The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. District Judge
ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS;
ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND GRANTING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
[Doc. Nos. 95, 96 and 101]
On October 3, 2011, Judge Lewis filed a Report and Recommendation (hereinafter "R&R"), [Doc. No. 95], containing findings and conclusions, upon which he bases his recommendation that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment, [Doc. No. 85]. Defendants filed a timely objection, [Doc. No. 96], to a portion of the R&R, but move this Court to affirm Judge Lewis' decision and enter judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff. The Plaintiff also filed a timely objection, [Doc. No. 101]. The Court has considered the R&R and the objections filed by the parties and (1) overrules the abjections filed by theobjections filed by the parties; (2) adopts Judge Lewis' recommendations, (3) grants summary judgment terminating this case, and (4) issues a certificate of appealability.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES all objections made by Defendants and Plaintiff, and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation in its entirety and GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
Plaintiff's narrative begins on the morning of May 30, 2007 after a black prisoner assaulted Defendant A. Amat, a correctional officer, in housing unit B4 at Calipatria State Prison resulting in facility B being placed on lockdown. [Doc. No. 30, at 3]. Plaintiff states that on July 3, 2007, the warden issued a program status report that allegedly restored some privileges to black prisoners, including Plaintiff, in facility B but that the black prisoners allegedly were not accorded those privileges in reality. Id. Plaintiff alleges that correctional officers attempted to provoke black prisoners into altercations in an effort "to have restrictions placed back on said prisoners." Id. Plaintiff states that he filed a group administrative appeal alleging that the warden "and/or his subordinates were retaliating against black prisoners in B4 for the assault on Defendant Amat." Id. at 4.
Plaintiff then alleges that Defendant Amat approached Plaintiff's cell on September 11, 2007 with a wrapped object that Defendant Amat accused Plaintiff and his cell mate of having. Id. Plaintiff states that Defendant Amat returned to Plaintiff's cell with Defendant T. Catlett, who ordered that Plaintiff and his cell mate be placed in restraints and removed from their cell and placed in administrative segregation. [Doc. No. 30, at 4]. Plaintiff states that Defendants Catlett and Amat both filed crime incident reports: Defendant Amat reported that he found a wrapped object that turned out to be a weapon in front of Plaintiff's cell, while Defendant Catlett reported that he found the weapon mixed with laundry from Plaintiff's cell. Id. Plaintiff claims that both reports were falsified. Id. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants Catlett and Amat falsely endorsed a rule violation report containing a statement that the weapon was found in laundry that came out of Plaintiff's cell. Id. Having received the report on September 23, 2007, Plaintiff states that he was found not guilty of the offense by the disciplinary hearing officer on November 20, 2007 and that he was released from administrative segregation on November 27, 2007. Id. at 4-5. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Catlett. [Doc. No. 30, at 5]. Plaintiff feared filing a grievance against Defendant Amat because he was still working at facility B, unlike Defendant Catlett. Id. On January 6, 2009, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Amat because Plaintiff believed that Amat had been transferred to another facility.
On April 10, 2008, Plaintiff was advised that the district attorney declined to prosecute this matter.
Under this set of facts, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Catlett and Amat retaliated against him for exercising his right to file grievances at Calipatria State Prison. Id. at 5. Plaintiff contends that he "suffered severe mental stress, depression, loss of appetite [sic], loss of sleep, loss of association, and loss of enjoyment of life." [Doc. No. 30, at 5.]
Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), in reviewing the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report ... to which objection is made," and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge."
Defendants filed objections to the R&R and requested the Court review whether Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for the actions described in this case. Plaintiff also objects to portions of the R&R and requested the Court review whether: (1) Plaintiff presented a genuine dispute of material fact on the causation element of the retaliation claims; and (2) Plaintiff provided a genuine dispute of material fact in regards to the legitimate correctional goal element of the retaliation claim.
1. Whether Defendants Are Entitled to Qualified Immunity for the Actions Described Defendants argue that the R&R misapplied the two-prong test established by the Supreme Court Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001) for determining whether qualified immunity applies. [Doc. No. 30, at 5.] To find qualified immunity, the Court must first consider whether the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, show that the government officials' conduct violated a constitutional right. Id. at 201. Second, "if a violation could be made out on a favorable view of the parties' submissions," the Court must determine whether the constitutional right that was potentially violated was clearly established in the specific context of the case at hand. Id. Defendants object to the R&R on three grounds. First, Defendants maintain that because the Magistrate Judge concluded there is no evidence of a constitutional violation, "the inquiry should stop there, and qualified immunity need not be reached." (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 200). [Doc. No. 96, at 3.] Second, Defendants object that it was not appropriate for the court to consider the evidence in the case in connection with the substantive claim of a constitutional violation, but to not consider the same evidence in connection with the qualified immunity defense. Id. Third, Defendants argue that in determining whether the constitutional violation alleged was clearly established, the court considered the retaliation claim in the abstract, rather than considering the fact specific context in which Defendants acted in this case. Id. The Court is not persuaded by Defendants' argument.
The Court reviewed the record and finds the magistrate judge appropriately determined that Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants argue that qualified immunity should not have been reached because the magistrate judge already found there to be no evidence of a constitutional violation. Id. The test for qualified immunity, however, is even less stringent than the test the magistrate judge used to find summary judgment on the substantive claim. Whereas qualified immunity considers the alleged facts on its face, a motion for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 addresses the sufficiency of the evidence, or of the law, to support the plaintiff's claims. Warren v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441 (9th Cir. 1995). Because of the differing legal standards, different conclusions could therefore be reached on the two separate legal issues. Thus, the magistrate judge did not err in deciding qualified immunity after reaching a conclusion for summary judgment on the substantive claim.
Defendants also argue that the magistrate judge inappropriately dismissed the case's evidence, or lack thereof, in connection with the qualified immunity defense. [Doc. No. 96, at 3.] Again, the first inquiry of the qualified immunity test addresses whether a violation could be made out on a favorable view of the parties' submissions. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. The test does not, as Defendants suggest, address the sufficiency of the evidence to support whether a violation actually occurred. This Court therefore shares the magistrate judge's finding that the alleged facts, viewed in light most favorable to Plaintiff, potentially show a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional right to file grievances. [Doc. No. 95, at 12.] Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants drafted and approved a false rules violation report against him in order to retaliate against Plaintiff for filing an administrative group appeal. [Doc. No. 30, at 5.] Not withstanding sufficient evidence to ...