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Mauwee v. Cox

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 17, 2014

EUGENE A. MAUWEE, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
GREG COX, et. al., Defendants.

REPORT & RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

WILLIAM G. COBB, Magistrate Judge.

This Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Robert C. Jones, United States District Judge. This action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(B) and the Local Rules of Practice (LR) 1B 1-4. Before the court is defendant Valaree Olivas' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. #20.)[1] Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. #22) and defendant Olivas filed a reply (Doc. #23).

After a thorough review, the court recommends that defendant Olivas' motion be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was an inmate in custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC). (Pl.'s Compl, Doc. #4.) The events giving rise to this action took place while Plaintiff was housed at Lovelock Correctional Center. ( Id. ) On screening, Plaintiff was permitted to proceed only with his claim that his rights under the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause were violated by defendant Olivas on July 25, 2012, when she allegedly harmed and desecrated his Native American religious group's deer antlers, which he contends are an artifact necessary to his religious ceremonies. (Screening Order, Doc. #3.) Plaintiff alleges that defendant Olivas took the deer antlers from the storage area that held his worship group's religious items, and then claimed the antlers were dropped and broken "and cut them down to 8 inches or less and made them totally useless to our sweat ceremonies." (Doc. #4 at 3.) He contends that they are now "too short to lift and set hot rocks inside our lodge" and that "[h]eated stones are a central part of our ceremonies." ( Id. ) He claims there was no legitimate penological interest in disturbing the antlers. ( Id. at 4.)

Defendant Olivas has filed a motion for summary judgment arguing there is no evidence she burdened a sincerely held religious belief without a justification reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. (Doc. #20 at 2.) She contends that Native Americans were allowed to retain two deer antlers or one pair of deer antlers, and they were blunted in accordance with the AR and for the valid penological purpose of protecting the safety and security of the institution (albeit mistakenly to eight inches instead of the eighteen inches provided by the AR). ( Id. ) She also contends she is entitled to qualified immunity. ( Id. 10-11.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when there is no dispute as to the facts before the court." Northwest Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). In considering a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the non-moving party. In re Slatkin, 525 F.3d 805, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant 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). On the other hand, where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) 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
(B) 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), (B).

If a party relies on an affidavit or declaration to support or oppose a motion, it "must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

In evaluating whether or not summary judgment is appropriate, three steps are necessary: (1) determining whether a fact is material; (2) determining whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact; and (3) considering the evidence in light of the appropriate standard of proof. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-250. As to materiality, only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment; factual disputes which are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be considered. Id. at 248.

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court applies a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'...In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine [dispute] of fact on each issue material to its case." C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine dispute exists as to a material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, the opposing party need not establish a genuine dispute of material 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. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. Id. Instead, the ...


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