United States District Court, D. Nevada
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [DOCKET NOS. 62,
J. KOPPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by
Defendants James Cox, Sheryl Foster,  and Brian Williams. Docket
No. 62. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. Docket No.
Defendants filed a reply. Docket No. 70. Plaintiff filed a
surreply. Docket No. 72. Defendants filed a motion to strike
the surreply. Docket No. 73. These motions were referred to
the undersigned magistrate judge for a report of findings and
recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
a prisoner civil rights case arising out of events Plaintiff
alleges occurred at the Nevada Department of Corrections'
(“NDOC”) facility at Southern Desert Correctional
Center (“SDCC”). Although three claims survived
the screening process in general, only one claim survived the
screening process with respect to the movants now before the
Court. In particular, Plaintiff alleged a
colorable claim for violations of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against Caseworker
Cheryl Burson, Assistant Warden of Programs Brian Williams,
Caseworker Sheryl Foster, and NDOC Director James Cox.
Plaintiff alleges that he entered the NDOC with chronic
medical problems including hypertension and heart problems,
and that stressful activity presents risks of a heart attack,
stroke, or other medical complications. The NDOC provides
jobs for inmates who wish to deduct ten days each month from
their sentences. In order to obtain a prison job, the inmate
must be able to lift 25 pounds or be assigned to educational
programming only if the inmate has not received a high school
diploma or G.E.D. Plaintiff could not lift 25 pounds or more
and demanded a light-duty assignment, but Williams, Burson,
and Foster informed him that such accommodation was not
available. Plaintiff alleges that prison officials'
refusal to assign him a light-duty job-though they could
have-prevented him from earning deduction days, which would
have reduced his length of confinement.
case is now before the Court on summary judgment motion
practice by which Defendants Cox, Foster, and Williams seek
entry of judgment in their favor.
judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and admissible
evidence “show there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). When considering summary judgment,
the court views all facts and draws all inferences in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Kaiser
Cement Corp. v. Fishbach & Moore, Inc., 793 F.2d
1100, 1103 (9th Cir. 1986). If reasonable minds could differ
on material facts, summary judgment is inappropriate because
its purpose is to avoid unnecessary trials when the facts are
undisputed, and the case must then proceed to the trier of
fact. Warren v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441
(9th Cir. 1995); see also Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v.
U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir.
1994). If the moving party satisfies Rule 56 by demonstrating
the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the party resisting summary judgment to “set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
“To defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must
produce evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact that
could satisfy its burden at trial.” Sonner v.
Schwabe N. Am., Inc., 911 F.3d 989, 992 (9th Cir. 2018).
ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS
noted above, the only surviving claim against Defendants Cox,
Foster, and Williams arises under Section II of the ADA.
Defendants raise numerous arguments in seeking summary
judgment, two of which the undersigned addresses on their
argue at the outset that Plaintiff's ADA claim fails as
moot in light of Plaintiff's release from prison. Mot. at
Construing Plaintiff's papers liberally, he argues that
his ADA claim is not moot because he is seeking damages
against these Defendants on this claim. Plaintiff has the
better argument with respect to mootness.
III of the United States Constitution “restricts
federal courts to the resolution of cases and
controversies.” Davis v. Fed. Election
Comm'n, 554 U.S. 724, 732 (2008). Claims are deemed
moot and not justiciable “when the issues presented are
no longer live or the parties lack a legally cognizable
interest in the outcome.” U.S. Parole Comm'n v.
Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 396 (1980) (internal quotations
omitted). A prisoner's claims for injunctive relief or
declaratory relief generally are not justiciable given their
mootness when a prisoner has been released from custody.
Alvarez v. Hill, 667 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir.
2012). “The reason is that the released inmate is no
longer subject to the prison conditions or policies he
challenges.” Id. Such reasoning applies only
“absent a claim for damages.” Id.
(quoting Incumaa v. Ozmint, 507 F.3d 281, 286-87
(4th Cir. 2007)).
argument on mootness here is premised on their contention
that (1) ADA claims against prison officials may be brought
only in their official capacities and (2) monetary damages
are unavailable against defendants sued in their official
capacities. Mot. at 6-7, 9; Reply at 4. As to the first part
of the argument, Judge Dorsey has already ruled in this case
that prison officials may be sued under the ADA only in their
official capacities. Docket No. 30 at 6 (citing Becker v.
Oregon, 170 F.Supp.2d 1061, 1066 (D. Or. 2001)).
the second part of this argument on which Defendants stumble.
Defendants do not present any legal authority that damages
are unavailable against the State or individuals sued in
their official capacity in the context of Section II of the
ADA. See Mot. at 9 (citing case law arising in the
context of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims);see also
Reply at 4 (citing no case law at all in support of position
that, “[b]ecause those [ADA] claims proceeded against
the Defendants in their official capacity only, Plaintiff
cannot seek money damages from these Defendants”). As a
general matter, a plaintiff is not entitled to monetary
damages against defendants sued in their official capacities
(i.e., claims effectively against the state itself)
because such claims are barred by the sovereign immunity
established by the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g.,
Aholelei v. Dept. of Pub. Safety, 488 F.3d 1144,
1147 (9th Cir. 2007). Eleventh Amendment immunity may be
abrogated by Congress in some instances, however, and Ninth
Circuit “precedent clearly commands that the State is
not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity under Title II of
the ADA.” Phiffer v. Columbia River Corr'l
Inst., 384 F.3d 791, 792 (9th Cir. 2004) (per
curiam). Hence, it appears clear that prisoners may seek
damages for claims ...