Foster v. Runnels, No. 06-15719.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCowen
Citation554 F.3d 807
PartiesRonald P. FOSTER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. D.L. RUNNELS, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 06-15719.
Decision Date05 February 2009
554 F.3d 807
Ronald P. FOSTER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
D.L. RUNNELS, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 06-15719.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted December 12, 2008.*
Filed February 5, 2009.

[554 F.3d 809]

Megan R. O'Carroll, Esq., and Constance L. Picciano, Esq., Office of the California Attorney General, Sacramento, CA, for the appellee.

Ronald P. Foster, SVSP, Salinas Valley State Prison, Soledad, CA, for the appellant, pro se.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California; David F. Levi, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-03-01113-DFL.

Before: ROBERT E. COWEN,** SIDNEY R. THOMAS and RICHARD A. PAEZ, Circuit Judges.

COWEN, Circuit Judge:


Ronald Foster, pro se, appeals the order of the District Court for the Eastern District of California granting summary judgment to Defendant Sandra Cole on Foster's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim. Foster claims that his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when Cole deprived him of 16 meals over a 23 day period. The District Court granted summary judgment on the grounds that Cole was entitled to qualified immunity because the constitutional right was not clearly established at the time of the alleged violation such that it would

554 F.3d 810

have been clear to a reasonable officer that her conduct was unlawful.

For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that Cole is not entitled to qualified immunity. On the basis of the evidence presented, a jury could find that Foster suffered a sufficiently serious deprivation and that Cole was deliberately indifferent to the obvious risk of harm. In addition, it is clearly established under the Eighth Amendment that prison officials are obligated to provide inmates with nutritionally adequate meals on a regular basis. Consequently summary judgment on Foster's § 1983 claim is inappropriate. The District Court's order will be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.

I.

During the summer of 2001, while Foster was an inmate at the High Desert State Prison ("HDSP") in Susanville, California, there was a rash of inmate assaults on prison staff in Facility C where Foster was housed. A number of the incidents occurred as prison staff attempted to handcuff inmates through the food/cuff port in the cell doors. Several handmade weapons were also confiscated from inmates' cells. None of these incidents were attributed to Foster.

As a result of these incidents, Facility C was on lockdown. When the HDSP is on lockdown, inmates are not permitted to leave their cells, even for meals. Prison staff is responsible for distributing meals to the inmates in their cells. The food is received through the food/cuff ports in the cell doors.

In February 2001, HDSP Warden R.L. Runnels issued a memorandum to prison staff in an attempt to crack down on inmates displaying pornography in their cells. Warden Runnels had observed that in violation of prison security policy, inmates were covering with paper the windows that allowed prison staff to look into their cells. The memo stated that the cell windows, which ensure the safety and security of prison staff, as well as the inmates, could not be covered at any time.

On July 27, 2001, the sergeants and lieutenants in Facility C issued a memo regarding the obstruction of the windows in inmates' cells in light of the recent incidents on the ward. The memo stated that before the food/cuff port could be opened, the bright light in the inmate's cell must be turned on and anything covering the front or rear windows of the cell must be removed. Any inmate who failed to comply with these rules forfeited participation in the current activity, including receiving food at meal times.

Corrections Officer Sandra Cole was frequently responsible for distributing meals to the inmates while Facility C was on lockdown. On July 21, July 28, and one other occasion in July or August, Cole did not provide Foster with either breakfast or lunch. Foster maintains that Cole also denied him breakfast and lunch on July 22, July 29, August 4, August 5, August 11, and August 12.

Cole maintains that on each occasion, the windows of Foster's cell were covered with paper. She maintains that she instructed Foster to remove the paper from the windows, but that Foster refused to comply. Cole claims that she was unable to see into Foster's cell well enough to safely open the food/cuff port. Foster, however, maintains that there was only paper in the back window of his cell. Foster alleges that Cole could see into his cell and that she could have safely fed him. No other guard required Foster to remove the paper from his window nor refused to feed him on account of its presence.

554 F.3d 811

On September 12, 2001, Warden Runnels issued a staff memo regarding the feeding of inmates whose windows were covered during a lockdown. The memo was intended to correct the actions of prison staff who had "taken it upon themselves to not feed inmates based upon the belief that any type of window covering presents a security risk." (ER 185.) The warden did not expect staff to open the food/cuff port when inmates did not have the bright light on, the front windows were covered, or the staff member "feels that there is a substantial risk to safety." Id. However, the warden instructed that prison staff was not to construe the memo as "permission to not feed the inmates." Id. Rather, the memo instructed that when a staff member determined that there was a substantial risk to safety, the inmate should be instructed to remove any covering from the window or turn on the cell lights. If the inmate refused to comply, the staff member should continue feeding the rest of the inmates and then immediately notify a supervisor. The supervisor was required to evaluate the situation and take the necessary action to ensure that inmates were fed. The warden stressed that "inmates ARE to be fed when it is safe to do so"; security concerns could only temporarily suspend the feeding of an inmate. (ER 186.)

Foster maintains that even after Warden Runnels' memo, Cole refused to feed him on October 31, 2002, and then again on January 2, 2003. Foster maintains that he lost 15 lbs. in July and August of 2001. Foster's testimony and medical records, however, suggest that he may have actually lost 13 lbs. between June 2001 and October 2001.

On May 19, 2003, Foster filed a complaint in the District Court for the Eastern District of California alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In an Amended Complaint, Foster alleged that Warden Runnels and Corrections Officer Cole violated his Eighth Amendment rights by denying him food and showers as punishment for his failure to remove paper from his cell windows. Runnels and Cole moved for summary judgment.

A Magistrate Judge recommended that summary judgment be granted in favor of Warden Runnels as he had no involvement in Cole's decisions to withhold Foster's meals. The Magistrate Judge also recommended that summary judgment be granted in favor of Cole on Foster's denial of showers claim because no Eighth Amendment violation had been established. Finally, the Magistrate Judge found that Foster had established an Eighth Amendment violation on his denial of meals claim and that Cole was not entitled to qualified immunity.

The District Court accepted the Magistrate Judge's recommendations as to Warden Runnels and Foster's denial of shower claim. The District Court however found that Cole was entitled to qualified immunity because the constitutional right in question was not clearly established. Foster has only appealed the District Court's finding that Cole is entitled to qualified immunity.

II.

This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we review de novo a district court's decision to grant summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 658 (9th Cir.2007). Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, we determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact that must be resolved at trial, and whether the district court correctly applied the relevant substantive law. Pardi v.

554 F.3d 812

Kaiser Found. Hosps., 389 F.3d 840, 848 (9th Cir.2004). Summary judgment may be affirmed on any ground supported by the record, even if not relied upon by the District Court. Id.

Foster argues that the District Court erred in concluding that Cole was entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is "an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation," which, in certain circumstances, shields government officials from civil liability for actions taken in the course of their duties. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985). For an official to be immune from suit, the court must find that the official's conduct has not violated any "clearly established" constitutional right "of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982).

The qualified immunity analysis breaks down into a two-part inquiry. The threshold question is whether the alleged facts show that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001). "If no constitutional right would have been violated were the allegations established, there is no necessity for further inquiries concerning qualified immunity." Id. If, however, the allegations establish that a constitutional right has been violated, the next question is whether the violated right was "clearly established." Id. This inquiry "must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case," and not as a "broad general proposition." Id.

A. Violation of a Constitutional Right

Foster maintains that Cole violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and...

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766 practice notes
  • Quiroga v. Graves, 1:16-cv-00234-DAD-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 15, 2018
    ...harm to his health or safety. E.g., Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150-51 (9th Cir. 2010); Foster v. Runnels, 554 F.3d 807, 812-14 (9th Cir. 2009); Morgan, 465 F.3d at 1045; Johnson, 217 F.3d at 731; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1128. The deliberate indifference standard i......
  • Mendiola-Martinez v. Arpaio, No. 14–15189
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 12, 2016
    ...medical needs.21 The Eighth Amendment “requires only that prisoners receive food that is adequate to maintain health.” Foster v. Runnels , 554 F.3d 807, 813 n.2 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting LeMaire, 12 F.3d at 1456 ). We have previously found that the “repeated and unjustified failure” to provi......
  • Adkins v. Kernan, 2:19-CV-0458-DMC-P
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 24, 2019
    ...health; it need not be tasty or aesthetically pleasing.” LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1456 (9th Cir. 1993); see also Foster v. Runnels, 554 F.3d 807, 812-13, 813 n.2 (9th Cir. 2009); Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 732 (9th Cir. 2000); Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1091 (9th Cir. 1996), ......
  • Williams v. Deleon, Case No. 1:15-cv-00543-SKO (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 18, 2017
    ...and the government is obligated to provide those in its custody "with adequate sustenance on a daily basis." Foster v. Runnels, 554 F.3d 807, 813-14 (9th Cir. 2009). However, the Constitution does not mandate that the government provide hot meals. See Foster, 554 F.3d at 813 n.2; Keenan v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
766 cases
  • Quiroga v. Graves, 1:16-cv-00234-DAD-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 15, 2018
    ...harm to his health or safety. E.g., Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150-51 (9th Cir. 2010); Foster v. Runnels, 554 F.3d 807, 812-14 (9th Cir. 2009); Morgan, 465 F.3d at 1045; Johnson, 217 F.3d at 731; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1128. The deliberate indifference standard i......
  • Mendiola-Martinez v. Arpaio, No. 14–15189
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 12, 2016
    ...medical needs.21 The Eighth Amendment “requires only that prisoners receive food that is adequate to maintain health.” Foster v. Runnels , 554 F.3d 807, 813 n.2 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting LeMaire, 12 F.3d at 1456 ). We have previously found that the “repeated and unjustified failure” to provi......
  • Adkins v. Kernan, 2:19-CV-0458-DMC-P
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 24, 2019
    ...health; it need not be tasty or aesthetically pleasing.” LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1456 (9th Cir. 1993); see also Foster v. Runnels, 554 F.3d 807, 812-13, 813 n.2 (9th Cir. 2009); Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 732 (9th Cir. 2000); Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1091 (9th Cir. 1996), ......
  • Williams v. Deleon, Case No. 1:15-cv-00543-SKO (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 18, 2017
    ...and the government is obligated to provide those in its custody "with adequate sustenance on a daily basis." Foster v. Runnels, 554 F.3d 807, 813-14 (9th Cir. 2009). However, the Constitution does not mandate that the government provide hot meals. See Foster, 554 F.3d at 813 n.2; Keenan v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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