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Stallworth v. Stolk

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 25, 2018

STOLK, Defendant.


         This Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Miranda M. Du, United States District Judge. The action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and LR IB 1-4. Before the court is defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 15). Plaintiff opposed (ECF No. 21), and defendant replied (ECF No. 22). Additionally, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 20), which plaintiff opposed (ECF no. 23). For the reasons stated below, the court recommends that defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 15), as well as plaintiffs motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 20) be denied.


         Hadari Stallworth ("plaintiff") is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections ("NDOC"). The events that give rise to this action transpired at Ely State Prison ("ESP") in Ely, Nevada. (ECF No. 6 at 1; ECF No. 15 at 1.) Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff brings two civil rights claims against ESP Correctional Officer Michael "Jason" Stolk ("Stolk") and seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. (ECF No. 5 at 5.)

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on September 29, 2016, which sets forth the following allegations. (ECF No. 6.) On June 3, 2016, two ESP correctional officers transported plaintiff from ESP to Northern Nevada Correctional Center ("NNCC") in a prison transport van. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff was fully restrained in handcuffs, waist chains, and ankle chains. (Id. at 5.) During a rest stop, Stolk opened the backdoor of the van and grabbed plaintiffs testicles "in a very hard grip." (Id. at 4.) Stolk repeatedly squeezed plaintiffs testicles while verbally abusing plaintiff, causing plaintiff to "cry out in pain." (Id.)

         The court screened plaintiffs complaint and permitted him to proceed on his Count I sexual assault claim and his Count II excessive force claim. (ECF No. 5 at 5.) Stolk moves for summary judgment solely on the grounds that plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing his complaint. (ECF No. 15.) Plaintiff opposed (ECF No. 21), and Stolk replied. (ECF No. 22.) Additionally, plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 20), which Stolk opposed. (ECF No. 23.) This report and recommendation follows.


         Summary judgment allows the court to avoid unnecessary trials. Nw. Motorcycle Ass 'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric, 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994). The court properly grants summary judgment when the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" only where a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party. Id. Conclusory statements, speculative opinions, pleading allegations, or other assertions uncorroborated by facts are insufficient to establish a genuine dispute. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007); Nelson v. Pima Cmty. Coll., 83 F.3d 1075, 1081-82 (9th Cir. 1996). At this stage, the court's role is to verify that reasonable minds could differ when interpreting the record; the court does not weigh the evidence or determine its truth. Schmidt v. Contra Costa Cnty., 693 F.3d 1122, 1132 (9th Cir. 2012); Nw. Motorcycle Ass 'n, 18 F.3d at 1472.

         Summary judgment proceeds in burden-shifting steps. A moving party who does not bear the burden of proof at trial "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 support its case. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). Ultimately, the moving party must demonstrate, on the basis of authenticated evidence, that the record forecloses the possibility of a reasonable jury finding in favor of the nonmoving party as to disputed material facts. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002). The court views all evidence and any inferences arising therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Colwell v. Bannister, 763 F.3d 1060, 1065 (9th Cir. 2014).

         Where the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial." In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). "This burden is not a light one," and requires the nonmoving party to "show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence. ... In fact, the non-moving party must come forth with evidence from which a jury could reasonably render a verdict in the non-moving party's favor." Id. (citations omitted). The nonmoving party may defeat the summary judgment motion only by setting forth specific facts that illustrate a genuine dispute requiring a factfinder's resolution. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Although the nonmoving party need not produce authenticated evidence, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), mere assertions, pleading allegations, and "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" will not defeat a properly-supported and meritorious summary judgment motion, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).

         For purposes of opposing summary judgment, the contentions offered by a pro se litigant in motions and pleadings are admissible to the extent that the contents are based on personal knowledge and set forth facts that would be admissible into evidence and the litigant attested under penalty of perjury that they were true and correct. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 923 (9th Cir. 2004).


         A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         1. Exhaustion under the PLRA

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion is mandatory. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). The requirement's underlying premise is to "reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoner suits" by affording prison officials the "time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case. In some instances, corrective action taken in response to an inmate's grievance might improve prison administration and satisfy the inmate, thereby obviating the need for litigation." Id. at 524-25.

         The PLRA requires "proper exhaustion" of an inmate's claims. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006). Proper exhaustion means an inmate must "use all steps the prison holds out, enabling the prison to reach the merits of the issue." Griffin v. Arpaio, 557 F.3d 1117, 1119 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90). Thus, exhaustion "demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudication system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on me course of its proceedings." Woodford, 548 U.S. at 90-91.

         In the Ninth Circuit, a motion for summary judgment will typically be the appropriate vehicle to determine whether an inmate has properly exhausted his or her administrative remedies. Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1169 (9th Cir. 2014). "If undisputed evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner shows a failure to exhaust, a defendant is entitled to summary judgment under Rule 56. If material facts are disputed, summary judgment should be denied, and the district judge rather than a jury should determine the facts." Id. at 1166. The question of exhaustion "should be decided, if feasible, before reaching the merits of a prisoner's claim." Id. at 1170.

         Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). The defendant bears the burden of proving that an available administrative remedy was unexhausted by the inmate. Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172. If the defendant makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the inmate to "show there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him by 'showing that the local remedies were ineffective, unobtainable, unduly prolonged, inadequate, or obviously futile.'" Williams v. Paramo, 775 F.3d 1182, 1191 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172).

         2. NDOC's Inmate ...

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