Pratt v. Rowland, No. 94-16370

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCYNTHIA HOLCOMB HALL
Citation65 F.3d 802
Parties95 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7323, 95 Daily Journal D.A.R. 12,497 Elmer PRATT, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James K. ROWLAND; James Gomez, Director; Daniel Vasquez; Robert Borg, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. 94-16370
Decision Date18 September 1995

Page 802

65 F.3d 802
95 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7323, 95 Daily Journal
D.A.R. 12,497
Elmer PRATT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
James K. ROWLAND; James Gomez, Director; Daniel Vasquez;
Robert Borg, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
No. 94-16370.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted July 10, 1995.
Decided Sept. 18, 1995.

Page 803

Peter J. Siggins and Susan Duncan Lee, Deputy Attorneys General, San Francisco, CA, for defendants-appellants.

Valerie C. West, Oakland, CA, for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before: HALL, WIGGINS, and LEAVY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

CYNTHIA HOLCOMB HALL, Circuit Judge:

Various officials of the California Department of Corrections ("DOC") appeal the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction against them. The district court found that Pratt, a state prisoner, had demonstrated a likelihood of success on his claim that prison officials had transferred him from one facility to another and had placed him in a double cell in retaliation for Pratt's exercise of protected First Amendment rights. We have jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(a)(1). Because we find that the district court's decision was based upon clearly erroneous findings of fact, we reverse.

BACKGROUND

Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt is serving a life sentence in California state prisons following his 1972 conviction for first degree murder. Pratt, who was a leader of the Southern California Black Panther Party, has maintained since his arrest that he was framed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and is innocent of the crime of which he was convicted. He and his supporters have conducted a long and, at times, highly visible publicity campaign in an effort to secure a new trial and his eventual release from custody.

In addition, Pratt has had some success over the years in various lawsuits he has

Page 804

brought against DOC officials. In 1981, Pratt obtained a jury verdict that he had been unlawfully held in solitary confinement for several years, for retaliatory reasons. In 1989, upon being transferred from San Quentin to Folsom prison, Pratt filed the original complaint in the present case, 1 alleging that the transfer was done in retaliation for his testimony in federal court about alleged FBI corruption; he obtained a preliminary injunction ordering his return to San Quentin.

Pratt was later moved to Tehachapi prison, a maximum security facility in Southern California. In August 1991, he amended his complaint and moved for another preliminary injunction, asking that the district court order his release from administrative confinement into the general population at Tehachapi. While the district court denied this request, it nonetheless expressed concerns that prison officials had been harassing Pratt due to his notoriety and active pursuit of litigation. The court therefore enjoined the defendants from harassing or retaliating against Pratt for his exercise of media, legal, or political activities.

The injunction at issue in the present appeal relates to events which took place in late 1993 and early 1994. In August 1993, Pratt was transferred from Tehachapi to the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("Donovan"), near San Diego, for a ninety-day psychiatric diagnostic program. On December 1, 1993, at the conclusion of the program, Donovan's warden recommended that Pratt be returned to Tehachapi.

Such a move would likely have been appropriate. According to California's system for classifying prisoners, Pratt apparently should be housed in a Level IV, or maximum security, facility, such as Tehachapi. 2 Instead, Pratt was sent in January 1994 to Mule Creek Prison, a Level III, or medium security, facility near Sonoma in Northern California.

The parties disagree as to the reasons for this transfer and this disagreement is at the heart of the present appeal. Briefly, the defendants claim that Pratt was transferred to Mule Creek in order to accommodate the wishes of Pratt and his supporters. They note that they had received numerous requests to house Pratt in a facility near the San Francisco Bay Area, where his wife and children reside. In particular, the defendants point to a 1991 letter from then-California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, asking that Pratt be considered for placement in Northern California, and to alleged telephone calls in December 1993 to the Director of DOC, defendant James Gomez, from staff members for two other, unnamed legislators, making similar requests.

Pratt, on the other hand, argues that his transfer and subsequent double-celling were done in retaliation for his exercise of First Amendment rights. He contends that he was transferred to Mule Creek in response to his decision to grant an interview to the Los Angeles Fox television network affiliate, in which he repeated his longstanding claims that he is innocent and was framed by the FBI. He notes that DOC did not follow standard procedures in deciding to transfer him to Mule Creek; the alleged irregularities include an unusual telephone call from Director Gomez to the Regional Administrator, defendant Steven Cambra, asking that he "consider Pratt for placement further North." While the exact timing of the telephone call is hotly disputed, it is undisputed that the call was followed shortly by a telephonic review board meeting convened on Christmas eve for the sole purpose of discussing Pratt's case.

With a few exceptions, Pratt has been housed exclusively in single cells during his twenty-three years in prison. Upon his arrival at Mule Creek, however, Pratt was

Page 805

placed in a two-person cell. He claims that double-celling causes him serious health problems. Specifically, he claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") brought on by his two tours of duty in Vietnam, which makes it extremely difficult for him to sleep in the presence of other people. He also has serious bowel problems, apparently related to injuries he sustained in Vietnam and allegedly exacerbated by the stress of sharing a cell with another person. The defendants dispute much of Pratt's medical evidence.

The defendants argue that Pratt was placed in a double cell at Mule Creek because the facility is operating at well over 200% of capacity. Pratt nevertheless contends that his being double-celled after more than twenty years of almost continuous single-celling is suspicious because it followed so closely on the heels of his media activity. He further notes that while the defendants' avowed purpose for transferring him to Mule Creek was to facilitate visits by his family, Pratt was initially given job assignments which conflicted with visiting hours and precluded his seeing any visitors at all. This schedule conflict was resolved when Pratt brought it to the district court's attention.

We note that Pratt does not in this appeal seriously contest his continued detention at Mule Creek. He does not, for example, request that he be returned to Donovan or Tehachapi. His main complaint relates to the double-celling issue.

On February 24, 1994, the district court granted a temporary restraining order, requiring Pratt to be moved to a single cell, in a medium security prison such as Mule Creek. After briefing, some discovery, and a hearing, the district court held that Pratt had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of his retaliation claim and granted a preliminary injunction. Pratt v. Rowland, 856 F.Supp. 565 (N.D.Cal.1994). The state defendants appeal. 3

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A preliminary injunction is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates either (1) a probability of success on the merits and a possibility of irreparable injury, or (2) serious questions going to the merits and the balance of hardships tipping sharply in his favor. Chalk v. United States Dist. Ct., 840 F.2d 701, 704 (9th Cir.1988). These are not discrete tests, but are instead "outer reaches 'of a single continuum.' " Id. (citations omitted).

"The grant or denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction lies within the discretion of the district court, and its order will be reversed only if the court relied on an erroneous legal premise or otherwise abused its discretion." Id. An "abuse of discretion" occurs if the district court misapprehends the applicable legal issues or rests its conclusions on clearly erroneous findings of fact. Id.

DISCUSSION

Pratt raised two distinct legal theories in the district court. First, he alleged that his transfer to Mule Creek and subsequent double-celling were done in retaliation for the interview he gave to Fox television in December 1993. Under this theory, Pratt argues, the retaliatory actions are illegal regardless of whether he has an independent right to be held at any particular prison or in any given type of cell. Pratt's second claim was that when the defendants placed him in a double cell, allegedly leading to exacerbation of his PTSD and bowel conditions, they exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The district court granted the preliminary injunction on the basis of the retaliation claim only, finding it unnecessary to reach the Eighth Amendment questions at this stage of the proceedings. Pratt, 856 F.Supp. at 569 n. 14. Similarly,

Page 806

we express no opinion on the Eighth Amendment issues potentially involved in this case.
I

(a) Ninth Circuit retaliation law

The district court correctly found that Ninth Circuit case law has recognized that retaliation claims like Pratt's state a valid cause of action under Sec. 1983. In Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527 (9th Cir.1985), for example, we held that prison officials could not transfer an inmate to another prison in retaliation for the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment right to pursue federal civil rights litigation. Id. at 531. In fact, we...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2089 practice notes
  • Gifford v. Kampa, No. 2:17-CV-2421-TLN-DMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 25, 2021
    ...must demonstrate a specific link between the alleged retaliation and the exercise of a constitutional right. See Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995); Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135, 1138-39 (9th Cir. 1989). The plaintiff must also show that the exercise of First Ame......
  • 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
    ...Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 5527, 532 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135 (9th Cir. 1989); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995). As discussed by the Ninth Circuit in Watison v. Carter:"A retaliation claim has five elements. Brodheim v. Cry, 584 F.3......
  • Walker v. Wechsler, Case No. 1:16-cv-01417-JLT (PC)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • October 11, 2016
    ...Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527, 532 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135 (9th Cir. 1989); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995). Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff. Rhodes, at 567. Third, the plai......
  • Mendez v. United States, 1:17-cv-00555-LJO-MJS (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • April 9, 2018
    ...by raising issues of suspect timing, evidence, and statements); Hines v. Gomez, 108 F.3d 265, 267-68 (9th Cir. 1997); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 808 (9th Cir. 1995) ("timing can properly be considered as circumstantial evidence of retaliatory intent"). In terms of the third prerequisite......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2088 cases
  • Gifford v. Kampa, No. 2:17-CV-2421-TLN-DMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 25, 2021
    ...must demonstrate a specific link between the alleged retaliation and the exercise of a constitutional right. See Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995); Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135, 1138-39 (9th Cir. 1989). The plaintiff must also show that the exercise of First Ame......
  • 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
    ...Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 5527, 532 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135 (9th Cir. 1989); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995). As discussed by the Ninth Circuit in Watison v. Carter:"A retaliation claim has five elements. Brodheim v. Cry, 584 F.3......
  • Walker v. Wechsler, Case No. 1:16-cv-01417-JLT (PC)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • October 11, 2016
    ...Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527, 532 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135 (9th Cir. 1989); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995). Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff. Rhodes, at 567. Third, the plai......
  • Mendez v. United States, 1:17-cv-00555-LJO-MJS (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • April 9, 2018
    ...by raising issues of suspect timing, evidence, and statements); Hines v. Gomez, 108 F.3d 265, 267-68 (9th Cir. 1997); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 808 (9th Cir. 1995) ("timing can properly be considered as circumstantial evidence of retaliatory intent"). In terms of the third prerequisite......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Correctional Officer Excessive Use of Force
    • United States
    • Prison Journal, The Nbr. 94-2, June 2014
    • June 1, 2014
    ...310 (5th Cir. 2008).Moss v. Brown, 409 Fed.Appx. 732 (5th Cir. 2010).Perry v. Monroe, F.Supp.2d (S.D. Ill. 2009).Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802 807 (9th Cir. 1995).Rangolan v. County of Nassau, 370 F.3d 239 (2nd Cir. 2004).Rollen v. Horton, WL 2997512 (M.D. Tenn. 2008).Skrtich v. Thornton, 2......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT