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Harbert v. Deacon

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division

January 22, 2019

NATHANIEL HARBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES DEACON, and R.A. YOUNG, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Youlee Yim You United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution (“TRCI”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pro se. Currently before the court are defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF # 28) and plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF #45). For the reasons that follow, the court GRANTS defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and DENIES plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint.[1]

         I. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         A. Background

         Plaintiff's claims stem from a physical altercation with a fellow inmate, Ray Thompson, on September 13, 2017. Following a disciplinary hearing, plaintiff was found guilty of Inmate Assault I and Disrespect I, and sanctioned to 90 days in disciplinary segregation. ECF #14, at 17. Plaintiff alleges that he was improperly found guilty of Inmate Assault I (ECF #14, at 12) and the disciplinary proceeding failed to comport with due process requirements (ECF #11, at 6; ECF #14, at 3). He also contends that the hearings officer, defendant James Deacon (“Deacon”), impermissibly found he had engaged in a “mutual altercation, ” although the officer who responded to the scene, Officer McConkey, never made such a statement in his report. ECF #11, at 2. Plaintiff further contends that Deacon attempted to “cover his foul ups” by supplementing his order with an additional paragraph, after plaintiff had already been found guilty and had been served with a copy of the order. ECF #11, at 2; ECF #14, at 14-15. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Deacon, and defendant Captain R.A. Young for “their part” in finding him guilty of Assault 1. ECF #14, at 5.

         Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) on two grounds: (1) plaintiff has no protected liberty interest in remaining free from placement in disciplinary segregation; and (2) nevertheless, attachments to plaintiff's Amended Complaint demonstrate that the disciplinary proceedings against plaintiff afforded him all of the process due under the Fourteenth Amendment.

         B. Legal Standards

         A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but early enough not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “Analysis under Rule 12(c) is substantially identical to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.” Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Mgmt, 793 F.3d 1147, 1155 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, “[a] judgment on the pleadings is properly granted when, taking all allegations in the pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 713 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation marks omitted).

         To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, “the non-conclusory ‘factual content' [of the complaint], ” and reasonable inferences from that content, “must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007).

         Similar to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider a document on a motion for judgment on the pleadings if the plaintiff refers extensively to the document or the document is integral to plaintiffs claim. U.S. v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003); see also Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir. 2010) (on a motion to dismiss, the court may consider materials incorporated into the complaint or matters of public record without converting the motion into a motion for summary judgment). Moreover, agency orders are documents of which this court may take judicial notice under Fed.R.Evid. 201. See Read v. Haley, Case No. 3:12-cv-02021-MO, 2013 WL 1562938, at *1 n.3 (D. Or. April 10, 2013) (holding that “[o]n a motion to dismiss, a court may take judicial notice of facts outside of the pleadings that are matters of public record, such as records or reports from courts or administrative bodies”) (internal citations omitted). While a court may take judicial notice of “matters of public record” without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, a court may not take judicial notice of a fact that is “subject to reasonable dispute.” Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 690 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 201(b)).

         C. Discussion

         The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” U.S. CONST. amend XIV,' 1. “Due process ‘is a flexible concept that varies with the particular situation.'” Shinault v. Hawks, 782 F.3d 1053, 1057 (9th Cir. 2015)(quoting Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 127 (1990)).

         “Under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, a prisoner is entitled to certain due process protections when he is charged with a disciplinary violation.” Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1077-78 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564-71 (1974)). But “[l]awful imprisonment necessarily makes unavailable many rights and privileges of the ordinary citizen, ” and though prisoners retain constitutional protections of religious freedom, access to the court, equal protection, and substantive due process, “[p]rison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply.” Wolff, 418 U.S. at 555-56.

         In Wolff, the Supreme Court discussed the due process requirements of a prison disciplinary hearing. First, prison officials must provide the prisoner with written notice at least twenty-four hours before the hearing. Id. at 564. This notice must include the charges against the inmate, a written description of the evidence on which the fact finder relies, and the reason for taking disciplinary action. Id.Second, prison officials should allow the prisoner “to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense when permitting him to do so will not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals.” Id. at 566. Third, if the prisoner is illiterate, or if the complexity of the case makes comprehension unlikely, prison officials should allow the prisoner to ‚Äúseek the aid of a fellow inmate, or if that is forbidden, to have adequate substitute aid in the form of help from the staff or from a sufficiently ...


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