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Vickers v. Maldonado

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 8, 2017

JEREMIAH D. VICKERS, Plaintiff,
v.
MALDONADO, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 47)

         Plaintiff Jeremiah D. Vickers is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's claims of excessive force in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against Sgt. Maldonado, Deputy Baillie, Deputy Sanchez, Deputy Gomez, Deputy Murphey, Deputy Heiden, and Deputy Rodriguez.[1] The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF Nos. 6, 20.)

         Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed on December 1, 2016 (ECF No. 47.)

         I. RELEVANT HISTORY

         This matter proceeds on Plaintiff's original complaint, filed on December 22, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) On February 1, 2016, Defendants filed an answer to the complaint. (ECF No. 19.) On February 5, 2016 the discovery and scheduling order issued. (ECF No. 21.) On July 27, 2016, the scheduling order was amended to extend the deadline to file amendments to the complaint. (ECF No. 34.)

         On September 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint. (ECF No. 36.) On September 21, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to strike the amended complaint. (ECF No. 37.)

         On July 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to extend the discovery and scheduling order. (ECF No. 38.) Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion to extend the scheduling order on October 3, 2016. (ECF No. 39.)

         On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion to strike the first amended complaint. (ECF No. 41.) On October 19, 2016, Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition to the motion to strike the first amended complaint. (ECF No. 42.)

         On December 1, 2016, Defendants filed the subject motion for summary judgement. (ECF No. 47). Defendants also filed a request for judicial notice. (ECF No. 48.) Plaintiff filed a motion to stay the motion for summary judgment on December 22, 2016. (ECF No. 49.) Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion to stay the motion for summary judgment on January 5, 2017. (ECF No. 50.)

         On March 3, 2017, the Court issued an order (1) denying Plaintiff's September 26, 2016 motion to amend the discovery and scheduling order; (2) granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's first amended complaint, and striking the first amended complaint from the record; and (3) denying Plaintiff's motion to stay Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 52.) Plaintiff was ordered to file an opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment within thirty days of the date of service of that order. Plaintiff was warned that if he did not file an opposition in compliance with that order, then Defendants' motion for summary judgment would be deemed unopposed. (Id. at p. 17.)

         More than thirty days have passed since Plaintiff was ordered to file an opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and no opposition was filed. No reply brief has been filed by Defendants.

         Defendant's motion for summary judgment is now deemed submitted for review, unopposed and without oral argument. Local Rule 230(1).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (quotation marks omitted); Washington Mut. Inc. v. U.S., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, but it is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010). In judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

         At the time of the events, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee who had been found incompetent by the court and was undergoing treatment for his mental health issues. Plaintiff alleges that after he calmly refused orders to cuff up, he was dragged from his cell by the Defendant deputies and beaten savagely, resulting in two black eyes and multiple bloody wounds. Plaintiff alleges that although he was never resistant, the beating continued after he was restrained and Defendant Maldonado, who was standing by watching the entire time, informed other inmates nearby, “All you guys take a look. This is what happens when you refuse court. Take a good look.” (Doc. 1, Comp., ¶20.) During the beating, Defendant Maldonado also made comments such as, “See, this is what fucking happens when you try and refuse court on my watch.” (Id. at ¶15.)

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendants raise two arguments in support of their motion for summary judgment. First, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's excessive force claims are barred under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), because success on those claims would necessarily invalidate certain of his criminal convictions. Second, Defendants assert that Defendant Sanchez must be dismissed from this action because it is undisputed that he was not present during the events in question. The Court examines each argument in turn.

         1. Defendants' Request for Judicial Notice

         In support of their Heck-bar argument, and pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 201, Defendants request for the Court to take judicial notice of certain facts. Specifically, Defendants seek for the Court to take notice of the fact that on August 21, 2014, Plaintiff pled guilty to two criminal counts under California Penal Code § 69 (resisting an officer by threat or violence) and two criminal counts under California Penal Code § 148(a)(1) (resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer) in connection with the December 26, 2013 incident referenced in Plaintiff's complaint. A copy of the criminal complaint and various minute orders from People v. Vickers, Case No. VCF295906 (Tulare County Superior Court) is attached as Exhibit “1” to the request for judicial notice. Also, a copy of the transcript from the August 21, 2014 change of plea and sentencing hearing from People v. Vickers is attached as Exhibit “2” to the request for judicial notice.

         In pertinent part, the colloquy during the August 21, 2014 change of plea and sentencing hearing in People v. Vickers was as follows:

THE COURT: What is your plea to the charge that on or about December 26, 2013, you violated Penal Code Section 69 as a misdemeanor, in that you willfully, unlawfully attempted by means of threats and violence to deter and prevent Officer Murphy who was then and there an executive officer from performing his or her duty, what is your plea?
THE DEFENDANT: No contest.
THE COURT: I am sorry, sir, I didn't hear you.
THE DEFENDANT: No contest.
THE COURT: Count 2, it is alleged on or about December 26th, you committed violation of Penal Code Section 69 as previously described as a misdemeanor on Officer Bailey, what is your plea?
THE DEFENDANT: No contest.
THE COURT: In Counts 3, 4, and 5, it is alleged you violated Penal Code Sections 148 and that you resisted, obstructed or delayed officers, peace officers, to wit, Gomez and Rodriguez.
Count 3 I am going to dismiss.
What is your plea to those 2 counts of 148, misdemeanors?
THE DEFENDANT: No contest.
THE COURT: Court accepts the defendant's no contest pleas. Court finds the defendant has made a knowing, voluntary, express and explicit and understanding waiver of his constitutional rights.
Court further finds the defendant's pleas and admissions are freely and voluntarily made with an understanding of the nature and consequences therein.
The court finds there is a factual basis for the pleas. Court accepts the defendant's pleas and he is convicted therein.

(ECF No. 48-2, pp. 15-17.)

         The Court may take judicial notice of court records. United States ex rel. Robinson Rancheria Citizens Council v. Borneo, Inc., 971 F.2d 244, 248 (9th Cir. 1992). Defendants' unopposed request for judicial notice will be granted.

         2. Undisputed and Disputed Material Facts

         1. At all times relevant to this case, Plaintiff was an inmate in the ...


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