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Malik Jones v. J.L. Bishop

April 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justin L. Quackenbush Senior United States District Judge


BEFORE THE COURT is the Moving*fn1 Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 84) brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The Plaintiff, Malik Jones, filed a timely response in opposition. Defendants did not reply. For the reasons discussed below, the Motion is Granted in Part and Denied in Part.


Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show 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). The court will grant summary judgment "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 ... since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322--23 (1986); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248(1986) (a fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.") The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' " Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (citations omitted.) The court's function on a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a disputed material fact. See T.W. Elec. Serv. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See id. at 631.


This case was originally filed on December 29, 2008 by Plaintiff, a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At all relevant times, Plaintiff was a prisoner at the High Desert State Prison (HDSP). Plaintiff amended his Complaint on November 6, 2009. ECF No. 15. After the court's screening of the Amended Complaint and a decision granting in part and denying in part the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss regarding exhaustion, the following claims remain:

1. Excessive Force/Bystander Liability against Defendants Mitchell, Rigney, Whitlow and Williams;

2. Failure to protect against Defendants Felker and Cate; and 3. Retaliation against Defendant McGuire.

Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on these remaining claims in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Plaintiff opposes the Motion with exhibits and his own declarations. Plaintiff addresses, and largely disputes, every factual contention in the Defendant's Statement of Material Facts. The relevant facts (including the parties' diverging versions of the facts) are set forth within the Discussion section below.


A. Excessive Force Claims Against Defendants Mitchell, Rigney, Whitlow and Williams

1. Legal Standard

Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claims arise under the Eighth Amendment. "[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, the core judicial inquiry is ... whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992). In determining the purpose for using force, a court may evaluate the need for "application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat 'reasonably perceived by the responsible officials,' and 'any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response.'" Id. at 7 (internal citation omitted); LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F3d 1444, 1454 (9th Cir. 1993). "Unless it appears that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, will support a reliable inference of wantonness in the infliction of pain under the standard we have described, the case should not go to the jury." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 322 (1986).

An Eighth Amendment excessive force claim requires that a plaintiff show more than a de minimis use of force and while a prisoner may believe that his rights have been violated, "[n]ot every push or shove ... violates a prisoner's constitutional rights." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9-10 (internal quotation and citation omitted). "The extent of injury suffered by an inmate is one factor which "may suggest whether the use of force could plausibly have been though necessary in a ...

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