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JSB v. Carson City Sheriff Deputy Harry W. Wheeler's

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 30, 2017

JSB, a minor, by his parents and natural guardians MARINA DIAZ and JOSE DIAZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
CARSON CITY SHERIFF HARRY W. WHEELER, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LARRY R. HICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is defendant Carson City Sheriff Deputy Harry W. Wheeler's (“Deputy Wheeler”) motion for summary judgment on the issue of qualified immunity. ECF No. 35. Plaintiff JSB, a minor, by and through his parents and natural guardians Marina Diaz and Jose Diaz, filed an opposition (ECF No. 37) to which Deputy Wheeler replied (ECF No. 41).

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         This case arises out of the arrest of plaintiff JSB, a minor, by defendant Deputy Wheeler. On the afternoon of May 20, 2014, JSB, then a student at Carson Middle School, was walking after school with three other students including two males, JJG and FR, and a female, NG, near West Second Street and South Curry Street in Carson City, Nevada. Non-party Officer Orlando Sanchez (“Officer Sanchez”), an officer with the Carson City School District, was on after-school patrol when he noticed JSB and the other boys “pushing around” NG, who at the time was JSB's girlfriend. Officer Sanchez pulled up next to the students and asked if there was a problem. The male students replied that they were “just fooling around.” Not receiving an answer from NG, Officer Sanchez asked her if everything was okay to which she replied yes. Officer Sanchez instructed the students to watch their behavior and then drove to a spot where he could continue to view the students as they walked down the street.

         As the group of students continued on, Officer Sanchez observed plaintiff JSB grab NG one more time, Officer Sanchez then moved towards the group and radioed the Carson City Sheriff's Office to report that he was going to make contact with a group of students. Officer Sanchez approached the group on foot and again asked the students what was going on. At that point the three boys allegedly started yelling at Officer Sanchez while JSB said “fuck this, let's go” before walking away. Officer Sanchez told the boys that he was calling for back-up to which JSB turned around and replied “bring your backup homie, fuck your back up.” Officer Sanchez then radioed the Carson City Sheriffs' Office for officer assistance.

         Deputy Wheeler and non-party Deputy Rick Encinas arrived on scene within minutes and made contact with Officer Sanchez. Officer Sanchez identified JSB and told Deputy Wheeler that he was the student causing problems. Deputy Wheeler then walked towards JSB and allegedly grabbed a hold of his wrist. JSB pulled away and began twisting, flailing, and spinning around to get out of Deputy Wheeler's grasp. Deputy Wheeler then allegedly lifted JSB off the ground, slammed JSB back to the ground on his stomach, placed his own foot on JSB's back, and then lifted JSB by one leg until he eventually placed JSB in handcuffs. JSB was subsequently placed under arrest for resisting a public officer in the course of his official duties, a violation of Carson City Municipal Code § 8.04.050.[1]

         On August 19, 2014, JSB filed the underlying complaint against Deputy Wheeler alleging two causes of action: (1) a Section 1983 claim for excessive force; and (2) common law assault and battery. ECF No. 1. Thereafter, Deputy Wheeler filed the present motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 35.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only 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 [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In assessing a motion for summary judgment, the evidence, together with all inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Cnty of Tuolumne v. Sonora Cmty. Hosp., 236 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2001).

         The moving party bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion, along with evidence showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). On those issues for which it bears the burden of proof, the moving party must make a showing that is “sufficient for the court to hold that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Calderone v. United States, 799 F.2d 254, 259 (6th Cir. 1986); see also Idema v. Dreamworks, Inc., 162 F.Supp.2d 1129, 1141 (C.D. Cal. 2001).

         To successfully rebut a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must point to facts supported by the record which demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact. Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736 (9th Cir. 2000). A “material fact” is a fact “that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate. See v. Durang, 711 F.2d 141, 143 (9th Cir. 1983). A dispute regarding a material fact is considered genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient to establish a genuine dispute; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. See id. at 252.

         III. Discussion

         A. Excessive Force Claim

         In his complaint, JSB alleges that Deputy Wheeler engaged in excessive and unreasonable force when he arrested JSB on the afternoon of May 20, 2014. See ECF No. 1. In the present motion, Deputy Wheeler contends that he is entitled to ...


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