(PC) Harris v. Sexton, et al., No. 1:2018cv00080 - Document 30 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER Adopting 28 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, DENYING Defendants' 19 Motion to Dismiss, and REFERRING Matter back to Magistrate Judge for Further Proceedings signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 12/4/2018. (Sant Agata, S)
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 EARNEST S. HARRIS, 12 Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 SEXTON, et al., 15 16 No. 1: 18-cv-00080-DAD-SAB Defendants. ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS, AND REFERRING MATTER BACK TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS (Doc. No. 28) 17 18 Plaintiff Earnest S. Harris is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights 19 action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge 20 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302. 21 On September 6, 2018, the assigned magistrate judge filed findings and recommendations, 22 recommending that defendants’ motion to dismiss the action on qualified immunity grounds be 23 denied. (Doc. No. 28.) The findings and recommendations were served on the parties and 24 contained notice that any objections were to be filed within thirty (30) days. (Id. at 10.) On 25 October 2, 2018, defendants filed objections. (Doc. No. 29.) 26 In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the court has conducted a 27 de novo review of this case. Having carefully reviewed the entire file, including defendants’ 28 objections, the court finds that the findings and recommendations are supported by the record and 1 1 by proper analysis. 2 In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendants subjected him to excessive noise 3 resulting in sleep deprivation, thus implicating conditions of his confinement, in violation of the 4 Eighth Amendment. (See Doc. No. 28 at 3.) In their objections to the findings and 5 recommendations, defendants argue that the magistrate judge erred in denying qualified immunity 6 by defining the right in question in a highly generalized manner. (Doc. No. 29 at 2.) Defendants 7 argue that for the right to be clearly established, plaintiff must “identify a case where a prison 8 official acting under similar circumstances as each Defendant was held to have violated the 9 Eighth Amendment.” (Id. at 3.) 10 “A government official’s conduct violate[s] clearly established law when, at the time of 11 the challenged conduct, ‘[t]he contours of [a] right [are] sufficiently clear’ that every ‘reasonable 12 official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right.’” Ashcroft v. al–Kidd, 13 563 U.S. 731, 741 ((2011) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)). In this 14 regard, “existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond 15 debate.” Id.; see also Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 906 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Saucier, 533 16 U.S. at 202). The inquiry must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the particular 17 case. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. 18 As indicated by the findings and recommendations, the Ninth Circuit has concluded that 19 conditions of confinement involving excessive noise that result in sleep deprivation for inmates 20 may violate the Eighth Amendment. See Jones v. Neven, 399 F. App’x 203, 205 (9th Cir. 2010) 21 (finding that Eighth Amendment rights to be free from excessive noise was clearly established 22 and therefore, defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity); Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 23 1090 (9th Cir. 1996), opinion amended on denial of reh’g, 135 F.3d 1318 (9th Cir. 1998) (stating 24 that inmates have an Eighth Amendment right to be housed in an environment that is reasonably 25 free of excess noise). 26 If defendants subjected plaintiff to excessive noise beyond what was necessary for a 27 legitimate penological purpose, it is doubtful in the undersigned’s view that they could 28 successfully avail themselves of the shield of qualified immunity. See Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 2 1 U.S. 731, 741 (2011) (“We do not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must 2 have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.”); Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 3 730, 741 (2002) (“Officials can still be on notice that their conduct violates established law even 4 in novel factual circumstances.”); Hamby v. Hammond, 821 F.3d 1085, 1095 (9th Cir. 2016) 5 (“[A] plaintiff need not find a case with identical facts in order to survive a defense of qualified 6 immunity.”); Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1076–77 (9th Cir. 2003). 7 While it may emerge through the course of these proceedings that one or more of 8 plaintiff’s allegations are not supported by the evidence, the allegations of his complaint provide a 9 sufficient basis upon which to deny the invocation of qualified immunity at this early stage of 10 these proceedings. See Keates v. Koile, 883 F.3d 1228, 1240 (9th Cir. 2018) (“Our denial of 11 qualified immunity at this stage of the proceedings does not mean that this case must go to trial” 12 because “[o]nce an evidentiary record has been developed through discovery, defendants will be 13 free to move for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.”) (quoting O’Brien v. Welty, 14 818 F.3d 920, 936 (9th Cir. 2016)). Defendants’ motion to dismiss on qualified immunity 15 grounds is therefore properly denied. 16 Accordingly, 17 1. The findings and recommendations issued September 6, 2018, are adopted; 18 2. Defendants’ motion to dismiss the action is denied; and 19 3. The matter is referred back to the magistrate judge for further proceedings. 20 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: December 4, 2018 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3