United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Re: Dkt. No. 36
JAMES DONATO, District Judge.
This is a civil rights case brought pro se by a former prisoner. Plaintiff presents a claim of excessive force by several guards while he was at San Francisco County Jail. He states that on March 15, 2012, he was forced down on the floor while handcuffed and assaulted with hands and feet by defendants, Sheriff's Deputies Mayo, Forde, and Ng. Complaint at 3.
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on December 1, 2014. Plaintiff has not filed an opposition or otherwise communicated with the Court despite defendants filing an additional notice of plaintiff's non-opposition on January 6, 2015. The Court will still look to the merits of the motion, which is granted.
Motion for Summary Judgment
A. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show 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). 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 moving party 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. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). When the moving party has met this burden of production, 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. If the nonmoving party fails to produce enough evidence to show a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party wins. Id.
B. Excessive Force
"After incarceration, only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986) (omission in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whenever prison officials stand accused of using excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the deliberate indifference standard is inappropriate. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992). Instead, the core judicial inquiry is whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm. Id. at 6-7; Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21.
In determining whether the use of force was for the purpose of maintaining or restoring discipline, or for the malicious and sadistic purpose of causing harm, a court may evaluate the need for application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the extent of any 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; see also Spain v. Procunier, 600 F.2d 189, 195 (9th Cir. 1979) (guards may use force only in proportion to need in each situation); see, e.g., Furnace v. Sullivan, 705 F.3d 1021, 1027 (9th Cir. 2013) (reversing district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment because plaintiff's evidence that guards emptied two pepper-spray canisters at him when he put his hands on his cell's food port opening raised a disputed issue of material fact regarding whether he posed a threat that justified defendants using pepper spray); Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 904 (9th Cir. 2002) (pepper spraying fighting inmates a second time after hearing coughing and gagging from prior spray was not malicious and sadistic for purpose of causing harm, where initial shot of spray had been blocked by inmates' bodies).
The Court has reviewed defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's verified complaint. Defendants do not recall any incident involving plaintiff on the day at issue. MSJ at 3. While the complaint contains only a few allegations, plaintiff provided some additional information when he was deposed by defendants on April 15, 2014.
In his deposition, plaintiff stated that he was awoken in the middle of the night by defendant Mayo who told plaintiff he needed to move to a different bunk. MSJ at 4. Plaintiff alleged that Mayo handcuffed him and while the handcuffs were too tight, plaintiff did not ask for them to be loosened. Id. Plaintiff stated that several other deputies arrived and lifted his arms into the air while transporting him, but plaintiff was unable to provide additional details regarding how ...