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Hoffmann v. Lassen County

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 24, 2017

KASEY F. HOFFMANN, Plaintiff,
v.
LASSEN COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges defendants interfered with his right to marry. Before the court are both parties' motions for summary judgment, plaintiff's motion to strike his deposition from the evidence in this case, and plaintiff's motion to hold defendants in contempt and for sanctions. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned will dismiss plaintiff's motion to strike as unnecessary and deny plaintiff's motion to hold defendants in contempt and for sanctions. In addition, the undersigned will recommend plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied and defendants' motion be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Allegations in the Complaint

         This case is proceeding on plaintiff's complaint filed here on June 30, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants are Lassen County and Lassen County Clerk-Recorder Julie Bustamante. In the spring of 2015, plaintiff was incarcerated at the Lassen Adult Detention Facility (“Jail”). At that time, plaintiff wrote the Lassen County Clerk-Recorder to request an application for a marriage license. Plaintiff planned to marry fellow Jail inmate Dena Adams. Plaintiff received a letter dated May 7, 2015 from a deputy clerk in the Office of the Lassen County Clerk-Recorder. Plaintiff attached a copy of the letter to his complaint. The letter informed plaintiff that the deputy clerk was unable to provide plaintiff a marriage application because “[w]hen purchasing a marriage license in Lassen County, both parties must be physically present to sign the marriage license in our office and to provide a valid form of identification.” (ECF No. 1 at 4.)

         II. Procedural Background

         On November 14, 2016, defendants answered the complaint. (ECF No. 28.) On November 21, the court issued a Discovery and Scheduling Order setting a deadline of March 10, 2017 for discovery and June 2, 2017 for pretrial motions. (ECF No. 29.)

         On March 13, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to compel. (ECF No. 31.)

         On March 20, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 32) and on April 28, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 36).

         On May 26, 2017, the court granted in part plaintiff's motion to compel. The court required defendants to provide plaintiff with responses to certain deposition questions as though those questions had been propounded as interrogatories.

         Also on May 26, plaintiff filed two motions. First, he filed a motion to strike his deposition transcript from the evidence available on summary judgment. (ECF No. 45.) Second, plaintiff filed a motion to hold defendants in contempt and for sanctions. (ECF No. 46.) Plaintiff contends defendants failed to properly notify plaintiff that his deposition would relate to this case.

         Finally, on June 15, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion to compel defendants to comply with the May 26 order. (ECF No. 50.) Because defendants submitted a timely response to plaintiff pursuant to the May 26 order, the court denied plaintiff's motion. (ECF No. 55.) The court then gave plaintiff an opportunity to file a supplement to his opposition to defendant's summary judgment motion based on the new discovery responses. Plaintiff has not filed a supplemental opposition brief.

         MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Based on the material evidence presented in connection with the pending cross-motions for summary judgment, and for the reasons stated below, the undersigned concludes that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment should be denied, and defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted. The undisputed material facts do not show that defendant Bustamante acted to interfere with plaintiff's right to marry and that defendant Lassen County had a policy or custom to interfere with inmates' right to marry.[1] Further, plaintiff fails to present evidence establishing that there are genuine issues of material fact with regard to the liability of defendants.

         I. Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment Standards under Rule 56

         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, the moving party “initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litigation, 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), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or by showing that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B).

         When 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 nonmoving 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. See 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. In such a circumstance, 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. 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 typically 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. See 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, 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 (citations omitted).

         “In evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact, ” the court draws “all reasonable 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). 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 ...


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