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Shirley Newman and Anthony Butler v. San Joaquin Delta Community College District; Daniele Ruley

August 31, 2011

SHIRLEY NEWMAN AND ANTHONY BUTLER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SAN JOAQUIN DELTA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT; DANIELE RULEY;
JAMES WOOD; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION, OR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION IN LIMINE

Plaintiffs Shirley Newman and Anthony Butler brought this action against defendants San Joaquin Delta Community College District ("Delta College"), Daniele Ruley, and James Wood, asserting claims for excessive force, unreasonable seizure, and disability discrimination under federal and state law. Presently before the court are Delta College and Ruley's joint motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, Wood's motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication pursuant to Rule 56, and plaintiffs' motion in limine.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On March 13, 2008, plaintiffs, who have lived together since 2000, were attending classes in separate classrooms at Delta College when Newman began to suffer from anxiety. Newman, a 43-year-old woman with a history of mental illness, sought out Butler to comfort her.*fn1 An instructor in Butler's classroom called campus police when Newman stated at one point that she was going to hurt someone. (See Meleyco Decl. Ex. J (classroom instructor deposition transcript), at 11-22, Ex. U (police dispatcher deposition transcript), at 21-23.) The dispatcher told the police officers that the wife was upset and crying and on the "verge of being violent towards her husband." (Medina Decl. Ex. 20, at Ex. 2.)

According to plaintiffs, they were walking quietly and calmly to the classroom door as they held each other when the individual defendants arrived. (See Meleyco Decl. Ex. E (Butler deposition transcripts), at Feb. 27, 2009, dep. tr. 91-92, Ex. J, at 23-24.) Butler complied with Delta College police officer Wood's orders to come with him, but was slammed to the ground and dragged into the hallway by Woods and Delta College police officer Ruley. Newman states that Ruley then pulled her through the classroom door and slammed her against the hallway wall three times, while using racially derogatory language. Plaintiffs were released after five to ten minutes. (See id. Ex. E, at Feb. 27, 2009, dep. tr. 94-104, Apr. 5, 2011, dep. tr. 196-210, 223, 250, Aug. 12, 2009, dep. tr. 94-101; id. Ex. R (Newman deposition transcripts), at Apr. 12, 2009, dep. tr. 191-200, 244-57, Apr. 20, 2009, dep. tr. 384-386; Butler Decl. in Opp'n to Delta College & Ruley's Mot. ("Butler Decl. I") ¶¶ 16, 23-25, Exs. E-F (Online Citizen Complaint Forms); Newman Decl. in Opp'n to Delta College & Ruley's Mot. ("Newman Decl. I") ¶¶ 4-8, 19, 32-38, Exs. E-F (Online Citizen Complaint Forms); Butler Decl. in Opp'n to Wood's Mot. ("Butler Decl. II") ¶¶ 6-10; Newman Decl. in Opp'n to Wood's Mot. ("Newman Decl. II") ¶¶ 6-17; see also Meleyco Decl. Ex. BB (deposition transcript of witness to incident), at 11-12; id. Ex. B (deposition transcript of witness to incident), at 14-33, 52-55.)

According to defendants, plaintiffs were disturbing the other students and Butler failed to comply with Wood's orders and appeared to be dragging Newman to the classroom door as she pushed away from him. Newman, screaming and crying, then tried to get to Butler while Wood was questioning him in the hallway.

On March 14, 2008, after meeting with Newman, a vice president at Delta College temporarily suspended her for student misconduct. The vice president required Newman to submit documentation that supported her claim that she was receiving mental help. (See Michel Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, Ex. A-B.) Newman did not submit sufficient documentation and was notified on March 17, 2008, that she was suspended through the summer 2008 semester. Following numerous appeals, the president of Delta College rescinded the suspension later that summer.

Delta College's Disabled Students Program and Services ("DSPS") office now permits Newman to have Butler attend classes with her. The DSPS office had previously accommodated Newman with extended test-taking time and allowed her to use the elevators.

Defendants removed the case to this court on December 11, 2009. Plaintiffs assert a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for excessive force and unreasonable seizure as well as state law claims for battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress against all defendants. Newman also asserts claims for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12183, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, California's Unruh Civil Rights Act ("Unruh Act"), see Cal. Civil Code § 51, California's Disabled Persons Act ("DPA"), see id. § 54.1, and California Government Code section 11135 against Delta College. See Cal. Gov't Code § 11135.

II. Discussion

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that

there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A material fact is one that could affect the outcome of the suit, and a genuine issue is one that could permit a reasonable jury to enter a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and can satisfy this burden by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Alternatively, the moving party can demonstrate that the non-moving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element upon which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id.

Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to "designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (quoting then-Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). To carry this burden, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Id. at 255. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment . . .."*fn2 Id.

A. Evidentiary Objections

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2),

"[a] party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2) (emphasis added).

The parties have filed numerous evidentiary objections, many of which are particularly improper on summary judgment. See Burch v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 433 F. Supp. 2d 1110, 1119-20 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (Shubb, J.). Objections to evidence on the ground that the evidence is irrelevant, speculative, argumentative, or constitutes an improper legal conclusion are all duplicative of the summary judgment standard itself. All of these objections are overruled as moot.

Delta College and Ruley object to many of the exhibits attached to plaintiffs' counsel's declaration: (1) deposition transcripts and exhibits, (2) expert reports and CVs, and (3) documents produced by Delta College, such as (a) e-mails among Delta College police officers after the incident, (b) the internal affairs investigation report and related documents, and

(c) documents pertaining to the tasering of a mentally ill student. (See Delta College & Ruley's Objections to Meleyco Decl.) The court overrules the objections to these exhibits because plaintiffs may be able to present this evidence at trial in a form that would be admissible. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). The court also overrules Delta College and Ruley's objections to statements in plaintiffs' counsel's declaration.

The court overrules Delta College and Ruley's objections contained within their response to plaintiffs' statement of undisputed facts. (See Delta College & Ruley's Objections to Pls.' Evidence in Supp. of their Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. or Partial Summ. J.)

The court overrules plaintiffs' objections to Wood's declaration, (see Pls.' Opp'n to Wood Decl. Submitted in Supp. of Wood's Mot. for Summ. J./Adjudication), and plaintiffs' objections contained within their response to Wood's statement of undisputed facts, (see Pls.' Statement of Disputed & Undisputed Material Facts in Opp'n to Wood's Mot. for Summ. J. or Partial Summ. J.), except for 11, which objects on the ground that the diagnosis of Newman in the cited evidence was not made by a qualified expert. The court sustains this objection. The court overrules plaintiffs' objections contained in their response to Delta College and Ruley's statement of undisputed facts, (Pls.' Statement of Disputed & Undisputed Material Facts in Opp'n to Delta College & Ruley's Mot. for Summ. J. or Partial Summ. J.), except for 25. The court sustains objection 25 to the transcript of the classroom instructor's call to police. The parties dispute its authenticity.

B. Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claim

In relevant part, § 1983 provides: Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. While § 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, it provides a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, deprives an individual of federal constitutional rights or limited federal statutory rights. 42 ...


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