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Carr v. Stelzer

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 15, 2017

JODY CARR, Plaintiff,


          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.


         After screening Plaintiff Jody Carr's civil rights complaint, the sole claim remaining is a retaliation claim against Sgt. Segadelli and Cpl. Stelzer. (Dkt. 29, 14, 2.) Carr alleges he sent letters to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of himself and other inmates to complain about prison conditions in early 2015. Specifically, he complained that the double celling of inmates in the protective custody unit violated Balla v. Idaho State Board of Corrections, 869 F.2d 461 (9th Cir. 1989). After he sent the letters, the following allegedly occurred: (1) the inmates' Housing Unit E-1 was locked down on February 10, 2015; (2) Unit E-1 was divided in half; (3) many of the Unit E-1 inmates were taken to segregation (“the Hole”); (4) the inmates were ordered not to speak to each other about the ACLU class action lawsuit, other lawsuits, or grievances; and (5) on February 11, 2015, Defendants Stelzer and Segadelli threatened inmates with retaliation for complaining about conditions of confinement on February 11, 2015. Carr alleges a violation of his First Amendment rights.

         Defendants' motion for summary judgment is now ripe for review. (Dkt. 30.) Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d).


         Carr is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), and currently incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Center (ISCC). During the times mentioned in the Complaint, Carr was housed on tier E-1, which is part of the protective custody unit at ISCC. Protective custody separates offenders from the general population for the offenders' safety. The goal is to eventually integrate the offender back into the general population when it is reasonably safe to do so. The offenders on tier E-1 were considered a level two protective custody, which provides a structured transition period for those offenders preparing for integration with the general population, or alternatively, a less restrictive environment for those offenders that do not require the security of level one protective custody.

         Throughout the month of January and the first part of February 2015, several offense reports and information reports revealed prisoners on tier E-1 were involved in drug use, gambling, and extortion, as well as other criminal activities, such as tattooing. Other offenders were complaining about prisoners propositioning them for sexual favors. Lit candles were discovered in offenders' cells. Inmates complained also of being assaulted and threatened, or being exposed to other inmates' inappropriate sexual activity. Several fights had been investigated as well, resulting in injuries, and homemade weapons were found on the tier. On February 6, 2015, one offender complained of being threatened by multiple other offenders, and informed correction officers of where weapons were being hidden on the tier. (Dkt. 30-5 at 7 - 44.)

         On January 19, 2015, Carr authored a letter to Shannon Cluney, [1] telling her he planned to be the star witness in a civil rights lawsuit alleging ISCC was in violation of Balla, because he and other inmates in protective custody were being double-celled, resulting in inmate violence. (Dkt. 34-16.) Carr demanded to be sent to Givens Hall[2] in return for dropping the lawsuit. (Dkt. 34-16 at 3.) A second letter was sent to Cluney on January 21, 2015, indicating all Carr wanted in return for dropping the lawsuit was housing, a job, and “no more retaliation.” (Dkt. 34-17 at 3.) But, if he had to “go any further, I'll want money, injunctions, declarations and all officers/staff held publicly accountable.” Id. Several other prisoners wrote similar letters. (Dkt. 34-18 - 34-20.) The topic of the lawsuit arose again in response to Carr's February 15, 2015 concern form, which indicates that, during Carr's conversation with Cluney, Carr stated “all [he] wanted was to be placed in Givens Hall, in lieu of filing a lawsuit.” (Dkt. 34-24.)[3]

         On February 9, 2015, the prisoners had received complaint forms from the ACLU to fill out and return. (Dkt. 34-6 at 3.) The ISCC mail log confirms that Carr, as well as Fitch, received mail from the ACLU on February 9, 2015. (Dkt. 35-1, 35-3.)

         On February 10, 2015, a battery and altercation occurred in housing unit DEF in E-1 pod.[4] During unit day room time, one offender assaulted another by hitting him with a closed fist to the face. To ensure the safety of the population, the tier was secured and an investigation ensued. Shift Command Staff Lt. Angeletti locked down pod E-1 as a result. The investigation revealed the altercation involved six offenders, who were seen on video congregating in one cell before the assault. Those six offenders were placed in segregation pending investigation. (Dkt. 30-3 at 7.)

         On February 11, 2015, Segadelli and Stelzer conducted a tier meeting on E-1. During the meeting, Segadelli and Stelzer informed the offenders that illegal activity would not be tolerated on the tier, and reminded the E-1 population of the purpose of protective custody. The offenders were informed that, after the recent offenses and the violence that occurred on February 10, 2015, to hold the offenders accountable for their behavior and to ensure the safety of the offenders on the tier, the solution under IDOC policy was to send level two protective custody offenders to level one protective custody, [5] if their behavior warranted modification to their placement.

         Segadelli and Stelzer deny threatening to place the inmates in administrative segregation for filing a concern form, grievance, or lawsuit. Carr, however, claims otherwise, and submitted his own affidavit as well as fourteen affidavits from other prisoners to support his claims. For example, prisoner Michael Brown states that Segadelli and Stelzer said: “You want to complain? Well, I gave you life and I can take it away, Admin said I can send you where ever I decide to, ” and that they would “pull us out of protective custody, put us back into General Population and get us ‘smashed out' or send us to ‘Ad-seg' aka The Hole.” (Dkt. 34-2 at 2.) Brown contens this was said in retaliation, because Carr, and others, including Brown, wrote letters to the ACLU and had received a response on February 9, 2015, just prior to the meeting. Id. The affidavits of Mark Fitch, Adam Ramirez, Paul Gutierrez, Joseph Stanka, Levi Hawkins, James Sukraw, Ken Rawley, and Charlie Smith are substantially similar to Carr's and Brown's affidavits. (Dkt. 34-2 - 34-11; 34-15.) Erik Payne, however, did not cite any specific incident---only that inmates are “often retaliated against” if they file concern forms, grievances, tort claims, or lawsuits. (Dkt. 34-10 at 2.)

         After the tier meeting, Carr sent in a grievance to ISCC, which was identical to several other prisoners' grievances, all of which alleged Segadelli and Stelzer threatened them if they spoke to the ACLU. The grievances were investigated, and Warden Blades determined the allegations were false. (Dkt. 34-28.)

         In response to Carr's March 2, 2015 concern form about the February 11, 2015 tier meeting, Stelzer responded that the tier meeting was “simply informative and a courtesy from investigations to inform the P.C. population that if there was violence on the tiers the only way to hold offenders accountable and to protect them would be to seek ad-seg housing per policy.” (Dkt. 34-28.) Stelzer and Segadelli claim Carr's statements were taken out of context. While Stelzer admitted to using the phrase, “I gave you life and I can take it away, ” he explained that it was said in the context of an analogy, in an attempt to explain to the prisoners that if they continued to act up or engage in criminal activity on the tier, their freedom would be taken away. (Dkt. 35-2 at 2.)

         At the time of the events described above, Segadelli was employed as an Investigations Sergeant and Stelzer was employed as an Investigations Corporal at ISCC. As an investigative sergeant or corporal, neither Segadelli nor Stelzer has authority to make changes to offender housing accommodations. Warden Randy Blades denies ever giving Segadelli or Stelzer permission or authority to change housing accommodations, protective custody status, or place offenders in administrative segregation.

         With regard to prisoner mail, if prisoners are suspected of using incoming mail for illegitimate purposes such as gang activity, introduction of narcotics, or the like, ISCC will monitor incoming mail sent to those prisoners. A list is created, and re-evaluated monthly. Segadelli and Stelzer have access to the monitored mail list for any ongoing investigation, but they do not have access to any other offenders' mail activity. Between January of 2015 and April of 2015, Carr was not on the monitored mail list. (Dkt. 30-5 at 47-49.) Segadelli and Stelzer deny they had any knowledge of any offender's correspondence with the ACLU, or any knowledge of a specific offender's communication with the ACLU, at the time of the tier meeting on February 11, 2015. Additionally, Segadelli and Stelzer deny they had any knowledge that any offenders signed the legal mail log on February 9, 2015, to receive legal mail.


         1. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, “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). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is not “a disfavored procedural shortcut, ” but is instead the “principal tool[] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources.” Id. at 327.

         “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). Rather, there must be no genuine dispute as to any material fact in order for a case to survive summary judgment. Material facts are those “that might affect the outcome of the suit.” Id. at 248. “Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if that party shows that each material fact cannot be disputed. To show that the material facts are not in dispute, a party may cite to particular parts of materials in the record, or show that the adverse party is unable to produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). The Court must consider “the cited materials, ” but it may also consider “other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court is “not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment.” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) ...

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