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Lopez v. Spurgeon

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 3, 2015

HECTOR LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
D. SPURGEON, et al., Defendants.


RONALD M. WHYTE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed an amended civil rights complaint. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment, and defendants have filed a reply. For the reasons below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


On August 12, 2010, Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP") suffered a flood in all of its lower tiered cells. (Am. Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff, housed in a PBSP lower tiered cell, realized that some of his personal property, including his pair of earbuds, had been damaged by the water. (Id.) On August 29, 2010, plaintiff filed a grievance regarding his damaged earbuds and requested replacement earbuds. (Id.) On September 2, 2010, defendant M. Traylor denied plaintiff's grievance and noted that the damage to the earbuds was plaintiff's fault. (Id.) On September 6, 2010, plaintiff appealed the denial to the formal level of review. (Id.)

At 7:45 a.m., on October 20, 2010, defendants D. Spurgeon and D. Hale arrived at plaintiff's cell and requested that he submit to handcuffs. (Id.) Plaintiff was then removed from his cell and placed in a holding cell. (Id.) Plaintiff asked why he was being removed from his cell, and D. Spurgeon told him that it was because plaintiff had filed a grievance and caused Spurgeon to waste his time reviewing the grievance. (Id. at 3-4.) As a result, said Spurgeon, plaintiff's cell was going to be searched. (Id. at 4.) Spurgeon directed Hale to conduct a "thorough search" of plaintiff's cell. (Id.) Spurgeon then offered plaintiff a new pair of earbuds if plaintiff would withdraw his grievance. (Id.) Plaintiff agreed, and Spurgeon returned with two pairs of earbuds from which plaintiff could choose. (Id.) After plaintiff chose a pair, Spurgeon tested the earbuds on plaintiff's television to make sure they were working properly. (Id. at 4-5.) When Spurgeon returned, he told plaintiff that the earbuds worked, and Spurgeon left while Hale was still finishing the cell search. (Id. at 5.)

When the cell search was complete, Hale and non-defendant W. Reynolds escorted plaintiff back to his cell. (Id.) Plaintiff discovered that his cell was ransacked and trashed. (Id.) Plaintiff complained to Hale and Reynolds about the state of his cell, and Hale apologized and offered to return the cell to state in which she found it to the best of her ability. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff declined her offer. (Id.)

Later that day, as plaintiff was re-organizing his cell, he discovered that a button on his television was missing. (Id. at 7.) Upon further inspection, it turned out that it was a channel button that had been pushed inside of the body of the television. (Id.) Plaintiff filed a grievance, accusing both Spurgeon and Hale of trashing plaintiff's cell and breaking his television in retaliation for plaintiff's filing of grievances. (Id.)

The next morning, on October 21, 2010, plaintiff was again handcuffed and removed from his cell. (Id.) M. Traylor put plaintiff in a filthy shower for holding and stated that Spurgeon told Traylor to search plaintiff's cell again and confiscate plaintiff's television because plaintiff had filed an administrative grievance against Traylor's staff. (Id. at 7-8.) Plaintiff complained that he was not supposed to be retaliated against for filing a grievance. (Id.) Traylor laughed and said, "Complain all you want... let's see who tires first. I guarantee you things around here will only get wors[e] for you. I know how to deal with guys like you. You've see nothing yet." (Id.) Traylor then entered plaintiff's cell, trashed it, and took plaintiff's television. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed another administrative appeal against Spurgeon and Traylor. (Id.) A few weeks after this appeal, Spurgeon approached plaintiff and threatened him. (Id. at 9.) Spurgeon told plaintiff that the appeal was going to be denied, and if plaintiff filed one more complaint, "we are going to come take all of your property and lose all of your shit. You've been warned." (Id.) After that, plaintiff did not file any more appeals because he had an ongoing litigation challenging his criminal conviction and plaintiff did not want to jeopardize that litigation. (Id. at 9-10.)


A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits demonstrate that there is "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). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. But on an issue for which the opposing party will have the burden of proof at trial, as is the case here, the moving party need only point out "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by its own affidavits or discovery, "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The court is only concerned with disputes over material facts and "factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). It is not the task of the court to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact. Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party has the burden of identifying, with reasonable particularity, the evidence that ...

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