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Harrell v. Jail

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 25, 2016

JOSHUA NEIL HARRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
SOLANO COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on the original complaint filed July 17, 2014, in which plaintiff alleges that defendant Weary, a correctional officer at the Solano County Jail, retaliated against him in 2014 for filing inmate grievances. (ECF No. 1.) The court found that the complaint stated a First Amendment claim against Weary and ordered service on this defendant. (ECF Nos. 4 & 17.)

         Before the court are the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 74 & 81.) After careful consideration of the arguments and the record, the undersigned will recommend that defendant’s motion for summary judgment be granted.

         II. Summary Judgment Standards Under Rule 56

         Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated 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 party asserting that a fact cannot be disputed must support the assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials. . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

         Summary judgment should 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. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id.

         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. See 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 allegations or denials of their 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 or show that the materials cited by the movant do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

         In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.’” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee’s note on 1963 amendments).

         In resolving the summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party’s obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff’d, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken 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 (citation omitted).

         III. Analysis

         A. Allegations

         In his verified complaint, plaintiff alleges as follows:

On 6-17-2014 . . . in the Solano County Jail, Close K Detention Facility, Officer O. Weary called me ‘punk ass’ and I wrote grievance #14000809. On 6-19-2014, Officer O. Weary threatened to ‘beat my ass, ’ see grievance #14000811. On 6-21-2014, Officer O. Weary disposed of my appeals to [the above grievances], see grievance ...

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