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Richard Jackson v. Mike Palombo

January 15, 2013

RICHARD JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MIKE PALOMBO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO FILE SURREPLY (Doc. 61) ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S EXCESSIVE FORCE CLAIM AS BARRED BY THE FAVORABLE TERMINATION RULE (Docs. 54, 58, 62, and 67)

Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Richard Jackson, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 23, 2010. This action is proceeding on Plaintiff's amended complaint, filed on June 16, 2011, against Defendants Palombo and Niino*fn1 for use of excessive physical force, in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

On June 26, 2012, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and on July 27, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition.*fn2 *fn3 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Defendants filed a reply on August 1, 2012; and on August 24, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking leave to file a surreply. On September 4, 2012, Plaintiff filed a surreply, and on October 11, 2012, Plaintiff filed a supplement to his surreply. The Court will exercise its discretion to consider Plaintiff's surreply and supplement to the surreply.

The parties consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction, and for the reasons which follow, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn4 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

II. Legal Standard

Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment 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) (quotation marks omitted); Washington Mutual Inc. v. U.S., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, although it is not required to do so. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001).

Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986)). If Defendants meet their initial burden, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff "to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial." In re Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323). This requires Plaintiff to "show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)).

However, in judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1566 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court determines only whether there is a genuine issue for trial and in doing so, it must liberally construe Plaintiff's filings because he is a pro se prisoner. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

III. Discussion - Favorable Termination Rule as Bar to Claim

Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) Plaintiff's claim is barred by the favorable termination rule, also known as the Heck bar, because he lost time credits as a result of being found guilty in prison disciplinary proceedings;*fn5 (2) his claim fails on the merits because Defendants' use of force was reasonable under the circumstances, Defendants inflicted no significant injuries on Plaintiff, and Defendants lacked any intent to harm Plaintiff; and (3) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons which follow, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claim is barred by the favorable termination rule and it is unnecessary to reach Defendants' alternative arguments that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the merits and that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

A. Legal Standard

It has long been established that state prisoners cannot challenge the fact or duration of their confinement in a section 1983 action and their sole remedy lies in habeas corpus relief. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78, 125 S.Ct. 1242 (2005). Often referred to as the favorable termination rule or the Heck bar, this exception to section 1983's otherwise broad scope applies whenever state prisoners "seek to invalidate the duration of their confinement - either directly through an injunction compelling speedier release or indirectly through a judicial determination that necessarily implies the unlawfulness of the State's custody." Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 81 (emphasis added). Thus, "a state prisoner's [section] 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the ...


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