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Low v. Stanton

August 20, 2008

TONY RICHARD LOW, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY R. STANTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Before the court are three motions for summary judgment, each brought individually by defendants Driscoll, Mallory and Atkins. Plaintiff opposes the motions and defendants have filed their replies. Because the three wide-ranging summary judgment motions pending before the court raise similar issues and require similar analysis, all three motions will be addressed in these findings and recommendations.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's claims arose in 2005, while he was a pretrial detainee at the Solano County Jail. In his complaint, plaintiff names nineteen defendants and raises several claims, including the alleged use of excessive force, denial of medical care, denial of rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and denial of due process rights.

As to defendant Driscoll, plaintiff alleges as follows:

The actions of defendants Stanton and Headly in concert with their subordinates defendants Clark, Driscoll, Childres, Jorgenson, Von Ting and Smith in using disciplinary isolation segregation and status for consecutive periods beyond ten days constitutes deliberate indifference to plaintiffs [sic] and all other pretrial detainees similarly situated right [sic] to effectively communicate with criminal defense attorneys over a telephone as other pretrial detainees in the County Jail. This action denys [sic] the plaintiff and all pretrial detainees similarly situated equal protection of the law and violation of due process of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.*fn2 (Compl. filed Nov. 2, 2005 at 34) (emphasis added). This claim concerns plaintiff's placement on disciplinary isolation status and his subsequent transfer to a unit referred to as "Z Module." According to an incident report, on July 19, 2005, plaintiff's cell was being searched because maintenance had reported the tampering with an electrical outlet and missing parts. "[T]he metal plate and two other metal objects from the outlet" were found in plaintiff's cell. (Pl.'s Decl. in Support of Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J., filed Mar. 19, 2008, Ex. E at 6.) During the cell search, plaintiff suddenly ran out of the day room and behind two tool chests that located near the Tower 4 door. (Id., Ex. E at 5.) From the tool chest, plaintiff grabbed a spray can and pointed it at Officer Garrison. (Id.) Plaintiff was "restrained and taken to the floor were [sic] he was handcuffed." (Id., Ex. E at 2.) Correctional Officer Jared Clark subsequently conducted a disciplinary hearing and found plaintiff guilty of possession of weapons and sentenced him to ten days on disciplinary isolation status beginning on July 22, 2005. (Jared Clark Decl. in Support of Driscoll's Reply, filed Mar. 24, 2008, at 1-2; Ex. A.) The disciplinary action also included the loss of visiting, commissary, telephone and television privileges. (Id., Ex. A.)

As to defendants Atkins and Mallory, plaintiff makes the follow claims: The actions of defendant N.W. Atkins to deny the plaintiff with ink pen, paper, and mailing envelope when the plaintiff is indigent violates the plaintiff[']s access to the courts and further denied the plaintiff rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The actions of defendant Mallory to deny the plaintiff who is indigent with "welfare packs" constitutes deliberate indifference and further denied the plaintiff access to the courts and to general correspondence in violation of the Due Process Clause [,] the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment and the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV of the United States Constitution. (Compl. at 38.)

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS UNDER RULE 56

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 322. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

"A scintilla of evidence or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative does not present a genuine issue of material fact" precluding summary judgment. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). See also Summers v. A. Teichert & Son, Inc., 127 F.3d 1150, 1152 (9th Cir. 1997). On summary judgment the court is not to weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matters asserted but must only determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that must be resolved by trial. See Summers, 127 F.3d at 1152. Nonetheless, in order for any factual dispute to be genuine, there must be enough doubt for a reasonable trier of fact to find for the plaintiff in order to defeat a defendant's summary judgment motion. See Addisu, 198 F.3d at 1134.

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

On December 8, 2006, the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc) and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

I. Defendant ...


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