (Opp’n at 2- 27 3, ECF No. 57; Pl’s Mtn. Amend at 1-2, ECF No. 32.) In Peralta, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals 28 held that if a prisoner forfeits any challenge to the length of his confinement, the prisoner may seek 8 1 relief for damages by way of section 1983 for the conditions of confinement claim. There, the inmate 2 challenged the procedures during his disciplinary hearing in which he was found guilty of cutting 3 another inmate with a “razor-type weapon.” As a result of the conviction, Peralta lost good-credits 4 and was placed in a special housing unit, among other things. The Second Circuit held that if mixed 5 sanctions are imposed which affect both the duration as well as conditions of confinement, the inmate 6 may proceed by way of section 1983 if he forfeits all claims related to the sanctions that affect the 7 duration of confinement. The Second Circuit opined as follows: We conclude from all this that the purpose of the Heck favorable termination requirement is to prevent prisoners from using § 1983 to vitiate collaterally a judicial or administrative decision that affected the overall length of their confinement, and that punishments related to their term of imprisonment, or the procedures that led to them (if the procedural defect at issue was critical to the imposition of the punishment), must be attacked through a habeas petition. But the favorable termination requirement is not intended to compel a prisoner to demonstrate that a sanction he seeks to challenge, or the procedure that led to it, has been invalidated before he can proceed under § 1983 when that sanction does not affect his term of confinement. As the Muhammad Court explained, “Heck’s requirement to resort to state litigation and federal habeas before § 1983 is not … implicated by a prisoner’s challenge that threatens no consequence for his conviction or the duration of his sentence. There is no need to preserve the habeas exhaustion rule and no impediment under Heck in such a case….” Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 751-52, 124 S.Ct. 1303. 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Peralta, 467 F.3d at 104. The Court concluded that because Peralta sought damages for the sanctions 17 imposed on him which affected only the conditions of his confinement, his section 1983 challenge 18 could proceed if he abandons any further challenge to the duration of his sentence. 19 The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals declined to adopt the Peralta Court’s reasoning in 20 Haywood v. Hathaway, 842 F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir. 2016). In Haywood, the Seventh Circuit Court 21 of Appeals concluded that 22 Nothing in Heck, Edwards, or any of the Court’s later decisions suggests that the “favorable termination” element that the Court thought essential can be elided by a plaintiff’s disavowing a kind of relief that Preiser holds is never available under § 1983 in the first place. The approach taken in Peralta is incompatible with Heck and its successors; Peralta is functionally what would happen if the whole sequence were overturned and only Preiser left standing. 23 24 25 26 Haywood, 824 F.3d at 1029-30.2 27 28 2 The Court noted that no other circuit has adopted the Peralta holding. Haywood, 824 F.2d at 1029. 9 The Court finds the reasoning in Haywood persuasive and adopts the analysis set forth in 1 2 Haywood that Peralta is not controlling authority on the issue. The controlling opinions of Heck and 3 Edwards, and its progeny, clearly establish that a prisoner may not present a section 1983 challenge 4 that would necessarily imply the invalidity of the disciplinary violation, and there has been no 5 exception to the rule carved out by the United States Supreme Court to allow a prisoner to forfeit a 6 challenge to the duration of his imprisonment to proceed for damages under section 1983 on the 7 related challenge to the conditions of confinement. Indeed, the Peralta decision implicitly undermines 8 the reasoning of Heck and Edwards. Therefore, Defendants Marsh and Weatherford’s motions to 9 dismiss should be granted as the due process claims against them are barred by Heck, and Plaintiff’s 10 motion to amend the complaint should be denied as moot. Because the Court finds that Defendant 11 Weatherford’s motion to dismiss should be granted, the Court need not reach his argument regarding 12 dismissal based on qualified immunity. 13 III. 14 RECOMMENDATIONS 15 Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 16 1. Defendants Marsh and Weatherford’s motions to dismiss be granted; 17 2. The due process claims against Defendants Marsh and Weatherford be dismissed, 18 without prejudice3; and Plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint be denied as moot. 19 3. 20 These Findings and Recommendations will be submitted to the United States District Judge 21 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within thirty (30) days after 22 being served with these Findings and Recommendations, the parties may file written objections with 23 the Court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and 24 Recommendations.” The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time 25 26 27 28 3 See Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 586 (9th Cir. 1995) (a civil rights complaint seeking habeas relief should be dismissed without prejudice to filing as a petition for writ of habeas corpus). 10 1 may result in the waiver of rights on appeal. Wilkerson v. Wheeler, 772 F.3d 834, 838-39 (9th Cir. 2 2014) (citing Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th Cir. 1991)). 3 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 Dated: 6 May 5, 2017 UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 11

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?