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Furnace v. G. Giurbino

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 29, 2016

Edward Terran Furnace, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
G. Giurbino; K. Berkler; R. S. Marquez; E. W. Fischer; M. Valdez, Institutional Gang Investigator at Salinas Valley State Prison; R. L. Martinez, Lt., Institutional Gang Investigator at Salinas Valley State Prison, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted December 9, 2015 San Francisco, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 5:12-cv-00873-LHK Lucy H. Koh, District Judge, Presiding

          Rajeev Muttreja (argued), Jones Day New York, New York; Glen Nager, Jones Day, Washington, D.C.; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Jose A. Zelidon-Zepeda (argued), Deputy Attorney General; Thomas S. Patterson, Supervising Deputy Attorney General; Jonathan L. Wolff, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, San Francisco, California; for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before: Alex Kozinski, Jay S. Bybee, and Morgan Christen, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Prisoner Civil Rights

         The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal, on preclusion grounds, of a California state prisoner's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, alleging that prison officials wrongfully classified him as a gang member in retaliation for filing a previous § 1983 suit against the defendants' colleagues.

         Prior to filing this § 1983 suit, the prisoner filed a habeas petition in California state court, alleging that his gang classification and placement in secured housing violated his federal constitutional rights, which was denied.

         The panel held that California claim preclusion law governed whether, in light of his earlier state habeas petition, the prisoner's § 1983 claims could be brought in federal court. The panel rejected the prisoner's claim that the "primary rights" that were allegedly violated in his § 1983 suit were distinct from the primary right he sought to vindicate in his habeas action in California state court. The panel concluded that the same primary right - the prisoner's right to be free from unlawful gang validation and placement in the segregated housing unit - was at issue in both suits. The panel also rejected the prisoner's argument that the identity of the parties was different between this § 1983 action and his prior habeas action.

         The panel declined the prison officials' request to assess a strike, based on the district court's dismissal of this case, against the prisoner under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

          OPINION

          BYBEE, Circuit Judge

         Edward Furnace is a prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison. Furnace alleges the Appellees wrongfully classified him as a gang member in retaliation for filing a § 1983 suit against the defendants' colleagues. After Furnace filed a habeas petition, California courts rejected his claims on the ground that there was sufficient evidence to support the gang validation. Furnace then filed the present action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, based on violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. The district court dismissed his suit on claim preclusion grounds. We affirm.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         In 2006 Furnace filed a § 1983 suit against eleven Salinas Valley Prison officials (none of whom is involved in this suit) for allegedly denying him visitation rights and other privileges. These defendants filed a motion to dismiss in 2008, which was denied. Furnace alleges that shortly after that, R.L. Martinez and M. Valdez, gang investigators at Salinas Valley, were "ordered to validate [Furnace] as a prison gang member to intimidate and retaliate against him" for filing the earlier suit. The decision to classify Furnace as a member of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) was based on prison officials finding in Furnace's cell the contact information of a validated BGF gang member as well as books, a CD, and a newspaper article relating to BGF.

         Furnace filed an internal administrative appeal, claiming that the classification lacked evidence, was retaliatory, and was racially motivated. While the appeal was pending, K. Berkler, R.S. Marquez, and E.W. Fischer, also gang experts at Salinas Valley, again classified Furnace as a gang member. His internal ...


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