The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM HASKELL ALSUP, District Judge
RULINGS; GRANT OF
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
This is a pro se section 1983 civil rights action filed by a state
prisoner. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the ground that
there are no material facts in dispute and that they are entitled to
qualified immunity. Plaintiff has filed an opposition, defendants a
reply, and plaintiff a response to the reply. This matter is fully
Plaintiff alleges that defendants allowed him to be housed with a
dangerous cellmate. His cellmate eventually attacked him with an electric
fan, causing minor injuries.
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and
affidavits show that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Material facts are those which may affect the
outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine
if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return
a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id
The moving party for summary judgment bears the initial burden of
identifying those portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits
which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact
Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317. 323 (1986) Where the
moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must
affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find
other than for the moving party. But oh an issue for which the opposing
party will have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only
point out "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case." Id.
Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party
must go beyond the pleadings and, by its own affidavits or discovery,
"set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). If the nonmoving party fails to make this
showing, "the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.
The remaining defendants in this case are Jimenez and Beguhl. Jimenez
is an MTA and Beguhl was the "Floor Officer" in plaintiffs housing unit.
It is undisputed that plaintiffs cellmate Kelly was in the prison
hospital, and that he was released with a medical recommendation that he
be single-celled. It is apparent that Kelly had been in the hospital
because of mental problems. Both defendants were informed by plaintiff
and by Kelly that Kelly was supposed to be single-celled. From September
20, 2000, to October 29, 2000, the cellmates asked Jimenez and Beguhl to
arrange a single cell for Kelly, without success. On October 29, 2000,
Kelly attacked plaintiff with an electric fan, causing minor injuries.
Plaintiff requests only damages. Jimenez and Beguhl contend that are
entitled to qualified immunity, which is a complete defense to claims for
The defense of qualified immunity protects "government officials . . .
from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). The rule of qualified immunity "`provides
ample protection to all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law;"' defendants can have a reasonable, but
mistaken, belief about the facts or about what the law requires in any
given situation. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001)
(quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)).
"Therefore, regardless of whether the constitutional violation occurred,
the [official] should prevail if the right asserted by the plaintiff was
not `clearly established' or the [official] could have reasonably
believed that his particular conduct was lawful." Romero v. Kitsap
County, 931 F.2d 624, 627 (9th Cir. 1991).
A court considering a claim of qualified immunity must first determine
whether the plaintiff has alleged the deprivation of an actual
constitutional right, then proceed to determine if the right was "clearly
established." Wilson v. Layne, 119 S.Ct. 1692, 1694 (1999);
Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999). The threshold
question must be: Taken in the light most favorable to the party
asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct
violated a constitutional right? Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201;
see Martin v. City of Oceanside, No. 02-56177, slip op. 3071,
3078 (9th Cir. Mar. 11, 2004) (in performing the initial inquiry, court is
obligated to accept plaintiffs facts as alleged, but not necessarily his
application of law to the facts; the issue is not whether a claim is
stated for a violation of plaintiffs constitutional rights, but rather
whether on the assumed facts the defendants actually violated a
constitutional right) (emphasis in original).
If no constitutional right would have been violated were the
allegations established, there is no necessity for further inquiries
concerning qualified immunity. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. On the
other hand, if a violation could be made out on the allegations, the next
sequential step is to ask whether the right was clearly established.
Id. This inquiry must be undertaken in light of the specific
context of the case, not as a broad general proposition. Id.
at 202. The relevant, dispositive inquiry in determining whether a right
is clearly established is whether it would be clear to a reasonable
officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.
Id. If the law did not put the officer on notice that his
be clearly unlawful, summary judgment based on qualified immunity is