(PC)Martin v. Yates et al, No. 1:2008cv01401 - Document 30 (E.D. Cal. 2010)

Court Description: ORDER GRANTING 22 Motion to Dismiss; Defendants R. Hoyt, F. Igbinosa, J. Ahlin and C. Herrera TERMINATED, signed by District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson on 12/20/2010. (Marrujo, C)
Download PDF
(PC)Martin v. Yates et al Doc. 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 LAWRENCE A. MARTIN, 10 Plaintiff, 11 vs. 12 JAMES A. YATES, et al., 13 Defendant. 14 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. 1:08-CV-01401-CKJ ORDER 15 Pending before this Court is Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa’s Motion 16 to Dismiss [Doc. 22]. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is 17 granted. 18 19 I. MOTION TO DISMISS 20 A. Factual Background1 21 Plaintiff Lawrence A. Martin, who is confined in the Pleasant Valley State Prison 22 (PVSP) in Coalinga, California, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 23 § 1983. Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1]. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges unconstitutional conditions 24 of confinement, discrimination based on disability, and violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). Id. 25 26 27 28 1 For purposes of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “[a]ll allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-338 (9th Cir. 1996). Dockets.Justia.com 1 The plaintiff brought his claim against several employees of the California Department of 2 Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), including: Warden James Yates; Associate Warden 3 Ahlin; Medical Director Igbinosa; Health Care Manager Alvarez; CCII Medical Appeals 4 Officer Herrera; Acting Associate Warden Hoyt; Corrections Officers Lopez and Roche; 5 physician Dr. Coleman; and Segeant Scott. Id. Plaintiff also brought a claim against CDCR 6 Chief Inmate Appeals Officer Grannis and Staff Manager Executive Sullivan, both located 7 in Sacramento. Id. Defendants Yates, Sullivan, Grannis, and Coleman were subsequently 8 dismissed from the suit. Order 11/06/2009 [Doc. 12]. 9 Plaintiff alleges that he is permanently mobility-impaired due to a spinal cord injury. 10 Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1] at 4. Prior to his transfer to PVSP, Plaintiff was designated as a class 11 member subject to the Armstrong Remedial Plan (ARP),2 and was designated as having a 12 permanent disability impacting placement status (DPM). Id. at 5. On October 10, 2006, 13 Lancaster State Prison issued Plaintiff a comprehensive chrono. Id. The chrono stated, 14 “[t]his chrono shall be honored as a permanent chrono at all institutions.” It also authorized 15 Plaintiff to receive meals in his cell, among several other items. Id. at 5, 7. In addition, 16 Plaintiff was not to use a wheelchair because of his disability. Id. at 5. 17 On December 4, 2007, Plaintiff was transferred from Lancaster to PVSP. Pl.’s Compl. 18 [Doc. 1] at 5. He brought his medical documentation issued by Lancaster, including records 19 that reflected his disability and the chrono for cell feeding. Id. When Plaintiff arrived at 20 PVSP, the black inmates were under lock-down, and thus were being cell-fed. Id. at 5-6. 21 Because of the lock-down, Plaintiff initially received breakfast and lunch in his cell. 22 Corrections Officers Lopez and Roche were responsible for serving those meals. Id. at 6. 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 The Armstrong Remedial Plan refers to a remedial order issued in Armstrong v. Davis, No. CV94-2307-CW, by the District Court for the Northern District of California to enjoin practices that discriminated against disabled inmates in California Prisons. See generally Armstrong v. Davis, 275 F.3d 849 (9th Cir. 2001); Armstrong v. Wilson, 124 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 1997) (affirming order requiring submission of a remedial plan for CDRC’s compliance with both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-34, as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA), 29 U.S.C. § 749). -2- 1 On January 3, 2008, PVSP’s facility Health Practitioner, Dr. Coleman, interviewed 2 Plaintiff; and after reviewing his records, she stated that she would recommend that all his 3 chronos be continued. Id. On January 16, 2008, however, Plaintiff received a copy of “the 4 chrono,” - dated January 14, 2008 from the Medical Authorization Review Committee 5 (MAR) - which denied cell-feeding absent more information to support his request. Pl.’s 6 Compl. [Doc. 1] at 6. Because black inmates were still being cell-fed due to the lock-down, 7 Plaintiff continued to receive breakfast and lunch in his cell. Id. at 6.3 8 On February 10, 2008, the lock-down ended and the inmates returned to the chow hall 9 for breakfast and lunch. Id. at 7. Officers Lopez and Roche, however, refused Plaintiff’s 10 request to continue to cell-feed Plaintiff. Id. Lopez told Plaintiff that the officers would not 11 honor chronos from other institutions, and that Plaintiff needed a chrono from PVSP in order 12 to receive cell-feedings. Id. 13 On February 18, 2008, Plaintiff complained to Sergeant Scott, Officers Lopez and 14 Roche’s supervisor, about not being cell fed. Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1] at 10. Scott told Plaintiff 15 that Lopez and Roche had correctly refused Plaintiff’s request in the absence of a chrono 16 from PVSP. Id. Scott also refused to authorize cell-feedings before a chrono from PVSP 17 medical staff was issued. Id. Plaintiff contends that Scott had the authority to approve cell- 18 feeding. Id. 19 On February 27, 2008, Medical Appeal Coordinator Herrera discussed Plaintiff’s 20 appeal with him. Id. at 11. Plaintiff showed Herrera his chronos and told Herrera that he had 21 not received breakfast or lunch since February 9, 2008. Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1] at 11. Herrera 22 stated that she agreed with Plaintiff that his Lancaster-issued chronos should be honored, but 23 that she did not have authority to tell corrections officers to cell-feed him. Id. She partially 24 granted Plaintiff’s appeal to the extent that Plaintiff was scheduled to be seen by his primary 25 26 27 28 3 Plaintiff alleges that when cell-fed, a sack lunch would be delivered with breakfast in the morning. -3- 1 care physician in March, but otherwise denied the appeal. Id. Plaintiff maintains that Herrera 2 had the power to order that he be cell-fed pending an evaluation, but that she refused. Id. 3 On February 28, 2008, Acting Associate Warden Hoyt and Associate Warden Ahlin 4 approved Herrera’s partial grant of Plaintiff’s appeal, i.e. to the extent of scheduling a 5 medical appointment in March, without acting on Plaintiff’s claim that he had not received 6 breakfasts or lunches since early February. Id. Plaintiff contends that they had authority to 7 require that Plaintiff be cell-fed pending further medical review. Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1] at 11- 8 12. 9 10 On March 14, 2008, Plaintiff received a second chrono prepared by Dr. Coleman, but this chrono did not specify cell-feeding for the Plaintiff. Id. at 12. 11 On March 28, 2008, Medical Director Igbinosa and Health Care Manager Alvarez 12 granted Plaintiff’s request for cell-feeding, citing his “mobility impairment and inability to 13 walk the distance to the chow hall.” Id. Plaintiff contends that Drs. Igbinosa and Alvarez 14 were responsible for the policies that denied authorization of Plaintiff’s cell-feeding pending 15 further medical evaluation, which resulted in Plaintiff not receiving breakfasts or lunches for 16 47 consecutive days. Id. 12-13. 17 On May 12, 2008, Staff Supervisory Manager I Sullivan, on behalf of Grannis, denied 18 Plaintiff’s third-level administrative appeal. Id. at 13. He stated that lower level staff 19 correctly refused to cell-feed Plaintiff because the “Chrono Committee” at PVSP denied 20 Plaintiff’s cell-feeding based on insufficient documentation of medical need. Pl.’s Compl. 21 [Doc. 1] at 13-14. Plaintiff contends that Sullivan and Grannis are responsible for the harms 22 caused to Plaintiff because they participated in a cover-up of an “underground policy” at 23 PVSP. Id. at 14. 24 Plaintiff claims that he had not received breakfasts and lunches for 47 consecutive 25 days when, on March 28, 2008, the Medical Authorization Review (“MAR”) Committee 26 finally approved a new chrono , which authorized cell feedings. Id. at 12. Plaintiff alleges 27 that the Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s constitutional right to be 28 provided basic necessities under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 19-20. -4- 1 Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants discriminated against him based upon his disability. Id. 2 Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). Pl.’s 3 Compl. [Doc. 1] at 20-21. 4 This Court issued an Order on November 6, 2009 dismissing Defendants Yates, 5 Coleman, Grannis, and Sullivan without prejudice; and further ordered that Defendants 6 Roche, Lopez, Scott, Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, Igbinosa, and Alvarez answer Plaintiff’s 7 Complaint. Order 11/06/2009 [Doc. 12]. 8 On April 10, 2010, Defendants filed their current Motion to Dismiss, asking that 9 Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa be dismissed from the action pursuant to 10 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 22]. 11 B. 12 A complaint is to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 13 pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Rule 8(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. Especially where the pleader is pro 14 se, the pleading should be liberally construed in the interests of justice. Johnson v. Reagan, 15 524 F.2d 1123 (9th. Cir. 1975). Nonetheless, a complaint must set forth a set of facts that 16 serves to put defendants on notice as to the nature and basis of the claim(s). Standard of Review 17 Dismissal is appropriate where a plaintiff has failed to “state a claim upon which relief 18 can be granted.” Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint 19 must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is 20 plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, – U.S. –, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 21 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 22 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Further, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads 23 factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is 24 liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability 25 requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted 26 unlawfully.” Id. (citations omitted). 27 When considering whether to dismiss under 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the 28 complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party; and, it must take all allegations -5- 1 of material fact as true. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-338 (9th Cir. 1996). 2 C. 3 The issue presented is whether there is a separate constitutional right for a specific 4 prison grievance procedure; and, if not, whether Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss should be 5 granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) - dismissing Defendants 6 Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa from the suit. Analysis 7 While case law establishes that there may be a First Amendment right to access the 8 prison grievance procedure (e.g. by filing a complaint), it also states that there is no right to 9 a specific procedure once the prisoner gains access.4 See e.g., Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 10 850 (9th Cir. 2002). 11 The First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people [...] to petition the 12 Government for a redress of grievances.” U.S. Const. amend. I. The United States Supreme 13 Court reaffirmed this right, stating that “the right to petition is cut from the same cloth as the 14 other guarantees of that Amendment, and is an assurance of a particular freedom of 15 expression.” McDonald v. Smith, 472 U.S. 479, 482, 105 S.Ct. 2787, 2789, 86 L.Ed.2d 384 16 (1985). The right to petition the government includes a prisoner’s right to file grievances 17 within the prison system because “the ‘government’ to which the First Amendment 18 guarantees a right of redress [...] includes [...] prison authorities.” Bradley v. Hall, 64 F.3d 19 1276, 1279 (9th Cir. 1995). This right “precludes prison authorities from penalizing a 20 prisoner for exercising those rights; [and] in some instances, prison authorities must even 21 take affirmative steps to help prisoners exercise their rights.” Id. at 1279 (citing Bounds v. 22 Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821-832, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 1494-1500, 52 L.Ed.2d 72 (1977) and Casey 23 v. Lewis, 4 F.3d 1516, 1520 (9th Cir. 1993)). Further, because a prisoner may be required 24 to exhaust prison grievance procedures before seeking relief in federal court, his access to 25 4 26 27 28 Case law addressing the issue of prison grievances uses the words “process” and “procedure” interchangeably, and sometimes in a conflicting manner. For the purposes of this order, this Court uses the word “procedure” to refer to the steps that an incarcerated individual may take to address his grievances within the prison system. Compare, e.g., Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th. Cir. 1998) with Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 853 (9th. Cir. 2002). -6- 1 the grievance system is essential in order for the prisoner to exercise his right of meaningful 2 access to the courts under the Fourteenth Amendment. Bounds, 430 U.S. at 821-832, 97 3 S.Ct. at 1494-1500; Bradley, 64 F.3d at 1279. 4 Once the prisoner has access to the grievance procedure, however, he does not have 5 a separate constitutional right to specific procedures under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due 6 Process Clause. Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Mann v. 7 Adams, 855 F.2d 639 (9th Cir. 1988)). In Mann v. Adams, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that 8 there is no “legitimate claim of entitlement to a grievance procedure.” Mann, 855 F.2d at 9 640. First, “a State creates a protected liberty by placing substantive limitations on official 10 discretion.” Id. at 640 (citing Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 239, 249, 103 S.Ct. 1741, 1747, 11 75 L.Ed.2d 813 (1983)). Second, “to obtain a protectable right an individual must have ‘a 12 legitimate claim of entitlement to it.” Mann 855 F.2d at 640 (citing Greenholtz v. Inmates of 13 Neb. Penal and Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7, 99 S.Ct. 2100, 2104, 60 L.Ed.2d 668 (1979)). 14 However, “there is no legitimate claim of entitlement to a grievance procedure.” Mann 855 15 F.2d at 640 (citing Shango v. Jurich, 681 F.2d 1091, 1100 (7th Cir. 1982) and Azeez v. 16 DeRobertis, 568 F.Supp 8, 11 (N.D.Ill. 1982)). 17 In Shango v. Jurich, the Seventh Circuit stated that a prisoner does not have a 18 legitimate claim to a specific grievance procedure because “a state created procedural right 19 is not itself a liberty interest within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Shango v. 20 Jurich, 681 F.2d at 1101. “Constitutionalizing every state procedural right would stand any 21 due process analysis on its head.” Id. Rather than “identifying the substantive interest at 22 stake and then ascertaining what process is due, the process [would be] viewed as a 23 substantive end in itself.” Id. 24 Because of the Ninth Circuit’s rule that prison inmates are not entitled to specific 25 grievance procedure, judges in both the Eastern and Northern Districts of California have 26 further reasoned that it is also “impossible for due process to [be] violated by ignoring or 27 28 -7- 1 failing to properly process grievances.”5 Thompson v. Mauck, 2010 WL 1797394 (E.D.Cal) 2 (citing Smith v. Calderon, 1999 WL 1051947 (N.D.Cal. 1999) (holding that failure to 3 properly process grievances did not violate a constitutional right); Cage v. Cambra, 1996 WL 4 506863 (N.D.Cal. 1996) (holding that a prisoner did not have a constitutional claim for 5 prison officials’ failure to properly process grievances); Murray v. Marshall, 1994 WL 6 245967 (N.D.Cal 1994) (holding that a prisoner failed to state a claim under § 1983 for 7 claiming that the prison grievance procedure failed to function properly)). 8 Plaintiff was clearly able to exercise his First Amendment right to petition the 9 government when Officers Lopez and Roche refused to recognize his cell-feeding chrono. 10 Because Plaintiff exercised this right, he gained access to the prison grievance procedure and 11 came into contact with several individuals who operate within that system, including 12 Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa. Plaintiff asserts claims against these 13 Defendants because he believes that they inadequately responded to his appeals either by not 14 granting a cell-feeding chrono, or by refusing to use their authority to force the correction 15 officers to recognize Plaintiff’s chrono from Lancaster. 16 While the Defendants reviewed and responded to the Plaintiff’s appeals in a manner 17 with which the Plaintiff disagreed, this disagreement, without a right to specific procedure, 18 does not enable the Plaintiff to bring a claim against these Defendants. A court may dismiss 19 a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) where a plaintiff has failed to “state a claim to relief that 20 is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, – U.S. –, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atlantic 21 Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974). Further, “[a] claim has facial 22 plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the 23 reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Construing 24 the complaint in a light most favorable for Plaintiff, Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief 25 by arguing that Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa engaged in misconduct within 26 27 28 5 Although California district court cases are not binding on this Court, this Court finds that these cases are instructive regarding the issue of whether a prisoner has a constitutional claim for a specific grievance procedure. -8- 1 the prison grievance procedure when Plaintiff does not have a right to a specific procedure 2 within that system. 3 Based upon the facts alleged in Plaintiff’s complaint, Plaintiff was able to go through 4 the administrative appeals process within a reasonable period of time. Plaintiff’s Lancaster 5 chrono was observed between the time he arrived at PVSP (December 4, 2007) until at least 6 one month later when he was seen by the primary care physician at PVSP on January 3, 7 2008. Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1] at 6. 8 denied Plaintiff’s request for cell-feeding on January 16, 2008, and after Officers Lopez and 9 Roche refused to cell-feed Plaintiff on February 10, 2008, Plaintiff was able to file a 10 grievance - waiting no more than approximately two weeks between each step of the appeals 11 process. Plaintiff filed his grievance against Officers Lopez and Roche on February 10, 2008 12 and spoke with Sergeant Scott about the complaint on February 18, 2008; Plaintiff met with 13 Medical Appeals Coordinator Herrera to appeal the MAR’s denial nine days later on 14 February 27, 2008; Acting Associate Warden Hoyt and Associate Warden Ahlin approved 15 Herrara’s decision one day later on February 28, 2008; Plaintiff received a new chrono which 16 also did not specify cell-feedings fifteen days later on March 14, 2008; and Medical Director 17 Igbinosa and Health Care Manager Alvarez finally granted Plaintiff’s request for cell feeding 18 fourteen days later on March 28, 2008. Id. at 10-13. Forty-five days after Plaintiff was 19 approved for cell-feeding, Staff Supervisory Manager I Sullivan denied Plaintiff’s third-level 20 administrative appeal, stating that all appropriate policies and procedures had been correctly 21 followed. Id. at 13-14. This time line demonstrates that Plaintiff was able to exercise his 22 First Amendment Right to file a grievance, as well as go through the appeals process within 23 a reasonable amount of time. These facts, coupled with case law which establishes that 24 Plaintiff has no separate constitutional right to a specific grievance procedure, support 25 dismissal of Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). After the Medical Authorization Review Committee 26 Finally, to address Plaintiff’s Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff 27 asks this Court to reconsider his argument of respondeat superior liability against these 28 Defendants. Opposition to Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 24]. However, to the extent that Plaintiff -9- 1 asks this Court to reconsider his claim, Plaintiff’s request is denied. This Court previously 2 stated that “there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, so a defendant’s position 3 as the supervisor of [...] someone who allegedly violated a plaintiff’s constitutional rights 4 does not make him liable.” Order 11/06/2009 [Doc. 12] at 7 (citing Monell v. Dept of Soc. 5 Servs, 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2036, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) and Taylor v. List, 880 6 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th. Cir. 1989)). Furthermore, “prison administrators [are] not licensed 7 medical practitioners [, and] [l]acking the requisite expertise, they must necessarily place 8 their confidence in the reports of prison doctors[.]” McEachern v. Civiletti, 502 F.Supp. 532 9 (N.D.Ill. 1980). As such, “[p]rison officials may reasonably rely on the judgment of medical 10 professionals” without risking liability under the eighth amendment.” Bond v. Aguinaldo, 228 11 F.Supp.2d 918, 920 (N.D.Ill. 2002). Thus, the Defendants in this case reasonably relied on 12 the judgement of Dr. Coleman and the Medical Authorization Review Committee regarding 13 whether to allow Plaintiff to be cell-fed.6 14 Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa are dismissed from this suit pursuant 15 to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). As discussed above, while there may be a First 16 Amendment right of access to the prison grievance procedure, there is no separate 17 constitutional right for a specific prison grievance procedure upon instigation of the process. 18 Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa are individuals within the prison grievance 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 6 Regarding Acting Associate Warden Hoyt and Associate Warden Ahlin, the Court has also considered their actions in light of Plaintiff’s arguments referencing the injunctive relief required by the Plata v. Davis class action suit; however, the Court has determined that Plata does not apply in this case. See e.g., Plata v. Davis, 329 F.3d 1101 (9th Cir. 2003). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s policy is that the chronos from an initial institution are effective only until the inmate is evaluated by the medical staff and physicians at a new institution. Pl.’s Compl. [Doc. 1] at 13-14. Thus, Plaintiff’s chronos from Lancaster were effective at PVSP only until he was evaluated by his primary care physician on January 3, 2008. At this point, the Lancaster chrono was no longer effective. And because the Chrono Committee at PVSP denied Plaintiff’s chrono for cell-feeding absent additional documentation to verify medical necessity, PVSP staff could not cell feed Plaintiff. Id. In this case, the Court finds that the policies established by Plata were not violated because Plaintiff was able to go through the administrative appeals process and was ultimately granted relief in a timely manner. 28 - 10 - 1 procedure, and were added to this action by the Plaintiff because Plaintiff disagreed with the 2 way in which they reviewed and responded to his appeals. As such, he cannot state a claim 3 of relief against these particular Defendants. 4 5 6 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Herrera, Hoyt, Ahlin, and Igbinosa are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. DATED this 20th day of December, 2010. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 - 11 -