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Johnson v. Little

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 18, 2017

LAUSTEVION JOHNSON, Plaintiff[s,
v.
RITA LITTLE, et al., Defendant[s.

          ORDER

          RICHARD F. BOULWARE, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 46). For the reasons discussed below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Laustevion Johnson filed this pro se civil rights action on January 10, 2014, alleging three causes of action against the Director of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”); James Cox, the Warden of Ely State Prison (“ESP”); Renee Baker; two Correctional Officers at Ely State Prison, Nwoko and D. Shorter; one Senior Officer at Ely State Prison, R. Little; the Ely State Prison Law Library Supervisor, N. Young; and the Ely State Prison Kitchen Supervisor, L. Lopez. All Defendants were sued in both their official and individual capacities. Johnson's claims are for violations of the First Amendment right to Access to the Courts, the First Amendment right to Free Exercise of Religion, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. These causes of action are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Defendants filed this Motion for Summary Judgment on October 21, 2015. (ECF No. 46). Johnson filed his response on November 4, 2015. (ECF No. 49). Defendants filed a Reply on November 18, 2015. (ECF No. 51). The Court held a hearing on this Motion for Summary Judgment on September 28, 2016. (ECF No. 59).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate 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 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When considering the propriety of summary judgment, the court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Gonzalez v. City of Anaheim, 747 F.3d 789, 793 (9th Cir. 2014). If the movant has carried its burden, the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         IV. UNDISPUTED AND DISPUTED FACTS

         The Court incorporates its discussion of the undisputed and disputed facts from its hearing on September 28, 2016, and elaborates these facts below.

         A. Undisputed Facts

         The Court finds the following general facts to be undisputed. Plaintiff is a prisoner in lawful custody of the NDOC, and on February 1, 2012, was transferred to ESP from High Desert State Prison, and was a prisoner at ESP at all times relevant to these claims.

         B. First Amendment Access to the Courts Claim Against Defendants Young, Baker, and Cox

         1. Undisputed Facts

         The Court finds the following facts related to Johnson's First Amendment Access to the Courts claim to be undisputed. On May 17, 2013, Johnson filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Eighth Judicial District Court seeking reversal of the Nevada State Parole Board's denial of his parole. (ECF No. 46-4). This petition was denied on June 17, 2013. (ECF No. 46-5). Johnson appealed the denial to the Nevada Supreme Court. (ECF No. 46-6). The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the denial of his habeas petition on July 16, 2013, saying that Nevada state law precludes challenging denial of parole. (ECF No. 46-7).

         Johnson had no physical access to the law library or to law clerks or jailhouse lawyers while at ESP. Johnson was able to check out materials from the ESP law library. (ECF No. 46-2). The process for checking out materials from the ESP law library is for prisoners to submit written requests for materials to officers, who deliver the requests to the library. The library then issues the materials to the corrections officers, who bring them to the prisoners' cells. The return process is similar: prisoners give the materials to the officers, who then return them to the library. (ECF No. 8). Johnson requested materials before filing his habeas claim, and received some materials. (ECF No. 46-2). Johnson requested Federal Reporters, various other federal materials, and treatises on habeas corpus, and was not provided with the actual volumes requested or sections of the volumes. When Johnson filed grievances complaining of the library's lack of materials, he was told that the materials he requested were available electronically on LexisNexis.

         2. Disputed Facts

         The parties dispute whether Johnson requested materials that weren't provided, what LexisNexis searches (if any) he requested, and whether he was provided with information requested related to these searches. The parties dispute to what extent Johnson was provided specific caselaw materials. . . . . . .

         C. First Amendment Free Exercise Claim Against Defendants Baker, Cox, Nwoko, Shorter, Little, and Lopez

         1. Undisputed Facts

         The Court finds the following facts related to Johnson's Free Exercise claim to be undisputed. Johnson is Muslim, and his belief in the necessity of the Ramadan fast is sincerely held and religious in nature. (ECF No. 49-5). Johnson was scheduled to receive meals at special times during the Ramadan fast in 2013. (ECF No. 46). Ramadan in 2013 began the morning of July 9, and Johnson began receiving meals at special times ...


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