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Johnson v. Witter

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 31, 2015

APRIL WITTER, et al., Defendants.


MIRANDA M. DU, District Judge.


Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Valerie P. Cooke (dkt. no. 56) ("R&R") relating to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (dkt. no. 30) and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (dkt. no. 31). The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's objection (dkt. no. 58), Defendants' partial objection (dkt. no. 57), and the parties' responses (dkt. nos. 59, 60.)


Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections ("NDOC") and is currently housed at the High Desert State Prison. The events giving rise to this action occurred while Plaintiff was held at Ely State Prison. Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights through actions detailed in the R&R's factual background, which the Court adopts. (Dkt. no. 56 at 1-4.)

Plaintiff asserts three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: a First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants Witter, Manning, Thompson, and Pickering (Count I); an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against all Defendants (Count II); and a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim against Defendants Manning, Lawrence, and Witter (Count III). In answering the Complaint, and before Plaintiff had an opportunity to conduct discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on each claim.[1] The Magistrate Judge recommends that summary judgment be granted with respect to Counts II and III, and that summary judgment be denied with regard to Count I. (Dkt. no. 56 at 18.)


This Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Where a party timely objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, then the court is required to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the [report and recommendation] to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In light of both parties' objections, the Court has engaged in a de novo review to determine whether to adopt Magistrate Judge Cooke's recommendations.

The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when there is no dispute as to the facts before the court. Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994). Summary judgment is appropriate when "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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). An issue is "genuine" if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact-finder could find for the nonmoving party and a dispute is "material" if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). Where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, however, summary judgment is not appropriate. Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n, 18 F.3d at 1472. "The amount of evidence necessary to raise a genuine issue of material fact is enough to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.'" Aydin Corp. v. Loral Corp., 718 F.2d 897, 902 (9th Cir. 1983) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968)). In evaluating a summary judgment motion, a court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Kaiser Cement Corp. v. Fishbach & Moore, Inc., 793 F.2d 1100, 1103 (9th Cir. 1986).

The moving party bears the burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Zoslaw v. MCA Distrib. Corp., 693 F.2d 870, 883 (9th Cir. 1982). "In order to carry its burden of production, the moving party must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). Once the moving party satisfies Rule 56's requirements, the burden shifts to the party resisting the motion to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The nonmoving party "may not rely on denials in the pleadings but must produce specific evidence, through affidavits or admissible discovery material, to show that the dispute exists, " Bhan v. NME Hosps., Inc., 929 F.2d 1404, 1409 (9th Cir. 1991), and "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 783 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to grant summary judgment for Defendants on Counts II and III, and to deny summary judgment on Count I. The Court addresses each claim in turn.

A. Count II: Deliberate Indifference

In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The R&R concludes that the undisputed evidence demonstrates that Plaintiff cannot establish the essential elements of his deliberate indifference claim, which requires showing that "the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, " and that Defendants "kn[ew] of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk to inmate health and safety." Colwell v. Bannister, 763 F.3d 1060, 1066 (9th Cir. 2014) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The Magistrate Judge reasoned that ...

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