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Johnson v. Cox

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 22, 2017

RANDY JOHNSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
JAMES COX, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         Presently before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Minor Adams, J. Calderon, James Cox, Francis Dreesen, Sheryl Foster, Jo Gentry, Brian Henley, Wes Mattice, Jennifer Nash, Dwight Nevins, Greg Smith, Richard Snyder, James Stogner, Brian Williams, Jason Yelle, and Johnny Youngblood. (ECF No. 70). Plaintiff Randy Johnson has not filed a response, and the period to do so has since passed.

         I. Facts

         Plaintiff is an inmate currently in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”). Plaintiff alleges that he is a declared member of Islam. (ECF No. 5 at 6). Plaintiff's complaint alleges numerous civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against multiple defendants for events that took place while plaintiff was incarcerated at the Southern Desert Correctional Center, Warm Springs Correctional Center, and High Desert State Prison. (ECF No. 5).

         On December 1, 2014, the court screened plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and determined that the following claims were sufficiently pleaded to proceed: (I) free exercise clause and equal protection clause violations against Snyder and Smith; (II) & (III) retaliation against Henley and Smith; (IV) free exercise clause and equal protection violations against Cox, Smith, Mattic, Williams, Nevens, Nash, Dreesen, Gentry, Stogner, Snyder, Calderon, and Youngblood; (V) free exercise clause violations against Cox, Williams, Nevens, Gentry, Nash, Smith, Mattic, Snyder, Calderon, Stogner, Adams, Baca, Donae, and Youngblood; (VI) retaliation and free exercise clause violations against Snyder and Smith; (VII) free exercise clause and equal protection violations against Nevens, Nash, and Calderon; (VIII) retaliation and free exercise clause violations against Smith, Mattice, and Snyder; (IX) retaliation, free exercise clause, and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) violations against Yelle, Williams, Gentry, Adams, and Foster; and (X) retaliation, free exercise clause and RLUIPA violations against Snyder, Mattice, and Smith. (ECF No. 7).[1]

         In the instant motion, defendants move for summary judgment in their favor, arguing that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and cannot establish a genuine issue of material fact as to his alleged claims. (ECF No. 70).

         II. Legal Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow summary judgment when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and 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).

         For purposes of summary judgment, disputed factual issues should be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). However, to be entitled to a denial of summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.

         In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. The moving party must first satisfy its initial burden. “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).

         By 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 non-moving 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. Pac. 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 competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         At summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id. at 249-50.

         Pursuant to Local Rule 7-2(d), an opposing party's failure to file a timely response to any motion constitutes the party's consent to the granting of the motion and is proper grounds for dismissal. LR 7-2(d). A court cannot, however, grant a summary judgment motion merely because it is unopposed, even where its local rules might permit it. Henry v. Gill Indus., Inc., 983 F.2d 943, 949-50 (9th Cir. 1993); see also Martinez v. Stanford, 323 F.3d 1178, 1182 (9th Cir. 2003) (a ...


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