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Case Name Mitchell v. Cate PC-CA-0056
Docket / Court 2:08-cv-01196-RAJ ( E.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-PLRA Jail and Prison Private Settlement Agreements
Prison Legal News
California's Prisoners' Rights Bar article
Attorney Organization Prison Law Office
Case Summary
On May 21, 2008, a California inmate filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The plaintiff, originally proceeding pro se but eventually represented by ... read more >
On May 21, 2008, a California inmate filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The plaintiff, originally proceeding pro se but eventually represented by private counsel and the Prison Law Center, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive and monetary damages, alleging that the CDCR acted unconstitutionally by segregating the prisoners by race and locking down an entire race of prisoners. The prison staff had informed the plaintiff that it was the policy of the CDCR that "when there is an incident involving any race, all inmates of that race are locked up."

On May 27, 2009, Judge Richard Jones granted a request to proceed in forma pauperis, since it stated a cognizable claim for relief. Mitchell v. Felker, 2009 WL 1507147 (E.D. Cal. May 27, 2009). During the discovery phase, the CDCR constantly dragged their feet after requests for documents. As a result, on September 29, 2010, Judge Jones granted a motion to compel the defendants to comply with discovery. Mitchell v. Felker, 2010 WL 3835765 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2010). Judge Jones acquired the case as a visiting judge from the Western District of Washington, and ultimately recused himself from the case as he felt it was inappropriate for a judge from Washington to preside over a case so imbued in California politics. As he recused himself, Judge Jones also reset the calendar on all discovery motions.

During court mandated settlement negotiations, Judge Jones temporarily assigned counsel to the plaintiff. That counsel ultimately agreed to represent the plaintiff for the case and filed a leave to amend the complaint in order to transform the case into a class action challenging the allegedly race-based lockdowns throughout California's men's prisons. On September 23, 2011, Magistrate Judge Edmund Brennan granted that motion. Mitchell v. Felker, 2011 WL 4458784 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 23, 2011). In the second amended complaint, three additional plaintiffs were added as representatives of a class of all prisoners who were currently or would be in the future subject to the CDCR's policy and practice of implementing race-based lockdowns.

Following the filing of the second amended complaint, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. On June 28, 2012, in his findings and recommendations, Judge Brennan concluded that the plaintiffs had indeed properly exhausted their grievances under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, so the defendant's motion to dismiss should be largely denied. Mitchell v. Felker, 2012 WL 2521827 (E.D. Cal. June 28, 2012). On July 27, 2012, the new district court judge (Judge John Mendez) adopted the findings and recommendations in full. Mitchell v. Felker, 2012 WL 3070084 (E.D. Cal. July 27, 2012).

On March 5, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction. The defendants then filed for summary judgment. On February 11, 2014, Judge Troy L. Nunley granted part of the defendants' motion for summary judgment, leaving the following claims: claims for injunctive relief based on Fourteenth Amendment violations, a claim for compensatory damages for violations of Fourteenth Amendment rights, and state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Mitchell v. Cate, 2014 WL 546338 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 11, 2014).

On June 25, 2014, Judge Nunley denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction finding that the plaintiffs had not met the high burden required to obtain the extraordinary relief sought. Mitchell v. Cate, 2014 WL 2895232 (E.D. Cal. June 25, 2014). A month later, Judge Nunley granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Mitchell v. Cate, 2014 WL 3689287 (E.D. Cal. July 23, 2014).

On October 20, 2014, the parties entered into a stipulated settlement agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the CDCR agreed to a number of terms, including the following: to cease implementation of race-based modified programs or lockdowns; to use individualized threat assessment forms to determine who would be retained on a modified program or lockdown; to provide outdoor activity to prisoners in a modified program or lockdown for longer than fourteen days; to revise its policies concerning modified programs and lockdowns, including modifying its definitions; to train its staff; and to provide status reports to plaintiffs' counsel for a defined period of time. The defendants also agreed to pay attorneys fees and costs. The agreement specified that its provisions would control for 18 months after the Court's preliminary approval or 4 months after final approval, whichever was later; plaintiffs could seek 12 months' extension at the end of that period.

The parties sought approval of the agreement by motion filed Feb. 27, 2015; a hearing on preliminary approval initially set for April 2015 was then reset for May 7, 2015. The case is ongoing.

Jessica Kincaid - 08/04/2014
Priyah Kaul - 11/27/2014
- 04/21/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Provide antidiscrimination training
Reporting
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Excessive force
Grievance Procedures
Over/Unlawful Detention
Racial segregation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Plaintiff Description Four African-American prisoners under the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Prison Law Office
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2015 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:08−cv−01196 (E.D. Cal.) 08/05/2015
PC-CA-0056-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights and Demand for Jury Trial 05/21/2008
PC-CA-0056-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis] 05/26/2009 (2009 WL 1507147) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights and Demand for Jury Trial 06/07/2010
PC-CA-0056-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motions 08/16/2010 (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motions 09/28/2010 (2010 WL 3835765) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Leave to Amend 09/22/2011 (2011 WL 4458784) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint 09/23/2011
PC-CA-0056-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration 10/27/2011 (C.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings and Recommendations 06/28/2012 (2012 WL 2521827)
PC-CA-0056-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Adopting Findings and Recommendations] 07/27/2012 (2012 WL 3070084) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment 02/07/2014 (2014 WL 546338) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction 06/24/2014 (2014 WL 2895232) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification 07/21/2014 (2014 WL 3689287) (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Settlement 10/20/2014
PC-CA-0056-0014.pdf | Detail
Judges Brennan, Edmund F. Court not on record
PC-CA-0056-0006 | PC-CA-0056-0009 | PC-CA-0056-9000
Jones, Richard A. (W.D. Wash.)
PC-CA-0056-0002 | PC-CA-0056-0004 | PC-CA-0056-0005
Mendez, John A. (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0008 | PC-CA-0056-0010
Nunley, Troy Lynne (E.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0056-0011 | PC-CA-0056-0012 | PC-CA-0056-0013 | PC-CA-0056-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Evenson, Rebekah B. (California)
PC-CA-0056-0007 | PC-CA-0056-0014 | PC-CA-0056-9000
Flairty, Matthew (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
George, Warren E. Jr. (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Holtz, Geoffrey Thomas (California)
PC-CA-0056-0014 | PC-CA-0056-9000
Pradhan, Aman (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Shook, Heather L. (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Specter, Donald H. (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Becker, Christopher James (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Des Jardins, Michelle A (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Harris, Mark A. (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Kirschenbauer, Marisa Yee (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Lien, Grant (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
McClain, Damon Grant (California)
PC-CA-0056-0014 | PC-CA-0056-9000
Mossler, Julianne (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Sullivan, Erin B. (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Other Lawyers Abrams, Hanna (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Coon, Laura (District of Columbia)
PC-CA-0056-9000
Fox, Benjamin Jonathan (California)
PC-CA-0056-9000

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