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Cutler v. Guyer

September 14, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge


Pending before the Court in this action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Mark Cutler (Plaintiff) is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 26.) The Court earlier provided Plaintiff with an extended period of time to file any supplemental response to the Motion. (Dkt. 39.) None was filed. The Court withdraws the reference to a United States Magistrate Judge in this matter to streamline adjudication of this case. (Dkt. 6.)

Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, the Court shall decide this matter on the written motions, briefs, and record without oral argument. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order.


1. Background

Plaintiff was permitted to proceed on the following claims in this action arising from his incarceration at the Idaho Correctional Center-Orofino (ICI-O): (1) an Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim against Defendants Martin and Olson (Olesen) for damages and against Defendant Guyer for injunctive relief only; and (2) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim regarding a disciplinary action taken by Defendants JeanBlanc, Hasenoehrl, and Guyer. (Initial Review Order, Dkt. 6.)

In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed with prejudice because Plaintiff has not shown that his constitutional rights were violated by Defendants. Alternatively, they argue that the claims are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel because Plaintiff previously pursued a similar state court habeas corpus action.

2. Standard of Law for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims...." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See id. at 248.

In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the "initial burden of identifying for the court those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of any genuine issues of material fact." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). If the moving party points to portions of the record which demonstrate that there appears to be no genuine issue of material fact as to claims or defenses at issue, the burden of production shifts to the non-moving party. To meet its burden of production, the non-moving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations contained in his complaint, but he must set forth, by affidavits, exhibits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; see T.W. Electric Serv., Inc., 809 F.2d at 630 (internal citation omitted).

The Court does not determine the credibility of affiants or weigh the evidence set forth by the non-moving party. All inferences which can be drawn from the evidence must be drawn in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630-31 (internal citation omitted).

Rule 56(c) requires the Court to enter summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. The existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient. Rather, "there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

3. Failure to Protect Claim

On July 11, 2008, Plaintiff, an inmate in custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), filed a state habeas corpus action in the Second Judicial District Court in Clearwater County, Idaho. On August 22, 2008, he filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus in that action. He alleged that four Defendants--Guyer, Martin, Hasenoehrl, and JeanBlanc--violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights (1) by failing to protect him from an assault by Inmates Lopez, Warren, and Landell; (2) for issuing Plaintiff a Disciplinary Offense Report (DOR) for battery for the same incident, even though he was allegedly assaulted by the three inmates; and (3) for finding him guilty and affirming appeal of the DOR. (Kraft Affidavit, Exhibit I, Amended Petition, Dkt. 26-3, pp. 13-26.)

On September 2, 2008, while his state habeas corpus matter was pending, Plaintiff filed this civil rights action in federal court. Plaintiff's state habeas corpus action was dismissed by the state district court on December 31, 2008. (Id., Exhibit M, Dkt. 26-3, pp. 32-48.) Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal, and then a voluntary notice dismissing the appeal in the state action, (id., Exhibits N & O, p. 49), and instead pursued this federal civil rights action.

Plaintiff's allegations relating to Defendants Guyer, Martin, Hasenoehrl, and JeanBlanc are the same in both the state action and this action, and are as follows. On May 10, 2008, at ICI-O, Plaintiff addressed to D/W Miller, and gave to C/O Cooper, an Offender Concern Form (OCF) stating that Plaintiff's cellmate (Lopez) made him nervous with his "gangbanger atttitudes." The OCF also stated that Idaho Maximum Security Institution ("IMSI"--his prior housing facility) refused to place him in protective custody, and that "you people are putting me in physical danger and the mental effect of having to worry 24 hours a day." (Id., Exhibit A, Dtk. 26-3, p. 5.) There was no written response to the OCF.

Plaintiff alleges that on May 22, 2008, he was met at his cell by his cellmate Lopez and two other inmates, Warren and Landell. Warren told Plaintiff to come to Warren's cell. Plaintiff declined. Lopez said Plaintiff had to either go to Warren's cell or fight all three inmates in Plaintiff's cell. Plaintiff walked to Warren's cell, where Warren attacked him. Plaintiff fought back to defend himself.

Here, Plaintiff sues Defendants Martin and Olesen in their personal capacities for failure to protect him under the Eighth Amendment. To prevail on a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law.

Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). In Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989), the court outlined the requirements for a finding of proximate causation:

Liability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant. Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir.1979). A supervisor is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them. There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983.

Id. at 1045.

To prevail on an Eighth Amendment "prison conditions" claim based on failure to prevent harm, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 ...

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