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Church v. Naftzger

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 5, 2019

JACK CHURCH, Plaintiff,
v.
J. NAFTZGER, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO GRANT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENY PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE (DOCS. 43, 48, 53)

          Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff claims that when he was housed at Pleasant Valley State Prison, J. Naftzger filed a false disciplinary chrono against him which resulted in Plaintiff losing privileges including property, day room activities, use of the telephone, and credits. In his motion for summary judgment, Officer Naftzgar demonstrates that Plaintiff has not suffered a violation of Due Process. For this reason, the Court recommends that Defendant's motion for summary judgment be GRANTED, that Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment be DENIED, and that Plaintiff's motion to strike be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Jack Church was incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) in 2014. (Doc. 43-2 (“UMF”) ¶ 1.) In March 2014, Defendant J. Naftzger, a correctional officer, alleges that he issued Plaintiff a “disciplinary” or “custodial counseling chrono” because Plaintiff failed to report to work. (See Ex. B to UMF, at 10.) Plaintiff alleges that he was never issued this disciplinary chrono. (See Ex. F to UMF, at 54-55.)

         On May 1, 2014, Plaintiff was assigned to work in PVSP's Facility A Dining. (UMF ¶ 8.) Plaintiff reported to Facility A, but informed Defendant that he would not perform his assigned tasks because he was “not going to expose [him]self to further injury.” (UMF ¶¶ 10, 11.) Defendant asked Plaintiff to provide him with a medical “lay-in order” for May 1; but, Plaintiff did not have one. (UMF ¶¶ 13, 14.) Plaintiff had previously received a lay-in order for April 16-30. (UMF ¶ 7.) Consequently, Defendant issued Plaintiff a rules violation report (“RVR”) for refusing to work. (UMF ¶ 9.) On May 18, 2014, Correctional Lieutenant N. Greene conducted a hearing and upheld the RVR. (UMF ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was penalized with a loss of 30 days of credits and 90 days of dayroom and telephone privileges. (Doc. 43-3 (“Lt. Greene Dec”) ¶ 4.)

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus against Warden Scott Frauenhiem in Fresno County Superior Court (Case No. 15CRWR682712). (UMF ¶ 18.) At the hearing held on October 13, 2015, Judge W. Kent Hamlin found that Naftzger fabricated Plaintiff's March 2014 disciplinary chrono and that the chrono was the basis for the May 2014 RVR; and he granted Plaintiff's writ. (UMF ¶ 22.) Judge Hamlin ordered that Plaintiff's 30 days of credits be restored, as well as an additional 5 days of lost credits. (UMF ¶ 23.) In his order from the bench, Judge Hamlin specifically stated that the 5 days lost were a “cognizable injury that followed from a denial of [Plaintiff's] due process rights through a flawed disciplinary procedure that included fabricated evidence.” (Ex. F to UMF, at 116.) On October 24, 2018, Plaintiff's RVR was expunged. (UMF ¶ 17; see also Ex. G to UMF, at 134.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         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). In 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. 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), 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, as Plaintiff does here, “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).

         Summary judgment should be entered 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. at 322-23. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for the 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 does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of his pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits or admissible discovery material in support of its contention. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11; Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002) (“A trial court can only consider admissible evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., that it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party, see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250; Wool v. Tandem Computs. Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

         In attempting to show a factual dispute, the opposing party need not prove a material fact conclusively in her 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 inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party.” Walls v. Cent. Contra Costa Cty. Transit Auth., 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011). Though, it is still 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 non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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