JOHNSON v. CALIFORNIA et al.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 03-636.Argued November 2, 2004--Decided February 23, 2005
The California Department of Corrections' (CDC) unwritten policy of racially segregating prisoners in double cells for up to 60 days each time they enter a new correctional facility is based on the asserted rationale that it prevents violence caused by racial gangs. Petitioner Johnson, an African-American inmate who has been intermittently double-celled under the policy's terms ever since his 1987 incarceration, filed this suit alleging that the policy violates his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The District Court ultimately granted defendant former CDC officials summary judgment on grounds that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the policy's constitutionality should be reviewed under the deferential standard articulated in Turner v. Safley, 482 U. S. 78, not under strict scrutiny, and that the policy survived Turner scrutiny.
Held: Strict scrutiny is the proper standard of review for an equal protection challenge to the CDC's policy. Pp. 4-15.