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Noble v. Adams

March 25, 2009

STEVEN JOSEPH NOBLE, IV, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D. ADAMS, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anthony W. Ishii Chief United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN PART AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION IN PART

(Doc. 120)

I. Introduction

Steven Joseph Noble ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is proceeding on an Amended Complaint that was filed on May 12, 2003. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged inter alia, that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Center in Corcoran, California, because he was deprived of outdoor exercise for several months during a lockdown. Pending before the court is Defendants' third Motion for Summary Judgment filed on July 8, 2008. Plaintiff filed his opposition on October 28, 2008. Defendants did not file a reply. Upon reviewing the evidence and filings in this case, the court GRANTS Defendant's motion IN PART and DENIES Defendants' motion IN PART.

II. Procedural History

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated because he was denied access to the courts, that prison officials unlawfully interfered with his mail, and that Defendant Cuevas and Adams ("Defendants") violated his Eighth Amendment rights by limiting his access to outdoor exercise from January 9, 2002 to April 2003. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied access to outdoor exercise from January 9, 2002 through August 13, 2002, and was only granted 16 two hour yard periods between August 13, 2002 and April 2003.

On December 7, 2006, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1 Plaintiff filed his opposition to the Motion on February 27, 2007. On March 26, 2007, the court issued Findings and Recommendations that Defendant's motion be granted on Plaintiff's denial of access to the courts and mail interference claims. However, the court found that with regard to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim, that Defendant Adams and Cuevas failed to refute the allegations in the complaint. Specifically, that Defendants failed to provide any specific facts concerning the times Plaintiff was allotted time out of his cell and for how long during each period in question. After reviewing the objections, this court adopted the Findings and Recommendations on May 18, 2007. The court gave Defendants an opportunity to file a second Motion for Summary Judgment.

Defendants Cuevas and Adams filed their a second Motion for Summary Judgment on June 21, 2007. Plaintiff filed his opposition on July 27, 2007. Defendants filed their reply on August 6, 2007. On March 31, 2008, the court granted Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in part. Specifically, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants regarding Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment access to exercise claims for the period between August 1, 2002, until April 1, 2003. However, the court denied Defendants Cuevas and Adams' Motion for Summary Judgment without prejudice regarding Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment access to exercise claims for the period between January 9, 2002, and July 31, 2002.*fn2 The court gave Defendants the opportunity this file this third Motion for Summary Judgment.

III. Summary Judgment Standard

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 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). "[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. 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. 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 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. Rule 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, 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, 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 Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Rule 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party, Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)(per curiam). 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. 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).

IV. Undisputed Facts*fn3

1. On January 9, 2002, there was a fight involving nine white inmates on the southeast side of the C-Facility exercise yard, near the gym at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran, California ("SATF"). One inmate was seriously injured with cuts to his neck and face. Declaration of R. Comfort, dated June 2, 2008, ("Comfort Decl.") at ¶ 3.

2. Whenever an incident occurs on the exercise yard, the crime scene must be secured, which involves searching and returning inmates to the respective housing units. On January 9, 2002, the inmates who were not involved in the incident were given unclothed body searches before they were allowed to enter their housing units. Id.

3. Approximately ninety minutes after the initial incident, while inmates were waiting to be processed into their housing unit, there was a physical altercation between staff and inmates which involved attempted murder on a correctional officer.*fn4 Id. at ¶ 4.

4. Ultimately, staff controlled the attack on staff through the use of overwhelming physical force. During the riot, an officer used a 37 mm gun, fourteen officers used pepper spray, two officers used their side-handle batons, and eleven officers used physical force. Id. at ¶ 5.

5. Declarant R. Comfort's correctional career exceeds twenty years. In that time, he has witnessed, or been involved with numerous incidents of violence, including attacks by inmates on other inmates and attacks by inmates on staff. He was present, and personally observed the inmate attack on staff on January 9, 2002. The incident was the most violent, savage assault he has ever witnessed. Declarant Comfort believes that for many staff at SATF this attack was a life-changing event. Similarly, Plaintiff believes that this was a life changing event for himself and the inmates. Id.

6. After the assault was controlled, numerous inmate manufactured weapons were found in the area ...


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