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Williams v. Ronquillo

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 31, 2014

J. RONQUILLO, et al., Defendants.


BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Gerry Williams ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Ronquillo, Rielo and Anderson ("Defendants") for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

On June 4, 2013, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, arguing that Defendant Rielo used no force against Plaintiff and that the amount of force used by Defendants Ronquillo and Anderson was de minimis and caused no harm.[1] (ECF No. 35.) Plaintiff opposed the motion on December 26, 2013. (ECF No. 52.) Defendants replied on January 21, 2014. (ECF No. 57.) The motion is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(1).

II. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) summary judgment is appropriate when 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. Summary judgment must 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." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). However, the court is to liberally construe the filings and motions of pro se litigants. Thomas v. Ponder , 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010). The "party seeking summary judgment 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 , 477 U.S. at 323 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 586 n.11.

The parties bear the burden of supporting their motions and oppositions with the papers they wish the Court to consider and/or by specifically referencing any other portions of the record for consideration. Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist. , 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court will not undertake to scour the record for triable issues of fact. Simmons v. Navajo County, Arizona , 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

In arriving at this order, the Court carefully reviewed and considered all arguments, points and authorities, declarations, exhibits, statements of undisputed facts and responses thereto, if any, objections, and other papers filed by the parties. Omission of reference to an argument, document, paper, or objection is not to be construed to the effect that this Court did not consider the argument, document, paper, or objection. This Court thoroughly reviewed and considered the evidence it deemed admissible, material, and appropriate.

A. Summary of Relevant Allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff alleges as follows: On January 27, 2010, at Kern Valley State Prison, Plaintiff attempted to explain to Defendants Ronquillo and Rielo that Facility B3, B-section was always the section that gets cheated out of their dayroom and telephone program. Defendant Ronquillo became angry and twisted Plaintiff's already injured arm behind his back to handcuff him. Plaintiff tried to explain to Defendants Ronquillo and Rielo that he had an injured right arm and a waist restraint chrono to be cuffed in the front or by waist restraints. Defendant Ronquillo paid no attention to Plaintiff's complaint, continued twisting Plaintiff's arm behind his back and placed the handcuffs on his wrist. Defendant Rielo pulled out his can of pepper spray and told Plaintiff if he did not put his hands behind his back, then he would be pepper sprayed. Defendants Ronquillo and Rielo already knew that Plaintiff had previously injured his right arm because they had seen him wearing an arm sling.

Plaintiff further alleges that while wearing an arm sling, Defendants Ronquillo and Rielo twisted his arm behind his back and placed their handcuffs on him. As Defendants Ronquillo and Rielo were twisting Plaintiff's arm, the control booth officer pressed his alarm. About ten officers then came into the housing unit, including Defendant Anderson. Defendant Anderson grabbed Plaintiff and threw him against the wall. At that point, Plaintiff explained to Defendant Anderson that he had an injured right arm. Defendant Anderson paid no attention and escorted Plaintiff to the Program Office. During the escort, Defendant Anderson subjected Plaintiff to a procedure called a "Duckwalk" in which correctional officer raise the prisoner's handcuffed arm up as high as possible to make the prisoner bend over to the point where the prisoner's head almost touches his knees. Defendant Anderson made Plaintiff "Duckwalk" all the way to the Program Office while injuring Plaintiff's already injured right arm. Plaintiff attempted to explain to Defendant Anderson that he had an injured right arm, but Defendant Anderson paid no attention and continued to "Duckwalk" Plaintiff.

Once at the Program Office, Defendant Anderson pushed Plaintiff against the wall and told Plaintiff to spread his legs. Defendant Anderson kicked Plaintiff's left foot, which made Plaintiff spread his legs to the point of almost doing a split on the floor. Defendant Anderson then kneed Plaintiff in the lower back with his right knee and injured Plaintiff's lower back.

B. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("UMF")

1. At all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff was in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as a prisoner at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), in Delano, California. (Defs' Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 10:8-14.)

2. At all times relevant to this action, Defendants Anderson, Ronquillo and Rielo were employed by CDCR at KVSP as correctional officers. (Compl. p. 2, ECF No. 1.)

3. On January 27, 2010, Plaintiff approached Defendants Rielo and Ronquillo to question them about why his unit was not receiving dayroom and telephone privileges. (Compl. p. 5, ECF No. 1; Ex. A, Pl's Dep. 10:15-21.) When Defendants told Plaintiff to go to lock up, he resisted and responded by arguing with Defendant Ronquillo about the program and stated, "I just want to know why we're not getting program." (Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 10:15-25; 32:1-6.)

Plaintiff partially denies this statement of fact, contending that when he asked for an explanation, Defendant Ronquillo grabbed his hand and twisted it behind his back. (ECF No. 52, p. 25; Plaintiff's Affidavit ¶ 7.) Plaintiff's statement does not raise a genuine factual dispute. Plaintiff admits that after being told to go lock up he ...

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