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Monger v. Tilton

March 5, 2010

STEVEN MATTHEW MONGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roger L. Hunt Chief United States District Judge

ORDER

(Motion for Summary Judgment--#48)

Before the Court is Defendant C. Berry and L. Flores' Motion for Summary Judgment (#48), filed September 18, 2009. The Court has also considered Plaintiff Steven Monger's Opposition (#54), filed December 2, 2009, and Defendants' Reply (#57), filed December 11, 2009.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Steven Monger, who is proceeding pro se, is currently incarcerated in the Solano State Prison in California. Sometime before November 2004, Monger filed a grievance with the California Department of Corrections alleging that Defendant C. Berry sexually harassed him while he was working in the kitchen at Solano.

On November 18, 2004, after he had filed the grievance, Monger was working in the prison dining hall under Berry's supervision. While engaged in his employment duties, Monger noticed a food cart with four or five lunches on it. These lunches had been set aside for inmates who ate only kosher food. Monger claims he thought the lunches would not be consumed that day, so he placed them in the dining hall utility closet to keep other inmates from stealing them. Later that morning, an inmate who ate kosher food approached Berry in the dining hall and told him that his meal was missing. Berry and the inmate proceeded to search for the missing lunches and found them in the utility closet. Apparently, Berry knew Monger was the only inmate who could have placed these lunches in the closet. When Berry approached Monger, he admitted to placing the meals in the utility closet, but claimed he did so because he thought they were leftover lunches.

Berry claims he did not believe Monger because all Monger had to do was go into the next room to ask someone whether the lunches were going to be served that day. Berry subsequently wrote a Rules Violation Report ("RVR"), which is standard prison procedure when an officer believes an inmate has committed theft, and forwarded it to Monger's correctional counselor. The report was eventually sent to Defendant L. Flores, the assignment lieutenant at the prison. After reviewing the RVR, Flores exercised his discretion and removed Monger from his kitchen employment pending a final decision on the RVR.

Berry has submitted an affidavit in which he asserts he did not know of Monger's sexual harassment complaint when he submitted the RVR. Flores likewise testifies that he had no knowledge of Monger's allegations when he temporarily suspended his kitchen employment. In an affidavit also submitted to this Court, however, Monger testifies that Flores later told him that Berry had informed Flores that he knew of Monger's complaint when he wrote the RVR.

At Monger's RVR hearing, Sergeant A. Scotland, the hearing officer, found Monger guilty of stealing prison food. Neither Berry nor Flores participated in the hearing and neither Defendant had authority to find Monger guilty of this offense. After being found guilty, Monger appeared before the Unit Classification Committee. Based on Sergeant Scotland's findings, the Committee permanently removed Monger from his employment position in the kitchen and assigned him to work in the laundry room.

On July 7, 2007, Monger filed suit in federal court in the Eastern District of California alleging a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendment. In this lawsuit, Monger named as Defendants James Tilton (Director of the California Department of Corrections), D. K. Sisto (the Warden of the Solano State Prison), and Officers Berry and Flores. On September 18, 2009, Berry and Flores moved for summary judgment on Monger's Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants this Motion.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment

A court will grant summary judgment if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact-finder could find for the nonmoving party, and a dispute is "material" if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248--49 (1986). In evaluating a motion, a court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Zoslaw v. MCA Distrib. Corp., 693 F.2d 870, 883 (9th Cir. 1982).

The movant bears the burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Id. "In order to carry its burden of production, the moving party must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). Once the movant satisfies the requirements of Rule ...


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