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Grenning v. Miller-Stout

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 16, 2014

Neil GRENNING, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Maggie MILLER-STOUT; Jim Dyson; Fred Fox, sued in their individual and official capacities, Defendants-Appellees.

Argued and Submitted March 5, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Hunter Olds Ferguson (argued), Leonard J. Feldman, Stoel Rives, LLP, Seattle, WA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Candie M. Dibble, Joseph T. Edwards, Kevin Clarke Elliott (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Spokane, WA, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, Edward F. Shea, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:09-cv-00389-JPH.

Before: FERDINAND F. FERNANDEZ, WILLIAM A. FLETCHER, and JOHNNIE B. RAWLINSON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

Neil Grenning appeals a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant prison officials. Grenning contends that continuous twenty-four-hour illumination of his cell violated the Eighth Amendment. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background

Neil Grenning is a Washington State inmate at Airway Heights Corrections Center (" Airway Heights" ). Prison staff placed Grenning in the Special Management Unit (" SMU" ) of Airway Heights " pending investigation" into a fight " that he was allegedly involved in." Grenning was kept in the SMU for about thirteen days.

The SMU is an administrative segregation unit with single-inmate cells that are continuously illuminated for twenty-four hours a day. Each cell in the SMU has three four-foot-long fluorescent lighting tubes in a mounted light fixture. A cell occupant can use a switch inside the cell to turn off two of the tubes. However, the center tube is always on. The center tube is covered by a blue light-diffusing sleeve.

Terry Propeck, a correctional unit supervisor, provided a declaration describing practices in the SMU. Propeck's term for inmates kept in the SMU is " offenders." Propeck states, " Offenders housed in the SMU are considered a high risk to staff, other offenders, and themselves. Some offenders are placed in SMU pending an investigation into an incident that the offender was involved in." Some inmates are placed in SMU because they request protective custody. Institution policy requires welfare checks in the SMU to be conducted every thirty minutes, which is more frequent than checks for the general prison population.

According to Propeck, continuous illumination allows officers to " assess [ ] the baseline behavior of offenders to ensure they are not at risk of harming themselves or making an attempt to harm staff, cause property damage or incite problem behavior from other offenders." Propeck states that turning the cell lights on and off every thirty minutes would be disruptive to the cell occupants. Further, turning the lights on and off also might endanger staff because guards would be unable to see into the cell until they were immediately in front of it and had turned on the light. Turning lights on and off would also alert inmates to staff presence. Finally, Propeck states, " If an emergency occurred necessitating keeping the lights on for a prolonged period of time, this could cause a disruption in the unit and frustrate or cause anxiety for offenders as opposed to having the light on as a norm."

Grenning filed a verified complaint alleging that the continuous lighting in his

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SMU cell violated the Eighth Amendment. Grenning alleges that the light was so bright he could not sleep, even with " four layers of towel wrapped around his eyes." He alleges that the lighting gave him " recurring migraine headaches" and that he could not distinguish between night and day in the cell. Grenning also alleges that the lighting caused him pain and disoriented him.

There is no evidence that Grenning sought medical assistance while in the SMU. However, he did submit a grievance informing prison officials that he could not sleep and that he had headaches as a result of the continuous lighting. He requested that prison officials replace the center tube with something that would give off less light.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Grenning had not established an Eighth Amendment violation. Grenning timely appealed.

II. Standard of Review

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. Summary judgment is appropriate when, " with the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there are no genuine issues of material fact, so that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." San Diego Police ...


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