Gonzalez v. Mullen et al

Filing 68

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS 41 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND 63 MOTION TO FILE SUR-REPLY. Signed by Judge Claudia Wilken on 3/29/2013. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service)(ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/29/2013)

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1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 ERIC L. GONZALEZ, No. C 09-0953 CW (PR) 4 Plaintiff, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION TO FILE SUR-REPLY 5 v. 6 P. MULLEN, et al., (Docket nos. 41, 63) 7 Defendants. 8 _______________________________/ 9 INTRODUCTION United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Plaintiff, a state prisoner incarcerated at the Correctional 11 12 Training Facility (CTF) at Soledad, filed this pro se civil rights 13 action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking prospective 14 15 16 injunctive relief for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights. On initial review of the first amended complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court determined that none of Plaintiff’s allegations stated a claim for relief under § 1983 and 17 dismissed the claims with prejudice. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit 18 found two of Plaintiff’s claims cognizable and remanded the case 19 for further proceedings. 20 21 The Court ordered the first amended complaint served on Defendants, who filed a motion for summary judgment that has been 22 briefed fully by the parties.1 23 the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. 24 // For the reasons discussed below, 25 26 1 27 28 Defendants' motion for leave to file a sur-reply is GRANTED. The sur-reply was filed on October 12, 2012 and Plaintiff filed a response thereto on October 22, 2012. 1 DISCUSSION 2 Plaintiff alleges violations of the Eighth Amendment and the 3 equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 4 prospective injunctive relief to remedy the alleged violations. 5 I. 6 He seeks Defendant Mullen The Court ordered service of Plaintiff’s claims on Defendants 7 P. Mullen -- the appeals coordinator at CTF, Randy Grounds -- the 8 warden at CTF, and Matthew Cate -- the Director of the California 9 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 In their motion for summary judgment Defendants argue that 11 Plaintiff has failed to link Mullen to his allegations and, 12 therefore, all claims against Mullen should be dismissed. 13 opposition to Defendants’ motion, Plaintiff responds that “P. 14 Mullen is not a defendant in this action.” 15 In his Opp’n at 31:23-24. Accordingly, all claims against Mullen are DISMISSED with 16 prejudice. 17 II. 18 Summary Judgment Legal Standard Summary judgment is only proper where the pleadings, 19 discovery and affidavits show there is “no genuine issue as to any 20 material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as 21 a matter of law.” 22 those that may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. 23 Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a 24 material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable 25 jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. 26 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are Id. The court will grant summary judgment “against a party who 27 fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of 28 an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party 2 1 will bear the burden of proof at trial.” 2 Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. 3 at 248 (holding fact to be material if it might affect outcome of 4 suit under governing law). 5 burden of identifying those portions of the record that 6 demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. 7 burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the 8 pleadings, and by his own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, 9 answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file,’ designate Celotex Corp. v. The moving party bears the initial The United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” 11 Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). 12 In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must 13 view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving 14 party; if, as to any given fact, evidence produced by the moving 15 party conflicts with evidence produced by the nonmoving party, the 16 court must assume the truth of the evidence set forth by the 17 nonmoving party with respect to that fact. 18 ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 1999). 19 a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility 20 determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a 21 disputed material fact. 22 Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). 23 See Leslie v. Grupo The court’s function on See T.W. Elec. Serv. v. Pacific Elec. A district court may consider only admissible evidence in 24 ruling on a motion for summary judgment. 25 56(e); Orr v. Bank of America, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002). 26 See Fed. R. Civ. P. A verified complaint may be used as an opposing affidavit 27 under Rule 56, as long as it is based on personal knowledge and 28 sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence. 3 See Schroeder 1 v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 & nn.10-11 (9th Cir. 1995). 2 III. Plaintiff’s Claims 3 A. 4 Plaintiff claims that he is being subjected to cruel and Eighth Amendment Claim 5 unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment because 6 the state prison system does not provide him, as an indigent 7 inmate, with free shower shoes. 8 that, as an indigent inmate who cannot afford to purchase shower 9 shows at the canteen, his health is put at risk each time he Specifically, Plaintiff maintains United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 showers because he is likely to be exposed to a serious contagious 11 disease, such as hepatitis or HIV, from coming into contact with 12 the bodily fluids of other inmates, or to a bacterial infection 13 such as athlete’s foot. 14 The Eighth Amendment requires that prison officials take 15 reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of prisoners. 16 v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). 17 officials to protect inmates from attacks by other inmates or from 18 dangerous conditions at the prison violates the Eighth Amendment 19 only when two requirements are met: (1) the deprivation alleged 20 is, objectively, sufficiently serious; and (2) a prison official 21 is, subjectively, deliberately indifferent to inmate safety. 22 at 834. Farmer The failure of prison Id. 23 Defendants argue that the conditions of which Plaintiff 24 complains are not sufficiently egregious to amount to a violation 25 of the Eighth Amendment, that Defendants are not the cause of his 26 lack of shower shoes, and that his claim is moot. 27 not decide if a triable issue exists as to whether the deprivation 28 alleged by Plaintiff rises to the level of an Eighth Amendment 4 The Court need 1 violation; rather, the Court finds, for the reasons discussed 2 below, that Defendants are not responsible for Plaintiff’s lack of 3 shower shoes and, therefore, have not acted with deliberate 4 indifference to his safety. 5 The undisputed evidence shows that shower shoes are available for purchase at CTF’s inmate canteen for $1.20. 7 Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (Kester Decl.) ¶ 4. 8 available through the quarterly package program. 9 program, inmates in a qualifying privilege group (or their friends 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 6 and families) are entitled to purchase certain items from approved 11 outside vendors for delivery on a quarterly basis, i.e., every 12 ninety days. 13 and shower shoes are not a restricted item. 14 Id. Decl. A. Kester Shower shoes also are Id. Under this Plaintiff regularly receives quarterly packages Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Plaintiff acknowledges that he routinely receives quarterly 15 packages, but maintains that he orders the packages for other non- 16 indigent inmates, who provide him with $5.00 worth of items from 17 the prison canteen in exchange for each quarterly package. 18 at 15:8-16:10; Pl.’s Decl. Supp. Opp’n ¶ 3-7. 19 that he uses the $5.00 to purchase three deodorants and a lotion, 20 which does not leave him with enough money to buy shower shoes. 21 Opp’n at 16:11-17:6. 22 Opp’n Plaintiff states Based on this evidence, it is clear that Defendants' actions 23 have not placed Plaintiff at risk of serious harm. 24 evidence shows 1) that Plaintiff is allowed to receive shower 25 shows through quarterly packages but sells his quarterly packages 26 to other inmates; 2) that Plaintiff receives $5.00 worth of items 27 from the prison canteen in exchange for each quarterly package; 28 3) that shower shoes are available in the canteen for $1.20; and 5 Instead, the 1 4) that Plaintiff chooses to purchase deodorant and lotion rather 2 than shower shoes. 3 because he has chosen not to buy them, not because Defendants have 4 prevented him from doing so. 5 In sum, Plaintiff does not have shower shoes Further, the evidence shows that, during the course of these 6 proceedings, on May 8, 2012, a Public Health Nurse at CTF issued 7 shower shoes to Plaintiff even though he could not pay for them. 8 Decl. H. Dowless Supp. Defs’ Sur-Reply (Dowless Decl.) ¶¶ 2-4 & 9 Exs. A-B; Pl’s Decl. Supp. Sur-Reply Response ¶¶ 3-4. Defendants United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 argue that Plaintiff’s receipt of the shower shoes renders his 11 current claim for injunctive relief moot. 12 the claim is not moot because he is still indigent and 13 no guarantee that he will be provided with shower shoes by the 14 Public Health Nurse in the future. 15 Plaintiff argues that there is As discussed above, even if Plaintiff has no funds in his 16 trust account and qualifies for pauper status in the present 17 proceedings, the evidence shows that he receives $5.00 from other 18 inmates each quarter and chooses to spend those funds on deodorant 19 and lotion rather than shower shoes, which cost $1.20. 20 there is no indication that he will not be provided with shower 21 shoes free of charge by medical staff in the future if he requests 22 them. 23 Further, In sum, Plaintiff’s claim in this action is that his 24 inability to obtain shower shoes places him at a serious risk of 25 harm of contracting a serious illness. 26 evidence shows that he does not face such harm because he has the 27 ability to purchase shower shows and has been provided with shower 28 shoes free of charge. However, the undisputed Accordingly, Plaintiff is not entitled to 6 1 prospective injunctive relief.2 2 Based on the above, summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of 3 Defendants on this claim. 4 II. Equal Protection Claim 5 Plaintiff claims his right to equal protection is being 6 violated by CDCR regulations that prohibit male inmates from 7 purchasing certain personal property items from the canteen or 8 receiving them in their quarterly packages, while female inmates 9 do not face the same prohibitions. According to Plaintiff, such United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 property items include, but are not necessarily limited to, denim 11 wear, hair dryers, immersion heating devices and earrings. 12 seeks prospective injunctive relief that would revise the 13 pertinent CDCR regulations to allow all male inmates to purchase 14 the same products as female inmates. He He also claims that male 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 2 Further, Plaintiff cannot challenge the contested prison policy on behalf of other inmates. Specifically, pro se prisoners cannot act as class representatives. See Johns v. County of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 877 (9th Cir. 1997). Moreover, any class claim for prospective injunctive relief related to medical needs is barred by the pending class action Plata v. Brown, No. 01-cv01351 TEH (N.D. Cal.), which concerns the constitutional adequacy of CDCR inmate medical health care. The Plata class consists of “all prisoners in the custody of the CDCR with serious medical needs.” See Stip. for Inj. Relief 5, ECF No. 24, No. 01-cv-01351 TEH (N.D. Cal.). A plaintiff who is a member of a class suing for equitable relief from prison conditions may not maintain a separate, individual suit for equitable relief involving the subject matter of the class action. See Crawford v. Bell, 599 F.2d 890, 892-93 (9th Cir. 1979); see also McNeil v. Guthrie, 945 F.2d 1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 1991) (“Individual suits for injunctive and equitable relief from alleged unconstitutional prison conditions cannot be brought where there is an existing class action.”) 28 7 1 2 inmates must be allowed to wear earrings like female inmates.3 In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants 3 argue that the CDCR regulations differentiating between items that 4 can be possessed by male and female inmates are reasonably related 5 to legitimate penological interests. 6 evidence of various security reasons for denying access to certain 7 property items to inmates based on gender, housing institution and 8 custody status. 9 Specifically, they present The proper standard for determining the validity of a prison United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 regulation or practice claimed to infringe on an inmate's 11 constitutional rights is whether the regulation or practice is 12 "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." 13 v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). 14 constitutional right claimed to have been infringed is fundamental 15 or a suspect class is involved, and the state under other 16 circumstances would be required to satisfy a more rigorous 17 standard of review. 18 25 (1990). 19 Turner This is the case even when the See Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 223- As an initial matter, the Court finds that the 20 constitutionality of all of the restrictions addressed by the 21 relevant CDCR matrices is not at issue in this case. 22 allegations in Plaintiff's first amended complaint and his 23 administrative appeals show that the only specific item to which Instead, the 24 25 26 27 28 3 Plaintiff also complained originally about the denial of access to certain high-sugar content food items, but he has withdrawn that contention and conceded that Defendants have a legitimate penological interest in prohibiting inmates from possessing food items that can be used to make pruno. Opp'n at 25:26-26:3. 8 1 he has sought access for personal use is an earring. 2 finds that Plaintiff's broad-based administrative grievance that 3 all male inmates be allowed to possess all of the same property 4 items as female inmates is not sufficient to constitute exhaustion 5 of that claim for purposes of this Court's review. 6 § 1997e(a). 7 exhaust a request for all of the items that male inmates are 8 prohibited from possessing, only the prohibition of earrings is 9 properly before the Court. The Court 42 U.S.C. Specifically, because Plaintiff did not expressly As noted above, Plaintiff cannot United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 challenge contested prison policies on behalf of other inmates. 11 The Court, therefore, will not review Plaintiff's comprehensive 12 claim that the CDCR property matrices are unconstitutional as to 13 each item that female inmates can possess but male inmates cannot. 14 With respect to Plaintiff's specific claim that the 15 prohibition on receiving and wearing earrings violates his right 16 to equal protection, the Court finds the claim unsupported by the 17 evidence. 18 rational relationship between the restriction on male possession 19 of earrings and security concerns.4 20 of Regulations, title 15, section 3062(k) provides the following: 21 [I]nmates shall not possess or wear any type of jewelry or other object intended to be worn as a body piercing adornment. This is necessary as it may pose a threat to the health and well being of inmates in that instruments or devices used for piercing may not be sterile, and could cause infections, as well as transmitting bloodborne diseases. Additionally, these provision are necessary because body piercings may be ripped out during an altercation, and they [] also would pose an 22 23 24 25 Defendants have presented evidence that shows a Specifically, California Code 26 27 28 4 The Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for the Court to take judicial notice of the applicable regulations. 9 1 2 3 4 additional safety and security risk as piercings can be altered to make weapons. Defs' Req. Jud. Not. Ex. A at 3. The property matrices exempt prisoners at women's institutions from this restriction because the CDCR has determined 5 that fewer acts of violence occur at those prisons that at men's 6 7 prisons such as Plaintiff's. Plaintiff claims that this is not 8 the case because female inmates are just as, or more, likely than 9 male inmates to pull on hair and earrings during a fight. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Plaintiff's contention, however, is purely speculative and not 11 based on admissible evidence. 12 13 Based on the above, the Court finds that Defendants' evidence shows that the prohibition on the possession of earrings by male 14 inmates is reasonably related to the legitimate penological 15 16 interest of prison security. Because Plaintiff has not raised a 17 triable issue of fact with respect to that evidence, summary 18 judgment is GRANTED in favor Defendants on this claim. 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the Court orders as follows: 1. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. (Docket no. 41.) 2. Defendants’ motion to file a sur-reply is GRANTED. (Docket no. 63.) The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of Defendants and close the file. All parties shall bear their own costs. 28 10 1 This Order terminates Docket nos. 41 and 63. 2 IT IS SO ORDERED. 3 4 Dated: 3/29/2013 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 5 6 7 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 11

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