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Henry A. Jones v. Sahota

January 22, 2013

HENRY A. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SAHOTA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDING AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on plaintiff's claim that defendants Sahota, Jaffe, and Van Derostyne responded to plaintiff's chronic insomnia with deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that there is no evidence to support plaintiff's claim of deliberate indifference and in the alternative, that they are entitled to qualified immunity.*fn1 The undersigned finds that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and that defendants' motion must be granted.

I. Background

This action proceeds on plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against defendants Sahota, Van Derostyne, and Jaffe. See Dckt. Nos. 12, 14, 124. Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from serious mental illness and chronic insomnia. Dckt. No. 12 ¶¶ 5, 6. He claims that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his chronic insomnia by denying his requests for sleep medicine, a sleep study, and a single cell. Id. ¶ 75.

Plaintiff claims that in 2009, he spent two and a half months in the Department of Mental Health in the Salinas Valley State Prison. Id. ¶ 31. While there, he was allegedly prescribed Ativan, which provided relief from the insomnia for about nine days. Id. ¶ 32. Soon thereafter, plaintiff alleges he returned to California State Prison, Sacramento, where the Ativan was discontinued. Id. ¶¶ 33, 34. Plaintiff alleges he made constant requests for treatment only to be told that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not treat sleep disorders. Id. ¶ 34. He also claims that he wrote a letter to defendant Jaffe, the prison's Chief Psychologist, seeking help, and that Jaffe indirectly communicated to plaintiff that he would not help him. Id. ¶¶ 13, 60, 61, Ex. F.

Plaintiff alleges that on April 21, 2010, a doctor submitted a request to the Medical Authorization Review (MAR) Committee for plaintiff to receive a sleep study at UC Davis. Id.

¶ 45, Ex. B. Plaintiff claims that the MAR Committee and defendant Sahota, the prison's Chief Physician, denied the request. Id. ¶¶ 7, 46, Ex. B.

Plaintiff claims that defendant Van Derostyne, who had been plaintiff's clinician for over four years, knew that plaintiff was prone to violence because of his insomnia. Id. ¶ 48. He allegedly asked Van Derostyne if he could be placed in a single cell because his voices were commanding him to hurt his cellmate. Id. ¶¶ 48, 49. Plaintiff claims that shortly thereafter, he attacked his cellmate. Id. ¶ 53, Ex. D.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when 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). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the non-movant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion asks whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.

The principal purpose of Rule 56 is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Cop. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thus, the rule functions to "'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments). Procedurally, under summary judgment practice, the moving party bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). If the moving party meets its burden with a properly supported motion, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to present specific facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson., 477 U.S. at 248; Auvil v. CBS "60 Minutes", 67 F.3d 816, 819 (9th Cir. 1995).

A clear focus on where the burden of proof lies as to the factual issue in question is crucial to summary judgment procedures. Depending on which party bears that burden, the party seeking summary judgment does not necessarily need to submit any evidence of its own. When the opposing party would have the burden of proof on a dispositive issue at trial, the moving party need not produce evidence which negates the opponent's claim. See e.g., Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990). Rather, the moving party need only point to matters which demonstrate the absence of a genuine material factual issue. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24 (1986). ("[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.'"). 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. In such a circumstance, summary judgment must 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.

To defeat summary judgment the opposing party must establish a genuine dispute as to a material issue of fact. This entails two requirements. First, the dispute must be over a fact(s) that is material, i.e., one that makes a difference in the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 ("Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."). Whether a factual dispute is material is determined by the substantive law applicable for the claim in question. Id. If the opposing party is unable to produce evidence sufficient to establish a required element of its claim that party fails in opposing summary judgment. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

Second, the dispute must be genuine. In determining whether a factual dispute is genuine the court must again focus on which party bears the burden of proof on the factual issue in question. Where the party opposing summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial on the factual issue in dispute, that party must produce evidence sufficient to support its factual claim. Conclusory allegations, unsupported by evidence are insufficient to defeat the motion. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir.1989). Rather, the opposing party must, by affidavit or as otherwise provided by Rule 56, designate specific facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. More significantly, to demonstrate a genuine factual dispute the evidence relied on by the opposing party must be such that a fair-minded jury "could return a verdict for [him] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 252. Absent any such evidence there simply is no reason for trial.

The court does not determine witness credibility. It believes the opposing party's evidence, and draws inferences most favorably for the opposing party. See id. at 249, 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Inferences, however, are not drawn out of "thin air," and the proponent must adduce evidence of a factual predicate from which to draw inferences. American Int'l Group, Inc. v. American Int'l Bank, 926 F.2d 829, 836 (9th Cir.1991) (Kozinski, J., dissenting) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). If reasonable minds could differ on material facts at issue, summary judgment is inappropriate. See Warren v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441 (9th Cir. 1995). On the other hand,"[w]here 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); see also Celotex., 477 U.S. at 323 (If the evidence presented and any reasonable inferences ...


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