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Riley v. Terhune

April 1, 2009

STEVEN E. RILEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
C.A. TERHUNE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court are defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed on October 1, 2008, to which plaintiff filed his opposition on October 27, 2008.

II. Complaint

This case is proceeding on the original complaint, filed on April 10, 2006. Plaintiff names 6 (six) defendants who were employed at Calipatria State Prison during the relevant time.*fn1 Complaint (Compl.) at 3.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his civil rights and that he was the victim of religious persecution due to his receiving rule violations for his long hair in violation of prison regulations. As a result of several rule violations, plaintiff was placed on different status that resulted in the confiscation of several of his electric appliances. Defendants correctly note in their motion for summary judgment that plaintiff does not plead a specific cause of action, which makes it difficult to address his claims. In addition, plaintiff's only reference to his religion is that he is a, "practitioner of ancient Egyptian religion, which demands that he wear long dread locks in his hair." Compl. at 5. Plaintiff provides no other details.*fn2 Nevertheless, the court will address plaintiff's claims as a violation of the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

III. Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff has not established that any of the defendants violated an established constitutional right and defendants are entitled to qualified immunity based on their good faith enforcement of a valid prison regulation. MSJ at 1.

Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) is met. "The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if... there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and... 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, 106 S.Ct., 2548, 2553 (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. See id. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. "[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, 106 S.Ct. at 2553.

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, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (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, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (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 ...


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