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Jiles v. Southern Desert Correctional Center

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 9, 2018





         Before the Court for consideration is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 34. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is granted as to Plaintiff's unsafe prison conditions claim, but denied as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim and Defendant's qualified immunity argument.


         Plaintiff Maurice Jiles, proceeding pro se in this action, was formerly incarcerated at Southern Desert Correctional Center (“SDCC”). Jiles brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants SDCC, Officer Roberson (“Roberson”), and Warden Brian Williams (“Williams”) alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Defendants were named in their individual and official capacities. On September 8, 2015, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and dismissed the claims against SDCC and Williams. ECF No. 2. This screening order also allowed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 2. On October 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint. ECF No. 4. On December 4, 2015, the Court screened Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. ECF No. 5. The Court allowed Plaintiff's unsafe prison conditions and excessive force claims to proceed, but dismissed Plaintiff's violation of access to the courts claim. ECF No. 5. On February 5, 2016, while the case was stayed, an unsuccessful Early Mediation Conference took place. On March 3, 2016, Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis was granted. ECF No. 11. On June 17, 2016, this Court granted Defendant Roberson's proposed scheduling order, with the close of discovery being on December 13, 2016. ECF No. 21. On February 13, 2017, Defendant filed this Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 34.


         The Court finds the following facts to be undisputed. Plaintiff was an inmate in Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”) custody at SDCC housed in Unit 3 during the alleged search in this case. Roberson is a Senior Correctional Officer at SDCC who was assigned to Plaintiff's housing unit during the alleged event in the Complaint. Roberson is required to conduct a certain number of cell searches and compliance checks pursuant to SDCC General Population Housing Unit Post Orders. SDCC policy requires at least three random cell searches within each housing wing, for each day and swing shift. On or about June 1, 2014, Roberson was conducting a search in Plaintiff's housing wing. Roberson restrained Plaintiff during the search. Plaintiff met with medical staff on multiple occasions following the alleged incident during the search; however, each of these visits was for shingles, eye appointments, or medication refills.

         Further, Plaintiff was written up for two counts of fighting on August 19, 2015 - over 14 months after the search took place. Plaintiff got into a fight with nonparty inmate Phillip Moorehead (“Moorehead”). There is no other allegation of a fight taking place in the interim between the June 1, 2014 search and the August 19, 2015 fight. Plaintiff was transferred out of SDCC Unit 3 on September 18, 2014, and was transferred six times between the date of the search and the fight. Moorehead was not in NDOC custody until June 5, 2014 (4 days after the search), and was transferred from High Desert State Prison to SDCC on July 31, 2014. Prior to being in NDOC custody, Moorehead was in custody at Clark County Detention Center. Plaintiff and Moorehead were placed in the same housing unit on May 13, 2015.

         The parties in this case disagree on certain material facts. In his Amended Complaint (ECF No. 4), Plaintiff alleges the following: during the June 1, 2014 search, Roberson struck Plaintiff and banged his head against the wall after handcuffing him during the search. Plaintiff alleges that Roberson's use of force was unprovoked and unnecessary as he was complying with Roberson's directions. Roberson stated to Plaintiff that he would kill Plaintiff and get away with it. Roberson stated to Plaintiff that he was “a slave” to Roberson. Roberson called out that Plaintiff was a “snitch” in a manner that other inmates could hear. Roberson denies these facts in his motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 34), and raises the following factual disputes in his declaration: Plaintiff was visibly frustrated and verbally combative during the search. Plaintiff “shoulder checked” Roberson as he was being taken out of his cell. Roberson requested Plaintiff be moved so that he could “cool down, ” resulting in Plaintiff being moved out of the unit for 45 minutes while the search was completed.


         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). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” FRCP 56(c)(3).

         When a litigant “is pro se, we must consider as evidence in his opposition to summary judgment all of [his] contentions offered in motions and pleadings, where such contentions are based on personal knowledge and set forth facts that would be admissible in evidence, and where [he] attested under penalty of perjury that the contents of the motions or pleadings are true and correct.” Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 923 (9th Cir. 2004). “A verified complaint may be used as an opposing affidavit under Rule 56.” Schroeder v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 (9th Cir. 1995). To function as an opposing affidavit, the verified complaint must be based on personal knowledge and set forth specific facts admissible in evidence. Id. The allegations cannot be “based purely on [a litigant's] belief.” Id. 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) (quotation marks omitted).

         V. DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's unsafe prison conditions and excessive force claims. Defendant also argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity.

         A. Unsafe ...

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