Ashker et al v. Schwarzenegger et al

Filing 634


Download PDF
1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 TODD ASHKER et al., 5 6 7 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 No. C 09-05796 CW Plaintiffs, ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR DE NOVO REVIEW OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S RULING ON RECRUITMENT OFFENSE v. GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA et al., Defendants. ________________________________/ (DOCKET NO. 588) Plaintiffs Todd Ashker et al. move for a de novo 11 determination of a matter decided by Magistrate Judge Vadas. 12 their Settlement Agreement, the parties agreed that matters 13 decided by Judge Vadas would be reviewed by this Court under 28 14 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (Docket No. 588). 15 interpretation of a “recruitment offense.” 16 Governor of the State of California et al. filed an opposition, 17 and each party filed supplemental briefing after an August 17, 18 2016 status conference before Judge Vadas. 19 Plaintiffs relief and AFFIRMS Judge Vadas’s ruling. 20 In At issue here is the Defendants the The Court DENIES BACKGROUND 21 Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, the California 22 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) “shall not 23 place inmates into a SHU, Administrative Segregation, or Step Down 24 Program solely on the basis of their validation status.” 25 Settlement Agreement ¶ 13. 26 Agreement is a “SHU Term Assessment Chart” that lists types of 27 misconduct for which a prisoner could be placed in a SHU. 28 Attachment B to the Settlement Offense 1 (9) on that chart is “STG Disruptive Behavior.” 2 and (B) are defined as follows: 3 4 5 6 7 8 Offense (9)(A) (9) STG Disruptive Behavior: (A) Acting in a leadership role by directing or controlling STG behavior that is a behavior listed in this SHU Assessment Chart. (B) Recruiting inmates to become an STG affiliate, or to take part in STG activities that is a behavior listed in this SHU Assessment Chart. Settlement Agreement, Attachment B, SHU Term Assessment Chart. On December 21, 2015, in a letter brief to Judge Vadas, Plaintiffs claimed ambiguity in the text of Offense (9)(B). See 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 9 Docket No. 576-2, Ex. B, 12/21/2015 Letter Brief at 10–14. A week 11 later, Judge Vadas held one of the regular status conferences 12 required by paragraph 49 of the Settlement Agreement. 13 were Plaintiffs’ counsel, counsel from CDCR’s Office of Legal 14 Affairs, counsel from the California Attorney General’s office and 15 Sandra Alfaro, CDCR’s Associate Director of High Security Mission 16 for the Division of Adult Institutions. 17 E. Bremer in Support of Motion regarding Interpretation of 18 Recruitment Offense ¶ 2. 19 20 21 Present See Declaration of Carmen The minutes from that conference state: Interpretation of SHU-eligible offense 9(B): The parties agreed that CDCR will formulate by no later than March 28, 2016 a policy concerning the recruitment SHUeligible offense under 9(B) that incorporates a coercive element. 22 Docket No. 513-2, Minutes of December 28, 2015 status conference 23 ¶ I.d. 24 On March 28, 2016, Defendants’ counsel emailed Plaintiffs’ 25 counsel to indicate that Defendants “are unable to revise section 26 9b of Attachment B to the SHU Term Assessment Chart to include a 27 ‘coercive’ component.” 28 for enforcement of the December 28 agreement, which Judge Vadas Bremer Dec., Ex. C. 2 Plaintiffs then moved 1 denied at the June 10 hearing that is the subject of this motion. 2 See Transcript of June 10, 2016 Hearing at 36. 3 The parties dispute whether the December agreement modified 4 the Settlement Agreement. 5 modification). 6 have jurisdiction under the Settlement Agreement to rule on 7 Plaintiff's motion. 8 defense counsel” as to whether the Court could rule on Plaintiffs’ 9 motion. See Settlement Agreement ¶ 59 (defining Defendants first argued that Judge Vadas did not Id. at 34. Judge Vadas “absolutely disagree[d] with He explained, “Under [paragraphs 49 and 53], United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 I have not only the right but the obligation to hear these matters 11 and to rule on” the impact of the December 2015 agreement. 12 34. 13 circumstances, noting, “Clearly, the parties agreed to negotiate 14 this issue on December 28, 2015. 15 indicates that there was an oral agreement to do so.” 16 of June 10, 2016 Hearing at 33–34. 17 Id. at Judge Vadas noted that he was “troubled” by the And the clear language of B Transcript Nonetheless, Judge Vadas decided that the December 2015 18 agreement did not constitute a written modification as the 19 Settlement Agreement requires for modifications to be binding. 20 Id. at 35–36; see also id. at 36 (“And so what I consider to be 21 somewhat of a technicality, given the nature of how we’ve been 22 proceeding, I must deny your motion.”). 23 After Judge Vadas denied Plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the 24 December agreement, Plaintiffs suggested that Judge Vadas issue an 25 order “indicating . . . that 9B is to be interpreted consistent 26 with our understanding of it . . . .” 27 responded by stating in part that “no court . . . should make 28 3 Id. at 37. Judge Vadas 1 advisory opinions. 2 Id. I’ll rule on the motions that are before me.” 3 LEGAL STANDARD 4 The parties agreed that this Court would review de novo 5 Magistrate Judge Vadas’s decisions. 6 (“An order issued by Magistrate Judge Vadas under this Paragraph 7 is subject to review under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)"). 8 of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, 9 the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Settlement Agreement ¶ 53 “A judge The United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to 11 the magistrate judge with instructions.” 12 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). DISCUSSION 13 Magistrate Judge Vadas and this Court have jurisdiction to 14 determine whether the December agreement qualifies as a 15 modification under the Settlement Agreement. 16 with Judge Vadas that it is not. 17 18 I. This Court agrees Modification of the Settlement Agreement Plaintiffs argue that the December 2015 agreement is 19 enforceable as a written modification of the Settlement Agreement. 20 See Plaintiffs’ Motion at 14. 21 the Settlement Agreement "must be in writing and signed by a CDCR 22 representative and attorneys for Plaintiffs and Defendants to be 23 effective or enforceable." 24 acknowledge that no CDCR representative signed the agreement, but 25 first argue that it was written and that Defendants’ counsel 26 agreed to it via email, sufficing for a writing and signature. 27 Plaintiffs also assert that no CDCR representative needed to sign 28 the writing because “the parties’ course of conduct constitutes Any modification to the terms of Settlement Agreement ¶ 59. 4 Plaintiffs 1 waiver of the requirement that both CDCR’s attorney and its 2 representative sign any modification of the agreement.” 3 Plaintiffs do not point to actions or evidence beyond the December 4 minutes and emails themselves to support this waiver argument. 5 Because the writing was signed by Defendants’ counsel, but not a 6 non-attorney representative of CDCR, it is not in compliance with 7 the Settlement Agreement. 8 not enforceable. 9 II. Id. Thus, the December 2015 agreement is Substantial Compliance United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Plaintiffs next argue that the Court should adopt their 11 interpretation of (9)(B), to avoid substantial noncompliance with 12 the Settlement Agreement. 13 Paragraph 53 of the Settlement Agreement states: 14 If Plaintiffs contend that CDCR has not substantially complied with any other terms of this Agreement that do not amount to current, ongoing, systemic violations as alleged in the Second Amended Complaint or Supplemental Complaint of the Eighth Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, . . . they may seek enforcement by order of this Court 15 16 17 18 Settlement Agreement ¶ 53. 19 If the parties are unable to resolve the issue informally, Plaintiffs may seek enforcement of the Agreement by seeking an order upon noticed motion before Magistrate Judge Vadas. It shall be Plaintiffs’ burden in making such a motion to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendants have not substantially complied with the terms of the Agreement. . . . If Plaintiffs satisfy their burden of proof by demonstrating substantial noncompliance with the Agreement’s terms by a preponderance of the evidence, then Magistrate Judge Vadas may issue an order to achieve substantial compliance with the Agreement’s terms. 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Under this provision: Id. Substantial compliance means more than “taking significant steps toward compliance . . . .” Rouser v. White, 825 F.3d 1076, 5 1 1082 (9th Cir. 2016). 2 the Agreement. 3 distinct provisions of consent decrees are independent 4 obligations, each of which must be satisfied before there can be a 5 finding of substantial compliance.”); Plaintiffs’ Reply at 2–3. 6 Defendants must comply with each term of See id. at 1081 (“Like terms in a contract, Plaintiffs appear to argue that Defendants’ failure to 7 interpret Offense (9)(B) to require recruitment accompanied by 8 another offense constitutes a failure to comply with a term of the 9 Settlement Agreement. Plaintiffs contend that the phrase “that is United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 a behavior listed in this SHU Assessment Chart” must correspond 11 “not only ‘to take part in STG activities,’ but also ‘[r]ecruiting 12 inmates to become an STG affiliate,’ . . .” 13 15. 14 satisfy Offense (9)(B). 15 charge to a prisoner on the basis of “gang recruitment” without an 16 allegation of “other SHU-eligible misconduct” or coercion does not 17 render Defendants noncompliant with the Settlement Agreement. 18 Thus, Plaintiffs do not make a showing of substantial 19 noncompliance that would warrant an order under Paragraph 53. 20 Plaintiffs’ Motion at However, Offense (9)(B) is clear; recruitment alone may That Defendants issued a rule violation No term of the Settlement Agreement authorizes the Court to 21 interpret the Agreement outside the context of a showing of 22 substantial noncompliance. 23 to do so would be an advisory opinion. 24 Settlement Agreement does not warrant such an order. The Court agrees with Judge Vadas that 25 26 27 28 6 Absent noncompliance, the 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the reasons above, the Court reviews Magistrate Judge 3 Vadas's order de novo, DENIES Plaintiffs’ request to reverse it 4 (Docket No. 588) and AFFIRMS Magistrate Judge Vadas’s order. 5 IT IS SO ORDERED. 6 7 8 Dated: September 14, 2016 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 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 7

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?