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Joy v. King

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 8, 2019

ERIC DARNELL JOY, Plaintiff,
v.
C. KING, et al., Defendants.

          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 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges defendants were deliberately indifferent to his safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this court will recommend defendant's motion be granted and this action be dismissed for plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his civil rights complaint in this court on May 2, 2019.[1] (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that in February 2019 at Mule Creek State Prison (“MCSP”), defendants King and Links loudly and publicly identified plaintiff as a snitch. Two days later, three inmates approached plaintiff, told him they heard he was a snitch, and attacked him. After the attack, defendant Knight also stated publicly that plaintiff was a snitch and, the following day, plaintiff was attacked again by the same three inmates. Plaintiff alleges he suffered physical injuries and emotional distress as a result of defendants' conduct.

         On screening, the court found plaintiff stated potentially cognizable claims against all three defendants for failure to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 6.) On August 19, defendants filed both an answer to the complaint and a motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 12, 14.) Defendants argue that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing his complaint in this court. On September 9, plaintiff filed an opposition (ECF No. 17) and on September 16, respondent filed a reply (ECF No. 18).

         MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT I.

         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. However, a complaint that is submitted in substantial compliance with the form prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 1746 is a “verified complaint” and may serve as an opposing affidavit under Rule 56 as long as its allegations arise from personal knowledge and contain specific facts admissible into evidence. See Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 923 (9th Cir. 2004); Schroeder v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 (9th Cir. 1995) (accepting the verified complaint as an opposing affidavit because the plaintiff “demonstrated his personal knowledge by citing two specific instances where correctional staff members . . . made statements from which a jury could reasonably infer a retaliatory motive”); McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 197-98 (9th Cir. 1987); see also El Bey v. Roop, 530 F.3d 407, 414 (6th Cir. 2008) (Court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment because it “fail[ed] to account for the fact that El Bey signed his complaint under penalty of perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746. His verified complaint therefore carries the same weight as would an affidavit for the purposes of summary judgment.”). 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, 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 Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         To show 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., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). 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 taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

         II. Exhaustion

         Defendants argue that plaintiff failed to fully exhaust his claims prior to filing this action in early May of this year. Plaintiff argues that his administrative remedies are “effectively unavailable” to him because he has been threatened by prison officials, including one of the defendants, and because the administrative appeals process is taking so long.

         A. Legal Standards for Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         1. PLRA ...


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