United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND DECLINING TO ADOPT IN PART FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS; AND DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART THE PARTIES' CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(Docs. 232, 243, and 265)
LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.
Plaintiff Barry Louis Lamon is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arise from an incident on June 7, 2008, in which Plaintiff refused to proceed to the prison hospital following his refusal to take court-ordered medication. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Baer, Bueno, Lee, Ponce, Purvis, and Valdez, prison staff at California State Prison - Corcoran, (1) responded to his noncompliant behavior with excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) demonstrated deliberate indifference to a threat to Plaintiff's safety arising from his cell reassignment following the incident; and (3) acted in retaliation to Plaintiff's history of filing institutional complaints and court actions. Defendants moved for summary judgment on November 12, 2013 (Doc. 232); Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on February 27, 2014 (Doc. 243).
The petition was referred to the magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). On February 5, 2015, the magistrate judge filed findings and recommendations ("F&Rs") in which she recommended that the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment and deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Doc. 265.
The Clerk of Court served both parties with the findings and recommendations, which provided that either party could object within thirty days. Id. On March 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed objections and requested sanctions against the magistrate judge for applying improper standards. Doc. 266. Plaintiff adds that the magistrate judge abused her discretion in accepting supporting evidence submitted by Defendants. Id. On March 19, 2015, Defendants replied, arguing that because Plaintiff failed to prove the existence of a triable issue of fact, granting their motion for summary judgment is appropriate. Doc. 267.
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court has performed a de novo review of the motions, the applicable law, and the record as a whole, including Plaintiff's objections to the F&Rs. Following careful review, the Court finds that the F&Rs erroneously concluded that no material disputes of fact exist as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim, declines to adopt the portion of the F&Rs concerning that claim, and DENIES both Defendants' and Plaintiff's motions for summary judgment as to that claim. As to Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation and Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim, the Court adopts the conclusions recommended in the F&Rs, and GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on those claims.
II. STANDARD OF DECISION
Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, disclosure materials, discovery, and any affidavits provided establish 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). A material fact is one that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable trier of fact could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party." Id.
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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). The exact nature of this responsibility, however, varies depending on whether the issue on which summary judgment is sought is one in which the movant or the nonmoving party carries the ultimate burden of proof. See Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007); Cecala v. Newman, 532 F.Supp.2d 1118, 1132 (D. Ariz. 2007). If the movant will have the burden of proof at trial, it must demonstrate, with affirmative evidence, that "no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. In contrast, if the nonmoving party will have the burden of proof at trial, "the movant can prevail merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323).
If the movant satisfies its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the allegations in its pleadings to "show a genuine issue of material fact by presenting affirmative evidence from which a jury could find in [its] favor." FTC v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 929 (9th Cir. 2009) (emphasis in original). "[B]ald assertions or a mere scintilla of evidence" will not suffice in this regard. Id. at 929; see also Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) ("When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.") (citation omitted). "Where the record 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 (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).
In resolving a summary judgment motion, "the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence." Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. That remains the province of the jury or fact finder. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Instead, "[t]he evidence of the [nonmoving party] is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [its] favor." Id. Inferences, however, are not drawn out of the air; the nonmoving party must produce a factual predicate from which the inference may reasonably be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898 (9th Cir. 1987).
The court should "treat the opposing party's papers more indulgently that the moving party's papers." Lew v. Kona Hospital, 754 F.2d 1420, 1423 (9th Cir. 1985). "A verified complaint may be treated as an affidavit to oppose summary judgment to the extent it is based on personal knowledge' and sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence.'" Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 197-98 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam)), amended by 135 F.3d 1318 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 922-23 (9th Cir. 2004); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1132 n. 14 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc); Schroeder v. MacDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 (9th Cir. 1995); Lew, 754 F.2d at 1423. If the plaintiff states that the facts in the complaint are true under penalty of perjury, as Plaintiff does in this case, the pleading is "verified." Schroeder, 55 F.3d at 460 n. 10. In a prisoner pro se civil rights action, a verified complaint may constitute an opposing affidavit so long as the allegations are based on the inmate's personal knowledge of admissible evidence, and not merely on the inmate's belief. McElyea, 833 F.2d at 197-98.
A. Excessive ...