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Hill v. Rowley

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 15, 2019

RICKIE L. HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
C. ROWLEY, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE[1]

         Before the court is defendant Christian Rowley's (“Rowley”) motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 104.) Plaintiff Rickie Hill (“Hill”) filled an opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment, (ECF No. 110), and defendant replied, (ECF No. 111). Having thoroughly reviewed the record, the court hereby recommends Rowley's motion for summary judgment be denied.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Hill is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”), and is incarcerated at Ely State Prison (“ESP”) in Ely, Nevada. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and proceeding pro se, plaintiff brings a civil rights action against ESP Correctional Officer Christian Rowley (“Rowley”). (ECF No. 5.) The parties have engaged in extensive pretrial litigation. Currently, the only surviving claim in this case is a claim for sexual harassment in violation of the Eight Amendment. (See ECF No. 53).

         This claim arises from the following simple facts. According to the complaint, Rowley “gripped [Hill's] ass” while handcuffing him for transport to the nurse. (Id. at 4.) Hill contends that Rowley's actions constitute sexual harassment, “based on the fact that plaintiff is a Gay-Black-Sex-Offender on NDOC charts.” (Id. at 4-5.)

         On November 30, 2018, Rowley moved for summary judgment arguing this case should be dismissed because he is entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 104). According to Rowley, there is no “clearly established” law that establishes “inadvertent touching” of an inmate while handcuffing them constitutes “sexual abuse” in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 2, 6). Hill opposed, (ECF No. 110), and Rowley replied. (ECF No. 111). After extensively reviewing the record and the above filings, the court recommends Rowley's motion for summary judgment be denied.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standards for Civil Rights Claims under § 1983

         42 U.S.C. § 1983 aims “to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights.” Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting McDade v. West, 223 F.3d 1135, 1139 (9th Cir. 2000)). The statute “provides a federal cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of his federal rights[, ]” Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999), and therefore “serves as the procedural device for enforcing substantive provisions of the Constitution and federal statutes, ” Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Claims under § 1983 require a plaintiff to allege (1) the violation of a federally-protected right by (2) a person or official acting under the color of state law. Warner, 451 F.3d at 1067. Further, to prevail on a § 1983 claim, the plaintiff must establish each of the elements required to prove an infringement of the underlying constitutional or statutory right.

         B. Legal Standards for ...


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