Bonty v. Neotti et al

Filing 23

ORDER by Judge Lucy H. Koh granting 15 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; denying 20 Motion to Strike (Attachments: # 1 certificate of mailing) (mpb, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/24/2011)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 NOT FOR CITATION 9 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 10 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 MILES O. BONTY, ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 12 Plaintiff, 13 vs. 14 J. STEVENSON, 15 Defendant. 16 No. C 09-3838 LHK (PR) ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (Docket Nos. 15, 20) 17 Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 18 § 1983 alleging that officials at the Salinas Valley State Prison violated his right to due process 19 when they refused to allow him to call witnesses during his February 2009 disciplinary hearing. 20 On October 12, 2010, Defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiff filed an 21 opposition, and Defendant filed a reply. Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant’s reply. 22 Defendant filed a motion to strike Plaintiff’s response, and Plaintiff filed an opposition. 23 Defendant’s motion to strike the Plaintiff’s response is DENIED. For the reasons below, the 24 Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. 25 BACKGROUND 26 In February 2009, Plaintiff was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of refusing to obey 27 orders. (Complaint at 3-4.) As a result, Plaintiff was sentenced to thirty-days forfeiture of 28 Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings P:\PRO-SE\SJ.LHK\CR.09\Bonty838mtd.wpd 1 credits, and placed on “C” privilege status for sixty days. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff claims that he was 2 denied the right to present witnesses at his disciplinary hearing, in violation of his right to due 3 process. (Id. at 6-7.) Plaintiff filed the instant federal civil rights complaint on September 2, 4 2009. 5 DISCUSSION 6 Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 7 (1994). Specifically, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s suit, if successful, would necessarily 8 imply the invalidity of the result of the disciplinary hearing, which is impermissible. (MTD at 4- 9 8.) 10 Heck does not apply to prisoner civil rights actions challenging a disciplinary hearing or 11 administrative sanction that does not affect the overall length of the prisoner’s confinement. 12 Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 857-58 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding that a challenge to a 13 disciplinary proceeding that resulted in ten-day disciplinary detention, loss of privileges and a 14 24-month administrative segregation term was not barred by Heck, even though the discipline 15 could be considered by the parole board in determining whether to release the prisoner on 16 parole). Heck also bars a claim for using the wrong Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974), 17 procedures in a disciplinary hearing that resulted in the deprivation of time credits if “the nature 18 of the challenge to the procedures [is] such as necessarily to imply the invalidity of the 19 judgment.” Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 645 (1997). A claim for damages based on 20 allegations that a plaintiff was completely denied the opportunity to put on a defense, and that 21 there was deceit and bias on the part of the decisionmaker, for example, necessarily implies the 22 invalidity of the punishment imposed and is barred by Heck. See id. at 646-47. 23 Here, Plaintiff requests money damages and a declaratory judgment based on the 24 allegation that Defendant denied him the opportunity to present witnesses at his disciplinary 25 hearing. This case is not like Edwards, in which the prisoner there alleged deceit and bias. See 26 id. at 647, 649-50 (concurrence, J. Ginsburg). Plaintiff here appears to be challenging the 27 validity of the procedure rather than the validity of the result. See id. at 645-47; Heck, 512 U.S. 28 at 482-83 (making a distinction between claims that allege a deprivation of civil rights and a Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings P:\PRO-SE\SJ.LHK\CR.09\Bonty838mtd.wpd 2 1 2 deprivation of good-time credits). Thus, Plaintiff’s claim is not barred by Heck. Nevertheless, Plaintiff’s action cannot proceed because he has not alleged the deprivation 3 of a protected liberty interest. The Fourteenth Amendment entitles a prisoner to certain due 4 process protections when he is charged with a disciplinary violation, including the right to call 5 witnesses. See Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1077 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Wolff v. 6 McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564-71 (1974)). However, these protections only attach when the 7 disciplinary action implicates a prisoner’s protected liberty interest. Serrano, 345 F.3d at 1078. 8 9 Interests protected by the Due Process Clause may arise from two sources -- the Due Process Clause itself and laws of the states. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-27 10 (1976). Changes in conditions so severe as to affect the sentence imposed in an unexpected 11 manner implicate the Due Process Clause itself, whether or not they are authorized by state law. 12 See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). Deprivations authorized by state law that are 13 less severe or more closely related to the expected terms of confinement may also amount to 14 deprivations of a procedurally protected liberty interest, provided that (1) state statutes or 15 regulations narrowly restrict the power of prison officials to impose the deprivation, i.e., give the 16 inmate a kind of right to avoid it, and (2) the liberty in question is one of “real substance.” See 17 id. at 477-87. Generally, “real substance” will be limited to freedom from (1) a restraint that 18 imposes “atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of 19 prison life,” id. at 484, or (2) state action that “will inevitably affect the duration of [a] 20 sentence,” id. at 487. 21 In determining whether a restraint is an “atypical and significant hardship,” Sandin 22 suggests that courts should consider whether the challenged condition mirrored the conditions 23 imposed on inmates in administrative segregation and protective custody, and thus comported 24 with the prison's discretionary authority; the duration of the condition; the degree of restraint 25 imposed; and whether the discipline will invariably affect the duration of the prisoner’s sentence. 26 See Serrano, 345 F.3d at 1078; Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 861 (9th Cir. 2003). If the 27 deprivation is one of “real substance,” Wolff’s procedural protections must be afforded. 28 There is no indication that there is any state statute or regulation that narrowly restricts Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings P:\PRO-SE\SJ.LHK\CR.09\Bonty838mtd.wpd 3 1 the power of prison officials to impose the deprivations at issue here. Moreover, even assuming 2 a statute or regulation existed to give rise to a liberty interest, the liberty in question is not one of 3 “real substance.” After Plaintiff was found guilty at his disciplinary hearing, he was sentenced 4 to thirty-days forfeiture of credit, sixty-days “C” Privilege status, and thirty-days without 5 property.1 (Complaint at 4, Ex. B.) Plaintiff conceded that the thirty-day forfeiture of credit has 6 no effect on the duration of his sentence. Being placed for sixty-days into the “C” Privilege 7 status and temporarily losing his property appear to be losses of privileges normally associated 8 with the basic conditions of life as a prisoner, and are “within the range of confinement to be 9 normally expected” by prison inmates. See, e.g., Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 448-49 & n.3 10 (9th Cir. 2000) (concluding that prisoner had no protected liberty interest in being placed in 11 disciplinary segregation for 70 days prior to his hearing even though it limited his recreational 12 activities, received cold food, and had no pillow, among other things). These consequences do 13 not constitute an “atypical and significant hardship” sufficient to implicate a liberty interest. 14 Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a federal due process claim regarding his disciplinary 15 proceeding, and this action must be dismissed. 16 17 18 19 20 CONCLUSION Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings (docket no. 15) is GRANTED. The Clerk shall terminate all pending motions and close the file. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: 5/24/11 _________________________ LUCY H. KOH United States District Judge 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Plaintiff’s disposition states, “Inmate Bonty’s privilege group “C” received: No Family visits, Only 1/4 the Maximum Canteen Draw, No Telephone Calls, Limited Yard and Dayroom Access per “C” Status, No Special Purchases and No Quarterly Packages. . . Inmate Bonty is placed on Temporary loss of his appliances such as (i.e., TV, Radio, CD Player, etc.) or musical instruments, nor may he purchase any electrical entertainment or battery operated type of appliances for a period of 30 days. . .) (Complaint, Ex. B.) Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings P:\PRO-SE\SJ.LHK\CR.09\Bonty838mtd.wpd 4

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