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Low v. Stanton

January 22, 2009

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



FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with several civil claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and state law. Before the court is defendant Hambright's motion for summary judgment.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's complaint alleges as follows concerning defendant Hambright: On August 3rd, 2005 [sic] defendant Hambright violated my constitutional right to access to the courts by yanking me out of Judge Smith's court room while I was actually speaking to the Judge. Defendant Hambright without any other authority other then his own terminated my in court conversation with Judge Smith when I was asking Judge Smith a question concerning a motion to declare a conflict that my public defender was suppose to file.

Defendant Hambright had no right to terminate my in court conversation with Judge Smith nor was he instructed to literally pull me out of the court room by Judge Smith or any other authority.

The actions of defendant Hambright of terminating the plaintiffs [sic] court appearence [sic] and conversation with Judge Smith constitutes a denial of access to the courts and further denied the plaintiffs [sic] rights under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The actions of defendant Hambright to unreasonably seize the plaintiff who is a pretrial detainee constitutes unreasonable seizure and fertuer [sic] violates the plaintiffs [sic] rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Compl. filed Nov. 2, 2005, at 23-23, 38-39.) Plaintiff seeks punitive damages in the amount of $10,000. (Id. at 45-46.)

Based on these allegations, plaintiff is proceeding with the following three claims against defendant Hambright: (1) denial of plaintiff's right of access to the court, (2) denial of plaintiff's rights under the Sixth Amendment, and (3) denial of plaintiff's rights under the Fourth Amendment to be free from an unreasonable seizure.

I. Motion for 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 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); Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

II. Undisputed Facts

The parties agree that the following facts are undisputed: Defendant Hambright has been a correctional officer at the Solano County Jail since June of 1997. On August 3, 2005, he was assigned to the court holding area for Superior Court B. A correctional officer with that assignment remains in the holding area and does not enter the courtroom unless the bailiff needs assistance or there is an emergency in the courtroom. There is a speaker system that allows the officer in the holding area to hear what is being said in the courtroom.

On August 3, 2005, plaintiff appeared in the Solano County Superior Court for a readiness conference. Judge R. Michael Smith was the presiding judge. Because plaintiff's attorney, Ms. Ryan, was unavailable due to a family illness, Deputy Public Defender Robert Warshawsky appeared on behalf of plaintiff in her place.

Both parties have submitted a copy of the transcript of the readiness conference held on August 3, 2005 and therefore the recording of the proceedings are undisputed.*fn2 The relevant portions of the transcript reflect the following exchange:

MR. WARSHAWSKY: . . . . My suggestion would be, given the time waiver status, that we stand over to early September, and that would allow my office to complete the subpoena process, and then if there's a conflict [of interest] we can advise the Court.

THE DEFENDANT: I'm not waiving time.

MR. WARSHAWSKY: Well, he's already waived time.

THE COURT: He has waived time, but he also has the right to withdraw that time waiver, too. Are you withdrawing your time waiver?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: We'll set it for preliminary hearing then. I'll put it over to Department 17. The presiding judge will be covering for me in this type of situation. The last day for preliminary hearing would be the 17th of August. 15th of August, nine o'clock for readiness conference; 16th of August, nine o'clock for preliminary hearing.

THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor, may I address the Court, please? I've attempted to contact my public defender, Ms. Ryan, and she refuses to speak to me. I spoke to her approximately last Thursday - - Wednesday and Thursday, and she told me that she wasn't gonna (sic) be my attorney no more. She's going to file a conflict in the Court and that I was going to be appointed a conflict attorney today.

THE COURT: Well, that's not going to happen today because Ms. Ryan, due to family ...


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