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Eleson v. Tippen

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 9, 2017

ERIC RICHARD ELESON, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT TIPPEN, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          DEBORAH BARNES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action brought pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, against defendant United States Postal Service (“USPS”). Before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment for lack of jurisdiction. Alternatively, the USPS seeks judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned agrees that the USPS satisfied its disclosure obligations and will recommend that defendant's motion be granted.

         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         On or around May 2013, a Mule Creek State Prison (“MCSP”) “Letter Carrier, ” Ray Garcia, returned to plaintiff two 2-day Flat Rate Priority Mail Envelopes because they were “over 13 ounce.” Compl. Ex. 1 (ECF No. 1 at 14-15). Plaintiff claims that this individual had no authority to refuse to mail plaintiff's envelopes.

         On June 21, 2013, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the Ione, California Postmaster. He received a response from the USPS dated July 26, 2013, but no documents or information was provided. Dissatisfied, plaintiff pursued a writ of mandamus in the California courts between August 1, 2013, and December 25, 2013. When these efforts proved unsuccessful, plaintiff appealed the USPS's denial of the FOIA request to the Postmaster General in Washington, D.C.

         On December 30, 2013, plaintiff submitted a second FOIA request. He received a denial from the USPS dated January 27, 2014. Plaintiff then filed another appeal on May 17, 2014.

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and damages.[1]

         II. Legal Standards

         A. General Summary Judgment Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “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).

         Under summary judgment practice, “[t]he moving party initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may accomplish this 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), admission, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or by showing that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B).

         Indeed, 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.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323. Summary judgment should be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment . . . is satisfied.” Id. at 323.

         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, 586-87 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or 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)(1); 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, ” 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, ” Anderson, 447 U.S. at 248.

         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 630 (quoting First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968). 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 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         “In evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact, [the court] draw[s] all inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party.” Walls v. Central Contra Costa Transit Auth., 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). It is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 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.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citations omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 587 (quoting First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 289).

         B. Summary ...


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