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Case Name Freitag v. Ayers PC-CA-0037
Docket / Court 3:00-cv-02278–TEH ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On June 27, 2000 a former female corrections officer at Pelican Bay State Prison filed a Title VII sexual harassment lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) and several Pelican Bay ... read more >
On June 27, 2000 a former female corrections officer at Pelican Bay State Prison filed a Title VII sexual harassment lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) and several Pelican Bay officials. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that the CDCR and Pelican Bay had failed to remedy the sexually hostile environment created by prison inmates (which included a pervasive practice of inmate exhibitionist masturbation directed at female officers) in violation of her Title VII rights. The plaintiff further alleged that the Defendants had then retaliated against her by terminating her on account of her repeated complaints, in violation of her First Amendment rights. The Plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

On March 25, 2002, the District Court (Judge Thelton E. Henderson) granted in part and denied in part the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The surviving claims included: (1) the Title VII hostile work environment claim against the CDCR, (2) the Title VII retaliation claim against the CDCR based upon adverse employment actions not including the plaintiff's termination, and (3) the § 1983 claim that the individual defendants retaliated against the plaintiff in violation of her First Amendment rights. The case proceeded to jury trial in March 2003.

At trial, the plaintiff's case-in-chief included testimony from fellow correctional officers and an expert on prison administration. The jury returned a unanimous verdict on April 3, 2003, finding CDCR liable under Title VII for sexual harassment and retaliation, and the individual Pelican Bay officials liable under § 1983 for retaliation in violation of plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. The jury awarded $500,000 to the plaintiff in economic damages, $100,000 in noneconomic damages, and $100 in punitive damages against each individual defendant.

On May 15, 2003, the plaintiff moved to amend the judgment to include permanent injunctive relief. The District Court granted her motion in part and entered a permanent injunction prohibiting CDCR from engaging in unlawful employment practices at Pelican Bay Prison, including sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment, sexual discrimination, and retaliation. The Court referred the matter to a Special Master to monitor compliance and to develop a remedial plan. The Court also awarded attorneys' fees.

The defendants appealed after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S.Ct. 1951, in 2006. The Supreme Court had held that “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” The defendants argued that the plaintiff had not been speaking “as a citizen” when she complained and thus the defendants had not violated her First Amendment rights.

On September 13, 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt) affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. 468 F.3d 838. It affirmed CDCR's liability under Title VII, but remanded the First Amendment retaliation claim in light the Garcetti v. Ceballos. The Court found that the jury had been improperly instructed as to which of the plaintiff’s statements constituted protected speech and remanded the case to decide:
1. whether a letter written by the Plaintiff to the director of the CDCR constituted protected speech;
2. whether the Defendants were protected by qualified immunity;
3. whether the erroneous jury instruction on protected speech was harmless error; and
4. whether the damages or attorney’s fees amounts were valid in light of the jury instruction error.
The Circuit Court issued an amended opinion November 3, 2006 with minor additions, and in that opinion denied a rehearing. 486. F.3d 528. The Defendants appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court denied certiorari. 549 U.S. 1323.

On remand, the District Court found for the plaintiff on all remaining issues. Specifically, the Court:
1. found the letter was protected speech because the Plaintiff was not acting pursuant to her official job duties when she wrote it;
2. rejected the Defendants’ argument that they were entitled to qualified immunity under Ceballos, indicating that that case did not alter the long-standing right of public employees to speak out on matters of public concern as a citizen.
3. found that the erroneous jury instruction resulting in harmless error—despite the instruction, the weight of the evidence for the Plaintiff’s retaliation claim clearly supported a finding of the Defendants’ liability; and
4. held that because the jury instruction was harmless, the damages award and attorneys’ fees award would remain unchanged.
2007 WL 1670307. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on April 11, 2008. 289 Fed. App'x 146.

The parties continued to litigate over attorneys’ fees and monitoring costs issues. The case was closed in 2010, but plaintiff’s counsel continued to monitor the defendants’ compliance with the injunction. In May 2012, the defendants moved to terminate the injunction (or, alternatively, to modify the monitoring process). On November 5, 2012, the Court denied the motion to terminate the injunction, reasoning that the defendants had not provided a legal basis for terminating a permanent injunction. However, because there had been no reports of the defendants ever failing to comply with the injunction, the Court granted the motion to modify the monitoring process and discontinued the plaintiff’s monitoring responsibilities. The parties then continued to litigate to resolve all remaining fees and costs issues. The case remains closed and has had no filing activity since December 2012.

Dan Dalton - 05/17/2007
Sara Stearns - 05/10/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-area
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
General
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Sexual abuse by residents/inmates
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Female former corrections officer at Pelican Bay State Prison
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2000
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
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
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
3:00-cv-02278-TEH (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/24/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order Awarding Attorneys' Fees and Costs (2003 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 26579) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0010.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/17/2003
Source: LexisNexis
[Appellate Opinion] (463 F.3d 838)
PC-CA-0037-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/13/2006
Source: Google Scholar
Order Amending Opinion and Amended Opinion (468 F.3d 528)
PC-CA-0037-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/03/2006
Source: Google Scholar
Untitled (549 U.S. 1323)
PC-CA-0037-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/02/2007
Source: Westlaw
Order (2007 WL 1670307 / 2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 43769) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/06/2007
Order Denying Plantiff's Request for Order of Payment of Funds from Special Deposit Fund (2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 56035) (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0009.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/20/2007
Source: LexisNexis
Memorandum (289 Fed.Appx. 146)
PC-CA-0037-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/11/2008
Source: Westlaw
Stipulation Pursuant to Fees Settlement Agreement [ECF# 590] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/07/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Closing Case [ECF# 591] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation On Plaintiff's Motion to Modify July 2, 2009 Order and Award of Reasonable Attorneys' Fees [ECF# 640] (2012 WL 1977940)
PC-CA-0037-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/26/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Adopting in Part Magistrate Judge's April 2010 Report and Recommendation; Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Motion re: Attorneys' Fees [ECF# 649] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Terminating Monitoring of Injunctive Relief [ECF# 670] (N.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0037-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/05/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cousins, Nathanael M. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-9000
Hawkins, Michael Daly (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006
Henderson, Thelton Eugene (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0001 | PC-CA-0037-0002 | PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-0010 | PC-CA-0037-0012 | PC-CA-0037-9000 | PC-CA-0037-9000
James, Maria-Elena (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-9000
Noonan, John T. Jr. (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-0011
Reinhardt, Stephen Roy (Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006
Zimmerman, Bernard S. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Allen, Curtis E. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-9000
Burris, John L. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-0010 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Lahood, Maria Couri (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-9000
Price, Pamela (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-0010 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Ralston, Charles Stephen (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Williams, Terina Marie (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Allen, Kathryn (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Appelsmith, Jacob A. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-0010 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Archibald, Marybelle (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0010 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Brown, Regina Jaynell (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Connolly, Damon M. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-9000
Harlan, Lyn (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Lockyer, Bill (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Manford, Richard Lee (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-0010 | PC-CA-0037-9000
Scally, Vincent J. (California) show/hide docs
PC-CA-0037-0003 | PC-CA-0037-0005 | PC-CA-0037-0006 | PC-CA-0037-0007 | PC-CA-0037-0009 | PC-CA-0037-9000

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