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Honeycutt v. Baca

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 6, 2019

TODD M. HONEYCUTT, Plaintiff,
v.
ISIDRO BACA, et al., Defendants.

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

         This case involves a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff Todd M. Honeycutt (“Honeycutt”) against Defendants Isidro Baca, Laurie Hoover, Michelle Hicks-Moses, Shannon Moyle, Jorja Powers, Holly Skulstad, David Tristan, and Brian Ward (collectively referred to as “Defendants”).[2] Currently pending before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 42, 44, 52.)[3] Honeycutt opposed the motion (ECF No. 47), and Defendants replied (ECF No. 51). For the reasons stated below, the court recommends that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 42) be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Honeycutt is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”) and is currently housed at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center (“NNCC”). (ECF No. 4.) Proceeding pro se, Honeycutt filed the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a procedural due process claim against Defendants. (Id.)

         According to Honeycutt's Complaint (ECF No. 4), the alleged events giving rise to his claims are as follows: In February 2016, Dr. Laurie Hoover (“Dr. Hoover”) submitted a false risk assessment (also known as a “Static-99R”) to the Nevada parole board. (Id. at 5.) Dr. Hoover falsely scored Honeycutt at a “5” which automatically mandated a denial of parole. (Id.) The parole board denied Honeycutt parole for that reason. (Id.) Honeycutt learned of the “5” risk assessment score at that parole hearing. (Id.) An NDOC caseworker, Jorja Powers (“Powers”), was present for the parole hearing and believed that the score of “5” was incorrect. (Id.) Powers had psychologist Steve Daniels (“Daniels”) conduct a new risk assessment. (Id.) Daniels scored Honeycutt with a “2” and informed Powers. (Id. at 5-6.)

         Powers spoke to Honeycutt's parole attorney, Ryan Norward, about the “2” score. (Id. at 6.) Norward notified the parole board. (Id.) The parole board wrote a letter to both Honeycutt and Powers and responded that, pursuant to NRS § 213.1214, Powers/NDOC had to contact the parole board. (Id.) Powers informed her boss, Shannon Moyle (“Moyle”), about the situation. (Id.) Moyle instructed Powers not to contact the parole board and to not help Honeycutt any further. (Id.) NRS § 213.1214 provides that the NDOC must fix the risk assessment if it is inaccurate. (Id.)

         Honeycutt contacted Robert Scholfield, Nathaniel Woods, and Brian Ward (“Ward”) for help, but they all turned a “blind eye” to the issue. (Id.) Isidro Baca (“Baca”), Michelle Hicks-Moses (“Moses”), David Tristan (“Tristan”), and Holly Skulstad (“Skulstad”), answered Honeycutt's grievances, but failed to correct the violation. (Id.) Honeycutt seeks (1) injunctive relief “sanction[ing] defendants in compliance to state & federal law, ” (2) compensatory damages in the amount of “$300.00 a day from [the] violation, ” and (3) punitive damages in the amount of “300.00 a day from [the] violation.” (Id. at 13.)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the District Court entered a screening order, allowing Honeycutt to proceed with a claim for procedural due process violations. (ECF No. 3.) On screening, the District Court specifically found that Plaintiff seeks to have the correct risk assessment evaluation used and is not seeking to invalidate his confinement or its duration, thus Honeycutt had properly raised the procedural due process claim in a § 1983 action. (Id. at 4-5.) On April 1, 2019, Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment asserting that they are entitled to summary judgment because the assessment was accurate, and thus Honeycutt's procedural due process claims were not violated because there was not an inaccurate assessment for the Defendants to correct. (ECF Nos. 42, 52). Honeycutt opposed (ECF No. 47), and Defendants replied (ECF No. 51).

         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. Civil Rights Claims under ...


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