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Jawwad Hasan v. C/O Johnson

April 1, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action. The parties have consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant too 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1).*fn1 Pending before the Court is Defendant's Amended motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has opposed the motion.*fn2

I. Allegations

This action proceeds on the original complaint. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at Ironwood State Prison, brings this civil rights action against Defendant Correctional Officer (C/O) B. Johnson, an employee of the CDCR at Corcoran State Prison. The events at issue in this lawsuit occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Corcoran. Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to excessive force such that it violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Plaintiff alleges that on March 22, 2006, he was escorted to Administrative Segregation (AdSeg). Plaintiff was being placed in AdSeg pending a disciplinary hearing against him for threatening staff. Plaintiff alleges that was placed in handcuffs and escorted by Defendant Johnson and C/O Gonzalez. Defendant Johnson, holding Plaintiff by the handcuffs, "without just cause, justification, provocation or good cause or reason, violently jerked the handcuffs, twisted them by the left side of the handcuffs, and thrust plaintiff's handcuffs upward thereby forcing plaintiff to walk on his toes." (Compl. ¶ 13.) Upon reaching the rotunda area, Defendant Johnson "grabbed plaintiff and violently propelled him across the rotunda slamming plaintiff into another wall, and continued to slam plaintiff into walls thereon opposite sides of the rotunda back and forth for several minutes. Plaintiff's head was slammed into the walls several times during this beating episode carried out by defendant Johnson." (Compl. ¶ 14.)

II. Summary Judgment Standard

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 judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party [a]lways 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).

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. 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 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. Rule 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, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Nidds v. Schindler Elevator Corp., 113 F.3d 912, 916 (9th Cir. 1996), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party,Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 588; County of Tuolumne v. Sonora Community Hosp., 263 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2001).

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." Giles v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 494 F.3d 865, 872 (9th Cir. 2007). 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. Rule 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party, Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam)). 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. 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).

III. Excessive Force

The Eighth Amendment prohibits those who operate our prisons from using "excessive physical force against inmates." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246, 1250 (9th Cir.1982) (prison officials have "a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse"); seealsoVaughan v. Ricketts, 859 F.2d 736, 741 (9th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1012 (1989) "Being violently assaulted in prison is simply not 'part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.

Whenever prison officials are accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the core judicial inquiry is whether the 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) Force does not amount to a constitutional violation if it is applied in a good faith effort to restore discipline and order and not "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986); Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 903 (9th Cir. 2002). Under the Eighth Amendment, the court looks for malicious and sadistic force, not merely objectively unreasonable force. Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d at 903.

In determining whether the constitutional line has been crossed, the Court may consider such factors as the need for the application of force, the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used, the extent of injury inflicted, the threat reasonably perceived by the responsible officials and any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7. Prison administrators should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security. Whitley, 475 U.S. at 322.

In order to meet his burden on summary judgment, Defendant must come forward with evidence that he did not use force on Plaintiff in a manner that was sadistic, malicious, or for the purpose of causing harm. Defendant must come forward with evidence that any force used on Plaintiff was used in a good faith effort to restore order or maintain discipline. Defendant supports his motion with his own declaration, the declaration of K. Koehler, LVN, the declaration of C. Marquez, R.N.; the declaration of J. Neubarth, M.D., and supporting exhibits.

Regarding the event at issue in this lawsuit, B. Johnson declares the following:

I was assigned to Building Three (3A03), which was an administrative segregation housing unit of Facility 3A on March 22, 2006. Exhibit 60 is a copy of the FLSA report dated February 13, 2006 through March 22, 2006. This report reflects that I was assigned to post 311238 on March 22, 2006, which was an assignment to 3A03 as a floor officer.

I was not assigned to Building Four (3A04) on March 22, 2006.

I did not escort any inmates to 3A04 on March 22, 2006.

At approximately 1930 hours on March 22, 2006, I was leaving the Facility 3A Program Office and observed correctional officers J. Gonzales and D. Valtierra escort an inmate, who I later learned to be Plaintiff Jawwaad Hasan, to 3A04.

I provided additional coverage during the escort to 3A04.

I observed Officers Valtierra and Gonzales escort Hasan to a holding cell in 3A04.

During the escort, I observed Officers Valtierra and Gonzales counsel Hasan in the 3A04 building rotunda entrance area concerning the ...

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