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Ernest L. Cox v. E.S. Campos

January 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge


Plaintiff Ernest L. Cox is a California state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Campos, Ries, and Bentley retaliated against him for a sexual misconduct complaint he filed against a fellow correctional officer. Defendants move for summary judgment as to all remaining claims [Doc. No. 60]. Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, to which Defendants replied [Doc. Nos. 74 & 77]. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.


This matter arises out of events occurring at Calipatria State Prison in 2003 and 2004. The following material facts are derived from the First Amended Complaint and the parties' summary judgment papers, and are interpreted in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.*fn1

During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was assigned as a cook in the Satellite Dining Room at Calipatria State Prison, Delta Facility. His immediate supervisor was Officer Julie Ann Young. Based on his belief that Officer Young was engaged in a sexual relationship with another inmate, Plaintiff filed a sexual misconduct complaint against Young with Defendant Ries, a Lieutenant at Calipatria. Plaintiff named several other inmates as witnesses to the sexual relationship. Plaintiff alleges that he informed only Defendant Ries of Young's sexual misconduct, and he expected his complaint to remain confidential. Thereafter, Plaintiff alleges that Young approached him regarding the sexual complaint he initiated against her, and told him that "payback is a bitch." Plaintiff maintains that the only individual who could have advised Young regarding the complaint is Defendant Ries, and that Ries violated his confidentiality.

On occasion, Defendant Campos also supervised Plaintiff while performing his dining room duties. In January 2004, Plaintiff was working as a culinary critical worker assisting with the delivery of meals to the housing units during a prison lock down under the supervision of Defendant Campos. While working, another correctional officer observed Plaintiff open a tray slot on an inmate's cell door and take an unidentified object through the tray slot. Plaintiff was searched by officers, including Defendant Campos, who found a brown paper bag on the cart pushed by Plaintiff. Defendant Campos searched the bag and found an altered cassette player that did not belong to Plaintiff. Based on this conduct, Defendant Campos issued a CDC 115 Rules Violation Report against Plaintiff for performing his work assignment in an unsafe manner, to wit, smuggling contraband for other inmates. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Campos issued the CDC 115 Rules Violation Report in retaliation for Plaintiff filing the sexual misconduct complaint against Officer Young.

Subsequent to a hearing regarding the tray slot incident, the Unit Classification Committee found Plaintiff guilty of performing his work assignment in an unsafe manner and removed Plaintiff from his assignment in the dining room. However, the committee allowed Plaintiff to retain his worker status, and placed Plaintiff on a waiting list for an alternate assignment. Defendant Campos was not a member of the committee. Plaintiff appealed the committee's findings. The appeal was granted in part and the CDC 115 Rules Violation Report was reduced to a CDC 128-A Counseling Chrono.


1. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment will be granted when 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). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and of identifying those positions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets its initial burden, the opposing party must then set forth specific facts showing that there is some genuine issue for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

The Ninth Circuit has expressly stated that "[n]o longer can it be argued that any disagreement about a material issue of fact precludes the use of summary judgment." California Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1006 (1988). A plaintiff cannot rest upon the allegations in his complaint, but must establish each element of his claim with "significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n., 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1980). Genuine issues of material fact are not raised by conclusory or speculative allegations, and the purpose of summary judgment is not to replace conclusory allegations in pleading form with conclusory allegations in an affidavit. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The party opposing the motion must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "A plaintiff's belief that a defendant acted from an unlawful motive, without evidence supporting that belief, is no more than speculation or unfounded accusation about whether the defendant really did act from an unlawful motive." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1028 (9th Cir. 2001).

2. Analysis

Plaintiff claims that the misconduct report for the tray slot incident by Defendant Campos, the confiscation of one of his CDC 602 appeals by Defendant Bentley, and the breach of confidentiality regarding his submission of the sexual misconduct complaint by Defendant Ries were all actions motivated by Defendants' intent to retaliate against Plaintiff for filing the complaint against Officer Young.

The Ninth Circuit consistently has held that prison staff may not retaliate against inmates for exercising their constitutional rights to file lawsuits and grievances. Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527 (9th Cir. 1983); Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813 (9th cir. 1994); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802 (9th Cir. 1995); Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559 (9th Cir. 2005). In order to establish a retaliation claim, an inmate must show that: 1) a state actor took some adverse action against the inmate; 2) because the inmate engaged in constitutionally protected conduct; 3) the adverse action chilled the ...

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