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Caputo v. Gonzalez

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 25, 2019

BRIAN CAPUTO, Plaintiff,
v.
GONZALEZ and BLACK, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT BLACK'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 180)

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Brian Caputo (“Plaintiff”) is a prisoner[1] proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The parties have consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction and this action has been referred to the undersigned “for all purposes within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to conduct any and all further proceedings in the case, including the trial and entry of final judgment.” (ECF No. 195, p. 2).

         This action now proceeds on Plaintiff's claim for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights against defendant Black, for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment against defendant Gonzalez, and for excessive force in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against defendant Gonzalez. (ECF Nos. 93 & 195).

         The deadline for filing dispositive motions passed without either party filing such a motion. On May 23, 2019, defendant Black filed a motion for leave to file a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 173). Based on the representations in the motion, on May 30, 2019, the Court found good cause to modify the schedule to a limited extent, and granted defendant Black leave to file a motion for summary judgment within two weeks. (ECF No. 177).

         On June 13, 2019, defendant Black filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 180). Defendant Black moved for summary judgment on the following bases: 1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies; 2) Plaintiff failed to state a claim; 3) Defendant Black did not violate Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process rights; and 4) Defendant Black is entitled to qualified immunity. (Id. at 1-2).

         On June 18, 2019, Chief District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, who was the presiding judge on the case at the time, issued an order striking the first and second bases of the motion for summary judgement because they were “beyond the scope of what the Court allowed in the May 30, 2019 order.” (ECF No. 182, p. 3) (citation omitted).

         On July 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 194). On July 12, 2019, defendant Black filed her reply. (ECF No. 196).

         Defendant Black's motion for summary judgment is now before the Court. For the reasons that follow, the Court will recommend that defendant Black's motion for summary judgment be denied.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         In his Fourth Amended Complaint (ECF No. 43), Plaintiff alleges that on May 4, 2016, [2]at around 9:30 p.m., he had taken his evening medication when defendant Gonzalez pulled him out of pill line. Plaintiff then choked on water, and was yelled at by defendant Gonzalez, who accused Plaintiff of putting his pills in his locker. Plaintiff invited defendant Gonzalez to search his locker. Defendant Gonzalez declined. Defendant Gonzalez then stated “I am not turning on the T.V. and phones because Plaintiff (self) for the night.”

         Plaintiff asked for a grievance form, and defendant Gonzalez said “‘you want a grievance? There it is' (or I got your grievance form right here).” Defendant Gonzalez then pulled Plaintiff by his arm and shirt collar into the wall four times, before throwing Plaintiff to the floor and driving his knee into Plaintiff's lower back. Plaintiff was never given a grievance form. After that incident Plaintiff had trouble sleeping or being around any officers. As a result of the incident, Plaintiff was put in disciplinary isolation from May 4, 2016, through November 22, 2016.

         The Court screened Plaintiff's complaint, and all claims and defendants were dismissed, “except for Plaintiff's claims for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights against defendant Black and Doe Defendant(s), for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment against defendant Gonzalez, and for excessive force in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against defendant Gonzalez.”[3] (ECF No. 93, p. 2).

         On July 10, 2019, the remaining Doe Defendants were dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m). (ECF No. 195).

         This action now proceeds only on Plaintiff's claim for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights against defendant Black, for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment against defendant Gonzalez, and for excessive force in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment against defendant Gonzalez. (ECF Nos. 93 & 195).

         Plaintiff's claim against defendant Black is proceeding based on the allegation that he was placed in disciplinary isolation without receiving a due process hearing. (ECF No. 81, p. 7; ECF No. 93).

         III. DEFENDANT BLACK'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         a. Legal Standards for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment in favor of a party 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); Albino v. Baca (“Albino II”), 747 F.3d 1162, 1169 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (“If there is a genuine dispute about material facts, summary judgment will not be granted.”). 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, or showing that the materials cited 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 party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). If the moving party moves for summary judgment on the basis that a material fact lacks any proof, the Court must determine whether a fair-minded jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986) (“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.”). “[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. “[C]onclusory allegations unsupported by factual data” are not enough to rebut a summary judgment motion. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989), citing Angel v. Seattle-First Nat'l Bank, 653 F.2d 1293, 1299 (9th Cir. 1981).

         In reviewing the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court “must draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011). It need only draw inferences, however, where there is “evidence in the record… from which a reasonable inference… may be drawn…”; the court need not entertain inferences that are unsupported by fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330 n. 2 (citation omitted). Additionally, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed….” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Moreover, the Court must liberally construe Plaintiff's filings because he is a prisoner proceeding pro se in this action. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010).

         In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, but is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001).

         a. Defendant Black's Position

         Defendant Black argues that summary judgment should be granted because Plaintiff's due process rights were not violated, and even if they were, it was not the result of any action or inaction by defendant Black. (ECF No. 180, p. 15). There was no discipline imposed on Plaintiff. (ECF No. 180, p. 17). Moreover, even if Plaintiff was placed in Administrative Segregation (“Ad Seg”) ...


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