Jackson v. Sullivan et al

Filing 32


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1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 No. C 09-1785 CW (PR) JONATHAN JACKSON, 4 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS; DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY; DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL AND TO ISSUE SUMMONS Plaintiff, 5 v. 6 7 B. SULLIVAN, et al., Defendants. 8 9 ________________________________/ (Docket nos. 20, 21, 23, 26) United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Plaintiff, a death row prisoner incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison (SQSP), has filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action seeking injunctive relief and damages. Robert L. Ayers and Appeals Examiner B. Sullivan have filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff has opposed the motion and Defendants have filed a reply.1 20 21 22 23 24 For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED and the action is DISMISSED without leave to amend. 18 19 Defendants SQSP Warden DISCUSSION A. Standard of Review Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “after the pleadings are closed –- but early enough not to delay trial –a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Judgment on the pleadings is proper when, “taking all allegations in the pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a 25 26 1SQSP 27 28 Appeals Coordinator V. Kelly has not been served. Because this order dismisses the action, Plaintiff’s motion to issue summons to serve Kelly is DENIED. 1 1 matter of law.” 2 F.3d 1129, 1133 (9th Cir. 2006). 3 the moving party must clearly establish “that no material issue of 4 fact remains to be resolved.” 5 Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1551 (9th Cir. 1989). 6 Stanley v. Trustees of the Cal. State Univ., 433 On the face of the pleadings, Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard A Rule 12(c) motion is “functionally identical” to a Rule 7 12(b) motion. 8 1192 (9th Cir. 1989). 9 to both. Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, Thus, the same standard of review applies Under both rules, “the allegations of the non-moving United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 party must be accepted as true, while the allegations of the 11 moving party which have been denied are assumed to be false.” 12 Roach Studios, Inc., 896 F.2d at 1550. 13 true, however, unreasonable inferences, unwarranted deductions of 14 fact, or conclusory legal allegations cast in the form of factual 15 allegations. 16 624 (9th Cir. 1981). 17 Hal A court need not accept as See Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, In deciding such a motion, a court may properly consider 18 material submitted as part of the complaint, documents that are 19 not part of the complaint but are referred to extensively in the 20 complaint and considered authentic by all parties, and materials 21 that are part of the public record and thus subject to judicial 22 notice. 23 Cir. 2003). 24 B. 25 See United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908-09 (9th Plaintiff’s Claims The Court conducted a preliminary screening of Plaintiff’s 26 original complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and liberally 27 construed the allegations therein as an attempt by Plaintiff to 28 state three claims for relief, all pertaining to his designation 2 1 as a death row prisoner reassigned from Grade A status to the more 2 restrictive Grade B/Privilege Group D (Grade B) status. 3 Specifically, the Court construed the complaint as raising the 4 following claims: (1) the Grade B designation violates due process 5 because Plaintiff was not afforded the procedural protections 6 provided to non-death-row prisoners who are reassigned to more 7 restrictive conditions of confinement, (2) the designation 8 violates his right to equal protection, and (3) the designation 9 violates his rights under the Eighth Amendment. The Court United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 dismissed the complaint with leave to amend, finding that 11 Plaintiff had failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim 12 for relief under any of the above three theories and that he had 13 failed to link Defendants Sullivan and Kelly to his allegations. 14 Docket no. 9. 15 Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint; the Court 16 found Plaintiff’s allegations, when liberally construed, cured the 17 pleading deficiencies with respect to the due process and equal 18 protection claims, and ordered those claims served on Defendants. 19 Because Plaintiff had not alleged facts in the amended complaint 20 pertaining to his Eighth Amendment claim, the Court dismissed that 21 claim without prejudice. Docket no. 12. 22 When reviewing the legal sufficiency of the amended 23 complaint, the Court relied solely on the allegations therein. 24 Specifically, the Court relied on Plaintiff’s allegations 25 concerning the language of various prison regulations, a decision 26 made by the classification committee to retain him on Grade B 27 status, and the content of the administrative appeals he filed 28 challenging his designation as a Grade B prisoner and Defendants’ 3 1 responses thereto. 2 classification decision, administrative appeals or any other 3 documents to either his original or amended complaint. Plaintiff did not attach the regulations, 4 In support of their motion for judgment on the pleadings, 5 Defendants have attached copies of the classification decision and 6 administrative appeals to which the complaint refers. 7 on the motion, the Court considers these documents and also takes 8 judicial notice of the language of the prison regulations relied 9 upon by Plaintiff in the amended complaint. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 C. In ruling Analysis 11 1. 12 Plaintiff claims that his right to due process was violated Due Process Claim 13 when, after he was found guilty of a disciplinary violation, 14 Defendants chose not to sentence him to a determinate term of 15 punishment on Grade B status but, instead, relied upon the 16 disciplinary violation as justification to reassign him 17 permanently to Grade B status. 18 assigned to an indeterminate term in administrative segregation or 19 the secured housing unit (SHU) for non-death-row prisoners. 20 maintains that if he had received a determinate term of punishment 21 on Grade B status he would have been able to return to Grade A 22 status when the term ended, but because he has been reassigned to 23 Grade B status he cannot return to Grade A status until the Unit 24 Classification Committee (UCC) and Institutional Classification 25 Committee (ICC) allow him to do so, and that the criteria used to 26 guide their decisions are wholly discretionary. 27 28 He analogizes this to being He The requirements of due process apply only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection 4 1 of liberty and property. 2 569 (1972). 3 the Due Process Clause of its own force or by states through 4 statutes or regulations. 5 (1995). 6 such as loss of recreational and rehabilitative programs or 7 confinement to one’s cell for a lengthy period of time, is not so 8 severe as to violate the Due Process Clause itself. 9 v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1091-92 (9th Cir. 1986) (applying United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, A protected liberty interest may be created either by Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 The hardship associated with administrative segregation, See Toussaint Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460 (1983)). A deprivation authorized by state law may amount to 12 deprivation of a protected liberty interest if the deprivation is 13 one of “real substance,” that “imposes atypical and significant 14 hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of 15 prison life,” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484, or “will inevitably affect 16 the duration of [a] sentence,” id. at 487. 17 holds that when prison officials initially determine whether a 18 prisoner is to be segregated for administrative reasons due 19 process requires that they comply with the following procedures: 20 (1) they must hold an informal non-adversarial hearing within a 21 reasonable time after the prisoner is segregated, (2) the prisoner 22 must be informed of the charges against him or the reasons 23 segregation is being considered, and (3) he must be allowed to 24 present his views. 25 Additionally, “some evidence” must support the decision to place 26 an inmate in segregation for administrative reasons. 27 28 The Ninth Circuit See Toussaint, 801 F.2d at 1100. Id. at 1104. Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to state a due process claim because he has not alleged facts that show either that 5 1 reassignment to Grade B status is a deprivation of “real 2 substance,” or that he has not been provided with constitutionally 3 adequate process.2 4 The Court need not decide whether Plaintiff has alleged facts 5 that show that reassignment to Grade B status amounts to a 6 deprivation of real substance. 7 allege facts that show he has been denied due process. 8 Specifically, he does not allege that he was not provided with 9 notice and a hearing at which he was allowed to present his views, Even if he has, he has failed to United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 or that there was not some evidence to support the decision to 11 place him on Grade B status. 12 initially was placed on Grade B status on April 29, 2006, when he 13 was charged with a rules violation; on January 1, 2007, he was 14 found guilty of a lesser offense, specifically, the serious rules 15 violation of conspiracy to murder a peace officer; on February 1, 16 2007, he appeared before the ICC and was informed that he would 17 not be assessed a determinate term of punishment on Grade B status 18 but, instead, would be reassigned to Grade B status and reviewed 19 every ninety days to determine whether he could be returned to 20 Grade A status. 21 Grade B status because of the “rule violation [he] was found 22 guilty of.” 23 24 Rather, he alleges the following: he Notably, Plaintiff alleges that he was assigned (Am. Compl. at 7.) Nor does Plaintiff allege that Defendants have failed to review his continued Grade B status. When an inmate has been 25 26 27 28 2 Whether Plaintiff’s reassignment to Grade B status will inevitably affect the duration of his sentence, see Sandin, 515 U.S. at 487, is not at issue because Plaintiff has been sentenced to death. 6 1 placed in administrative segregation, prison officials must engage 2 in some sort of periodic review of his confinement. 3 459 U.S. at 477 n.9; Toussaint, 801 F.2d at 1101. 4 acknowledges that he has been provided with periodic reviews, 5 every ninety days, by the UCC, and has received regular reviews by 6 the ICC. 7 has been provided with the opportunity to ask questions, has been 8 informed of the reasons for the reviewing committee’s decision to 9 retain him on Grade B status, and has been able to present his See Hewitt, Here, Plaintiff Additionally, he acknowledges that, at these reviews, he United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 views. 11 procedural protections to which he is entitled. 12 Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 217, 224 (2005) (finding due process 13 satisfied by indeterminate administrative segregation policy that 14 requires periodic review of inmate’s files every thirty days and 15 annual review at which inmate is allowed to appear and present his 16 views). 17 Consequently, he has been provided with at least the See Wilkinson v. Based on the foregoing, the Court finds Plaintiff’s 18 allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted 19 for the violation of due process. 20 for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED on this claim. 21 the Court finds amendment would be futile, the claim is dismissed 22 without leave to amend. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion Because 23 2. 24 Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are violating his right to Equal Protection Claim 25 equal protection by using highly discretionary procedures to place 26 and retain death row prisoners on Grade B status that are 27 different than those used to place and retain non-death-row 28 prisoners on restrictive status in administrative segregation and 7 1 the SHU. 2 the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 3 require that non-death-row prisoners who are found guilty of a 4 serious rules violation be sentenced to a determinate term in the 5 SHU and then returned to their prior housing status after the term 6 is served, while death row prisoners do not receive a determinate 7 term of punishment but instead are placed on Grade B status for an 8 indeterminate term and without specific criteria for release. 9 “The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment Specifically, he alleges that regulations promulgated by United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 commands that no State shall ‘deny to any person within its 11 jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,’ which is 12 essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should 13 be treated alike.” 14 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985) (quoting Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 15 (1982)). 16 support an equal protection claim. 17 Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1168 (9th Cir. 2005). 18 prisoner to state an equal protection claim when challenging his 19 treatment in contrast to that of other prisoners, he must allege 20 that his treatment is invidiously dissimilar to that received by 21 other prisoners. 22 Cir. 1993). City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, The different treatment of unlike groups does not Thornton v. City of St. In order for a See More v. Farrier, 984 F.2d 269, 271-72 (8th 23 Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state a 24 claim upon which relief may be granted because death row prisoners 25 are not situated similarly to non-death-row prisoners. 26 maintains that the two groups are similarly situated because 27 placing a death row prisoner on Grade B status is equivalent to 28 8 Plaintiff 1 placing a non-death-row prisoner in administrative segregation or 2 the SHU. 3 non-death-row prisoners are similarly situated in this regard; 4 even if they are, the inferences drawn by Plaintiff from the 5 regulatory language are unreasonable and his factual allegations 6 are therefore unsubstantiated. 7 The Court need not decide whether death row and As an initial matter, and contrary to Plaintiff’s 8 allegations, the regulations do not require that a non-death-row 9 prisoner found guilty of a serious rule violation be sentenced to United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 a determinate term in the SHU. 11 prisoner be assessed a credit forfeiture. 12 (C.C.R.) § 3315(f)(3). 13 conspiracy to murder a peace officer -- the serious rules 14 violation of which Plaintiff was found guilty -- is to be assessed 15 a credit forfeiture of 151-180 days. 16 However, credit forfeitures can be assessed only against prisoners 17 serving determinate terms. 18 after a rules violation has been adjudicated against a 19 non-death-row prisoner, a serious disciplinary action can be 20 referred to a classification committee to determine whether the 21 prisoner should be assigned to a different work or housing group. 22 15 C.C.R. § 3315(g). 23 a “determinate period of confinement in SHU may be established for 24 an inmate found guilty of a serious offense,” or that an inmate 25 can be assigned to an indeterminate SHU term if he is “deemed to 26 be a threat to the safety of others or the security of the 27 institution.” Rather, they provide that the 15 Cal. Code Regs. In particular, a prisoner found guilty of 15 C.C.R. § 3323(c)(8). 15 C.C.R. § 3323(a). Additionally, The classification regulations provide that 15 C.C.R. § 3341.5(c)(1) & (c)(B)(1). 28 9 1 Like non-death-row prisoners found guilty of a serious rules 2 violation who are not serving determinate terms of imprisonment, 3 Plaintiff is ineligible for credit forfeiture as a disciplinary 4 measure. 5 rules violation adjudicated, he is subject to reclassification, 6 including either a determinate or indeterminate SHU term. 7 Consequently, Plaintiff’s contention that he has been treated 8 differently from non-death-row prisoners because he did not 9 receive a determinate term on Grade B status is unsupported. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 And, like non-death-row prisoners who have had a serious Nor do the regulations provide, as Plaintiff alleges, that a 11 non-death-row prisoner will be returned to his former housing 12 status after serving a determinate SHU term. 13 that, when a determinate SHU term ends, a non-death-row prisoner 14 may continue to be retained in the SHU if, among other things, a 15 classification committee determines that “[r]elease of the inmate 16 would severely endanger the lives of inmates or staff, the 17 security of the institution, or the integrity of an investigation 18 into suspected criminal activity or serious misconduct.” 19 C.C.R. § 3341.5(c)(3). 20 explained its denial of his request to be referred to the ICC for 21 Grade A consideration as follows: “This is based on the 22 seriousness of his RVR’s, DTD, 12/11/07 for Possession of Alcohol 23 and couple[d] with RVR DTD on 11/30/05 for Conspiracy to commit[] 24 the Murder of A Peace Officer. 25 observation on [Grade] B is needed to evaluate inmate Jackson’s 26 behavior.” 27 Plaintiff’s contention that he has been treated differently than Rather, they provide 15 Here, Plaintiff acknowledges that the UCC Defs.’ Ex. E. Committee feels a longer period of Thus, the Court finds no merit to 28 10 1 non-death-row prisoners because Defendants have exercised 2 discretion to retain him on Grade B status. 3 Similarly, the language of the regulations does not support 4 Plaintiff’s allegation that prison officials may retain on 5 indeterminate SHU status only those non-death-row prisoners who 6 are validated gang members or associates. 7 provide, “Release from segregation status shall occur at the 8 earliest possible time in keeping with the circumstances and 9 reasons for the inmate’s initial placement in administrative Rather, the regulations United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 segregation.” 11 discretion to determine when non-death-row prisoners are eligible 12 for release from an indeterminate SHU term based on the 13 circumstances surrounding their SHU placement, Plaintiff’s 14 contention, that he has been treated differently than 15 non-death-row prisoners because Defendants have exercised their 16 discretion to retain him on Grade B status, is unsubstantiated. 15 C.C.R. § 3339(a). Because prison officials have 17 Based on the above, the Court finds Plaintiff’s factual 18 deduction of differential treatment based on the language of the 19 noted regulations is unwarranted. 20 regulations do treat death row and non-death-row prisoners 21 differently, Plaintiff has not alleged facts from which an 22 inference of invidious discrimination can be drawn. 23 F.2d at 271-72.3 Further, to the extent the See More, 984 Because Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state a 24 3 25 26 27 28 Defendants further argue that, even if Plaintiff has been treated differently than other prisoners to whom he is similarly situated, he has alleged no facts to suggest that such differences are not reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. See Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987). The Court declines to rule on this argument as it requires the development of an evidentiary record. 11 1 claim upon which relief may be granted for an equal protection 2 violation, Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings is 3 GRANTED on this claim. 4 amendment would be futile, the claim is dismissed without leave to 5 amend.4 6 Additionally, because the Court finds CONCLUSION 7 For the foregoing reasons, the Court orders as follows: 8 1. 9 Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 2. Defendants’ motion to stay discovery is DENIED as moot. 11 3. Plaintiff’s motions to issue summons and for the 12 appointment of counsel are DENIED as moot. 13 This Order terminates Docket nos. 20, 21, 23 and 26. 14 The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment and close the 15 16 file. IT IS SO ORDERED. 17 18 Dated: 19 1/24/2013 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 Because the motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted based on Plaintiff’s failure to state a due process or equal protection claim, the Court does not reach Defendants’ other arguments. 12

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