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Semien v. Diaz

August 26, 2008

ANTHONY M. SEMIEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID DIAZ, JR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prison inmate proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants Diaz and Nishimi used excessive force against him. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claim is foreclosed by the case of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).

I. 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).

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 October 2, 2007, 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), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999) and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

II. Undisputed Facts*fn1

On February 16, 2006, defendants Diaz and Nishimi, Highway Patrol Officers, pursued plaintiff's car after plaintiff failed to pull over in response to the officers' lights and siren. Defendants' Undisputed Facts (DUF) 1, 3, 6-8, 10. During the pursuit, plaintiff's car reached speeds over 100 miles an hour. DUF 15-16. The car stopped only after it spun out of control. DUF 23.

Once out of the car, plaintiff refused Nishimi's order to stop, but the defendants were able to bring him to the ground. DUF 25, 27. Plaintiff was handcuffed and eventually taken to the ground by defendant Diaz and Officer Parsons. DUF 28, 32; Amended Complaint (Am. Compl.) at 3-4.*fn2 Defendant Nishimi used pepper spray to subdue plaintiff so that leg restraints could be applied. DUF 34; Am. Compl. at 4.

As a result of this incident, criminal charges were filed against plaintiff. Those relevant to this action are count two, which charged plaintiff with threatening an officer in the performance of his duties, in violation of California Penal Code section 71; count three, resisting an officer in the performance of his duties, in violation of Penal Code section 69; and count four, vandalism in violation of California Penal Code section 594(a)(b)(2)(A). DUF 35.

In connection with counts two and three, the jury was instructed that to find plaintiff guilty of these charges, it had to find that plaintiff acted or attempted, by actions or by threats, to prevent officers from performing their lawful duty and that officers could not be deemed to be acting lawfully if they used unreasonable or excessive force in carrying out their duties. DUF 36, 38.*fn3 The trial court also instructed the jury that a peace officer may use reasonable force to arrest someone or to overcome resistance, but that it could not find plaintiff guilty of resisting arrest if the arrest was ...


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