Norwood v. Cate, CASE NO. 1:09-cv-00330-AWI-SAB (PC)

Decision Date15 March 2013
Docket NumberCASE NO. 1:09-cv-00330-AWI-SAB (PC)
PartiesGREGORY LYNN NORWOOD, Plaintiff, v. MATTHEW L. CATE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California





Plaintiff Gregory Lynn Norwood ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on February 24, 2009. This action is proceeding against Defendants Kenneth Clark, K. Allison, T.P. Wan, J. Reynoso, and W.J. Sullivan for subjecting Plaintiff to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's claim arises out of Defendants allegedly setting up conditions that led to the deprivation of outdoor exercise during the lockdown periods of July 25, 2008 to October 22, 2008 and November 18, 2008 to January 29, 2009.1

On June 21, 2011, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment.2 (ECF No. 45.) OnJuly 25, 2011, Plaintiff filed an opposition. (ECF No. 51.) On August 1, 2012, the Court issued a findings and recommendations recommending to grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 70.) On October 19, 2012, the Court issued an order permitting Plaintiff opportunity to withdraw his opposition and file an amended opposition in light of Woods v. Carey, 684 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2012). (ECF No. 75.)

On November 13, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended opposition to the motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 76.) On November 19, 2012, Defendants filed objections to Plaintiff's amended opposition, which the Court construed as Defendants' reply. (ECF No. 77.) On February 11, 2013, the Court vacated its findings and recommendations in light of Plaintiff's amended opposition and Defendants' construed reply. (ECF No. 83.) Defendants' motion for summary judgment has been submitted upon the record, and these findings and recommendations now issue. Local Rule 230(l).


Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (quotation marks omitted); Wash. Mut. Inc. v. United States., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, although it is not required to do so. Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. S.F. Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001).

Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986)). If Defendants meet their initial burden, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff "to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial." In re Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323). This requires Plaintiff to "show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)).

However, in judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment. Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1566 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court determines only whether there is a genuine issue for trial and in doing so, it must liberally construe Plaintiff's filings because he is a pro se prisoner. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff was incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility ("SATF"), a level four maximum security prison, in Corcoran, California during the events at issue. Plaintiff was housed in housing Facility C, which is comprised of eight identical housing units. Plaintiff's housing unit was placed on lockdown from July 25, 2008 to October 22, 2008 and then again from November 18, 2008 to January 29, 2009. (Pl's Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No.10.)3 During these time periods, Plaintiff was deprived of any access to outdoor exercise. (Id.) Plaintiff suffered headaches, muscle cramps, back pains, anxiety, depression, stress, and fatigue as a result of the outdoor exercise deprivation. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges the lockdowns were caused "because of a state initiated racial riot involving African American and caucasian inmates." (Id..) On July 9, 2009, a Caucasian crip inmate arrived at release and receiving at SATF. (Id.) This inmate was housed with an African American inmate in housing Facility C. (Id.) Prison officials appeared at this inmate's cell alleging they had information that Caucasian inmates would assault this Caucasian crip at the first opportunity and also assault any African-American inmate who would assist him. (Id. at 3, 5.) On approximately July 20, 2008, the Caucasian crip's cell-mate was released to the normal program, but the Caucasian crip was confined to his cell by the classification committee. (Id. at 5.)

The prison officials allegedly knew of the hit on this Caucasian crip, but they released him to the prison yard on July 25, 2008, in order to provoke a racial riot. (Id.) Caucasian inmates aggressed upon the Caucasian crip and other African-American inmates. (Id.) This incident resulted in several inmates receiving serious and minor injuries and the entire facility being placed on lockdown status. Hispanic and Other inmates were released to normal program on approximately August 25, 2008, but African-American inmates remained on lockdown status until October 22, 2008. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that prison official had the means to provide alternative outdoor exercise through the use of the "mini concrete yards", but they refused to do so. (Id.)

The second lockdown period began on November 18, 2008, and lasted until January 29, 2009. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that prison officials had information that Caucasian inmates would attack African-American inmates at first opportunity. (Id.) Regardless, prison officials released African-American inmates along with Caucasian inmates into normal program on November 18, 2008. (Id.) "Holding true to the information that staff possessed," two Caucasianinmates attacked an African-American inmate and Facility C returned to lockdown status. (Id.) Throughout the November lockdown, prison officials allegedly staged several more altercations as a means to provoke African-American inmates to initiate attacks on Caucasians, as "a means to continue their deprivation." (Id.) For example, on December 24, 2008, officers placed a Caucasian inmate inside of a holding cell that was allegedly occupied by an African-American inmate. (Id.) The officials removed the handcuffs of the Caucasian inmate and said, "Handle your business," a term meaning to engage physically. (Id. at 7.) Again, on January 26, 2009, prison officials released two Caucasian inmates who immediately aggressed upon an African-American inmate. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that prison officials "staged each of the incidents alleged as a means to deprive inmates the right to outdoors exercise, which deprivation was carried out in bad faith, with the intent to punish." (Id.) Prison officials were aware of the deprivation because Plaintiff submitted sick call slips concerning the headaches, muscle cramps, back pains, stress, depression, and fatigue he suffered as a result of the lockdowns. (Id.)

B. Eighth Amendment Legal Standard

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 1937; Long v. Cnty. of L.A., 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate a link between the actions or omissions of each named defendant and the violation of his rights. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676-77, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009); Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934.

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners not only from inhumane methods of punishment but also from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994) and Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 101 S.Ct. 2392 (1981)) (quotation marks omitted). While conditions of confinement may be, andoften are, restrictive and harsh, they must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain. Morgan, 465 F.3d at 1045 (citing Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347) (quotation marks omitted).

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