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Ronald Brook v. v. Singh*Fn1

January 27, 2012

RONALD BROOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
V. SINGH*FN1 , ET AL.,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case proceeds on the original complaint filed May 15, 2009. (Dkt. No. 1 ("Cmplt.").) Plaintiff alleges First Amendment-based retaliation claims against defendants Miles, Herrera, Singh and Cappel. Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment was denied on August 1, 2011. Pending before the court is defendants' April 11, 2011 motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 48-1 ("Mtn.").) Plaintiff has filed an opposition (Dkt. No. 49 ("Opp."), and defendants have filed a reply (Dkt. No 50). For the following reasons, the undersigned will recommend that defendants' motion be denied.

II. Summary Judgment Standards Under Rule 56

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a 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 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[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. "[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.

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 (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. 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 (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 trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

On November 4, 2009, the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999), and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

III. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

Plaintiff alleges that defendants retaliated against plaintiff because plaintiff filed a grievance in October 2006 and was engaged in a lawsuit against the prison.*fn2 To establish a First Amendment retaliation claim, plaintiff must show: (1) an adverse action against him; (2) because of; (3) his protected conduct, and that such action; (4) chilled his exercise of his First Amendment rights; and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567--68 (9th Cir. 2005). Prisoners alleging retaliation claims must demonstrate that: (1) prison officials retaliated against them for exercising their constitutional rights; and (2) the retaliation did not advance legitimate penological interests, such as the preservation of institutional order, discipline, and security. Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 316 (9th Cir. 1994). Even if an inmate shows that the defendants' action was retaliatory, the inmate's retaliation claim still fails unless he produces significant probative evidence demonstrating that the retaliatory action did not advance a legitimate penological interest. Id. at 815--16. "The plaintiff bears the burden of pleading and proving the absence of legitimate correctional goals for the [retaliatory] conduct [at issue]." Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 806 (9th Cir. 1995).

While the prisoner must allege a defendant's actions caused him some injury, Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 449 (9th Cir. 2000), the prisoner need not demonstrate a total chilling of his First Amendment rights in order to establish a retaliation claim. See Rhodes, 408 F.3d at 568--69 (rejecting argument that inmate did not state a claim for relief because he had been able to file inmate grievances and a lawsuit). That a prisoner's First Amendment rights were chilled, though not necessarily silenced, is enough. Id. at 569 (destruction of inmate's property and assaults on inmate enough to chill inmate's First Amendment rights and state retaliation claim, even if inmate filed grievances and a lawsuit).

Retaliatory motive may be shown by the timing of the allegedly retaliatory act and inconsistency with previous actions, as well as direct evidence. Bruce v. Ylst, 351 F.3d 1283, 1288--89 (9th Cir. 2003). However, retaliation claims brought by prisoners must be evaluated in light of concerns over "excessive judicial involvement in day-to-day prison management, which 'often squander[s] judicial resources with little offsetting benefit to anyone.'" Pratt, 65 F.3d at 807 (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 482 (1995)).

B. Factual Background

At all times relevant to this action, plaintiff was a Close-B custody inmate at California State Prison-Solano (CSP-Solano). Defendants were employed at CSP-Solano as follows: Miles as a Custody Captain, Herrera as a Correctional Lieutenant, Cappel as Facility Captain, and ...


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