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Bills v. Sanchez

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 14, 2017

JIMMY LEE BILLS, Plaintiff,
v.
E. SANCHEZ, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          EDMUND F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant Griffith (“defendant”) has filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 21) in which he argues that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies against him before bringing this suit. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion. ECF No. 23. Additionally, after the motion for summary judgment was fully briefed, plaintiff filed a motion to compel. ECF No. 25. For the reasons stated below, the court denies plaintiff's motion to compel and recommends that defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted.

         Motion to Compel

         Plaintiff's motion to compel is untimely. The court set the schedule for discovery in an order dated December 8, 2016. ECF No. 11. Therein, it explicitly stated that discovery was to be completed by April 7, 2017 and that any motions necessary to compel discovery were to be filed by that date. Id. at 4. Plaintiff submitted his motion to compel on August 17, 2017.[1] ECF No. 25 at 7. Discovery was closed months earlier and plaintiff has not offered a reason to excuse his failure to comply with the court's scheduling order nor presented good cause for modification of that order. Thus, his motion to compel is denied. See United States v. Merrill, 746 F.2d 458, 465 (9th Cir.1984) (holding that pro se litigants are subject to the same rules of procedure and evidence as those that are represented by counsel).

         Motion for Summary Judgment

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that, on October 7, 2015 and while incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, he left the prison medical line to use the bathroom. ECF No. 1 at 3. He was approached by defendant and another officer - E. Sanchez.[2] Id. Sanchez questioned where he was going and, unsatisfied with his answer, placed him in handcuffs. Id. Sanchez then allegedly walked him out of range of the yard camera and slammed him into a wall. Id. With respect to defendant, plaintiff alleges that he failed to intervene to stop Sanchez's illegal use of force. Id. at 5.

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when 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). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the nonmovant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion asks whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.

         The principal purpose of Rule 56 is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thus, the rule functions to “‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments). Procedurally, under summary judgment practice, the moving party bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). If the moving party meets its burden with a properly supported motion, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to present specific facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Auvil v. CBS “60 Minutes, ” 67 F.3d 816, 819 (9th Cir. 1995).

         A clear focus on where the burden of proof lies as to the factual issue in question is crucial to summary judgment procedures. Depending on which party bears that burden, the party seeking summary judgment does not necessarily need to submit any evidence of its own. When the opposing party would have the burden of proof on a dispositive issue at trial, the moving party need not produce evidence which negates the opponent's claim. See, e.g., Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990). Rather, the moving party need only point to matters which demonstrate the absence of a genuine material factual issue. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24 (“[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the ‘pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'”). 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 Id. at 322. In such a circumstance, summary judgment must be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied.” Id. at 323.

         To defeat summary judgment the opposing party must establish a genuine dispute as to a material issue of fact. This entails two requirements. First, the dispute must be over a fact(s) that is material, i.e., one that makes a difference in the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (“Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”). Whether a factual dispute is material is determined by the substantive law applicable for the claim in question. Id. If the opposing party is unable to produce evidence sufficient to establish a required element of its claim that party fails in opposing summary judgment. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         Second, the dispute must be genuine. In determining whether a factual dispute is genuine the court must again focus on which party bears the burden of proof on the factual issue in question. Where the party opposing summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial on the factual issue in dispute, that party must produce evidence sufficient to support its factual claim. Conclusory allegations, unsupported by evidence are insufficient to defeat the motion. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Rather, the opposing party must, by affidavit or as otherwise provided by Rule 56, designate specific facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. More significantly, to demonstrate a genuine factual dispute the evidence relied on by ...


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