United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 90)
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Guillermo Garcia ("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 second amended complaint, filed on October 24, 2012, against Defendants Saylor and McCue for denial of access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF Nos. 5, 8.)
On June 6, 2014, Defendants Saylor and McCue filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that they did not violate Plaintiff's First Amendment rights because: (1) Plaintiff's dismissed civil rights action was frivolous; (2) Defendants did not hinder or obstruct Plaintiff's access to the court; (3) Plaintiff suffered no harm as a result of Defendants' conduct; and (4) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 90.) Defendants also filed a request for judicial notice. (ECF No. 91.) Following extensions of time, on March 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion, along with a request for judicial notice. (ECF No. 116.) Defendants filed their reply on March 10, 2015. (ECF No. 118.) The motion for summary judgment is deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(l).
II. Summary of Relevant Allegations in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
On August 4, 2008, while housed at Sierra Conservation Center, Plaintiff sent a request by legal mail to the litigation coordinator to appear for a telephonic court call on August 22, 2008, at 8:30 a.m., in case no. BC-356199. Defendant McCue, the litigation coordinator, and Defendant Saylor, a correctional counselor, had arranged for Plaintiff to participate in court calls on approximately fourteen prior occasions.
On August 22, 2008, at 8:30 a.m., Plaintiff appeared at Defendant Saylor's office. Plaintiff asked Defendant Saylor if he was available to make the court call and Defendant Saylor stated "no." Defendant Saylor told Plaintiff to make arrangements through the litigation coordinator's office. Plaintiff informed Defendant Saylor that he had made a request on August 4, 2008, and a second request five days before the court call. Plaintiff then went to speak with Sergeant Dean. Sergeant Dean told Plaintiff to go to school and he would be called later. At 10:00 a.m., Sergeant Dean contacted Plaintiff and told him to go to Defendant Saylor's office to make his court call. When Plaintiff called, the Clerk of the Court informed Plaintiff that the judge had already made a ruling.
On August 27, 2008, Plaintiff received a letter from the court informing him that the action had been dismissed because he did not appear for the court call.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Saylor retaliated against him by failing to provide phone access because he had filed an inmate appeal approximately one month prior in which he appealed an attempt by the Classification Committee, which included Defendant Saylor, to transfer him.
III. Requests for Judicial Notice
Plaintiff and Defendants request that the Court take judicial notice of various court documents and records. (ECF No. 91; ECF No. 116, p. 88.) The Court may take judicial notice of court records in other cases. United States v. Howard, 381 F.3d 873, 876 n.1 (9th Cir. 2004). Further, the Court may take judicial "notice of proceedings in other courts, both within and without the federal system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue." Bias v. Moynihan, 508 F.3d 1212, 1225 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
In this instance, the Court has reviewed the parties' moving papers and finds that the separate requests for judicial notice should be granted in part and denied in part. The parties' requests for judicial notice of the court records and docket in Garcia v. Garcia (LAPD), Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC356199, are GRANTED. These court records have a direct relation to the matter at issue, i.e., whether Defendants denied Plaintiff access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment by denying him phone use for a telephonic appearance in Garcia v. Garcia (LAPD). Further, Defendants' request for judicial notice of the appellate court records in the matter of Garcia v. Garcia, California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District Case No. B211309, also is GRANTED. Plaintiff's appeal following dismissal of Garcia v. Garcia (LAPD) is related to the issue of denial of court access in violation of the First Amendment.
The parties' remaining requests for judicial notice of certain exhibits are DENIED. The exhibits are either not properly subject to judicial notice, such as Plaintiff's deposition and Plaintiff's Inmate Requests for Interview, or not directly related to the matter at issue. Fed.R.Evid. 201 (court may take judicial notice of a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it is generally known within the court's jurisdiction or can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned); Bias, 508 F.3d at 1225.
IV. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
A. 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.
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.
B. Undisputed Material Facts ("UMF")
1. Plaintiff is serving a twenty-four year sentence for his 2004 felony conviction for lewd acts on a minor. (ECF No. 90-5, Ex. P to Declaration of Diana Esquivel ("Esquivel Dec."), Garcia Dep. 22:21-25.)
2. Plaintiff was incarcerated at Sierra Conservation Center ("SCC") from October 2007 to November 2011. (Garcia Dep. 23:1-4.)
3. Defendant McCue was the Litigation Coordinator at SCC from 2007 to January 2010. Before August 22, 2008, Plaintiff did not know or have any interaction with Defendant McCue. (ECF No. 90-3, Declaration of McCue ("McCue Dec.") ¶ 1; Garcia Dep. 26:16-27:1.)
4. Defendant Saylor was a Correctional Counselor I at SCC from about 2007 to 2009. He was Plaintiff's counselor since Plaintiff's arrival at SCC. (ECF No. 90-4, Declaration of Saylor ("Saylor Dec.") ¶¶ 1, 3; Garcia Dep. 27:9-12.)
5. When Plaintiff arrived at SCC, he had three lawsuits pending: Garcia v. Garcia (LAPD), Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC356199; Garcia v. Berumen, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BD417861; and Garcia v. Morris, Los ...