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Saintal v. Cox

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 10, 2014

JAMES C. COX, et al., Defendants.


JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants James G. Cox, Sheryl Foster, Joseph Owens, and David Molnar ("defendants"). (Doc. # 29). Pro se plaintiff Priscella Saintal has filed a response (doc. # 31), to which defendants replied (doc. # 32).

I. Background

Pursuant to a screening order (doc. # 7), the court permitted count one in plaintiff's complaint (doc. # 8) to proceed, specifically her Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against defendants: Cox, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections ("NDOC"); Foster, deputy director of the NDOC; Myles, warden of the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Center ("FMWCC"); Owens, correctional lieutenant; and Molnar, inspector general supervisor.

Plaintiff is currently in the custody of the NDOC and has been incarcerated at the FMWCC since June 12, 2007. In her complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendants violated her equal protection rights by implementing and enforcing Administrative Regulation 815.02 ("AR 815.02"), which prohibits inmates from entering into domestic partnerships.[1] Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief. (Doc. # 8).

Prior to July 2007, plaintiff was not in a legally recognized partnership. Effective on April 8, 2011, defendant Cox implemented AR 815, which addresses inmate marriages and domestic partnerships. On December 19, 2011, the Nevada secretary of state's office issued a certificate, certifying that Kimberly Boykins and plaintiff were domestic partners. Allegedly, defendant Molnar informed the secretary of state's office that the application was fraudulent because the partners swore under oath that they shared the same residence on a part-time basis. Plaintiff was charged with "an MJ31: [u]nauthorized use of equipment or mail." (Doc. # 29-1, p. 3).

On March 6, 2012, defendant Myles terminated Boykins' visitation rights. On April 2, 2012, plaintiff submitted a grievance at the informal level, claiming a violation of her civil rights. On April 10, 2012, defendant Owens conducted a hearing, finding plaintiff guilty of the MJ31 charge.

In the instant motion, defendants seek summary judgment in their favor, arguing that AR 815.02 does not violate plaintiff's equal protection rights because it is consistent with NRS 122A.100.[2] (Doc. # 29-1). Additionally, defendants argue that summary judgment is appropriate because they are entitled to the protections of qualified immunity.

II. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a 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 issue 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) (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 that 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., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish 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. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987).

In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing ...

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