United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 64)
HONORABLE RONALD E. BUSH CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Docket No. 64). Having carefully considered
the record and otherwise being fully advised, the undersigned
enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:
William Fletcher is a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis in this civil rights action. This Court previously
reviewed Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915 and 1915A, and ruled that it failed to
state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiff
was allowed an opportunity to file an amended complaint.
See Initial Review Order (Docket No. 7).
filed his Amended Prisoner Complaint on April 24, 2015,
alleging claims of food deprivation, excessive use of force,
and retaliation against Defendants Ada County, Deputy Martin
Marquardt, and Deputy Mark Losh. See Am. Prisoner
Compl. (Docket No. 9). This Court reviewed Plaintiff's
Amended Prisoner Complaint and, on August 5, 2015, issued a
second Review Order, permitting Plaintiff to proceed only on
the food deprivation and excessive use of force claims and
only against the individual Defendants. See Order
(Docket No. 11).
January 19, 2016, this Court granted the individual
Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, dismissing the
food deprivation claim and dismissing Defendant Losh as a
named defendant. Consequently, Plaintiff's claims have
been distilled down to the excessive use of force claim
against Defendant Marquardt, who now files the at-issue
Motion for Summary Judgment.
GENERAL FACTUAL BACKGROUND
case arises from the undisputed use of force against former
inmate William Fletcher by Deputy Marquardt at the Ada County
Jail on the evening of August 7, 2013. According to Mr.
Ada County Sheriff Deputy Marquardt harassed, slammed
Plaintiff hard on floor face first, as Plaintiff was on
ground in handcuffs - Ada County Sheriff Deputy Marquardt
punched the Plaintiff in the lower spinal cord area of his
back with hard object. Ada County Sheriff Deputy Marquardt
choke Plaintiff with his forearm.
Am. Prisoner Compl., p. 2 (Docket No. 9). Deputy
Marquardt's account is unsurprisingly different, claiming
Mr. Fletcher became argumentative with Deputy Marquardt after
the deputy stopped and questioned him about suspicious
movement on the tier. After stepping inside a nearby cell,
Mr. Fletcher grew more verbally and physically aggressive. He
then ignored instructions to face the wall and actively
resisted the deputy's efforts to secure him. When Mr.
Fletcher attempted to push off the wall towards Deputy
Marquardt, the deputy delivered a leg strike to bring the
inmate to the ground. Mr. Fletcher attempted to get up and
out of the deputy's control. He continued to actively
resist on the ground until Deputy Marquardt delivered a
single strike with his fist to the inmate's right side.
The deputy was then able to secure Mr. Fletcher in handcuffs
and escort him out to a holder cell.
Mem. in Supp. of MSJ, p. 2 (Docket No. 64, Att. 1) (internal
citations omitted). From this, Deputy Marquardt moves for
summary judgment, arguing that he is entitled to summary
judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.
judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to
any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). One of the
principal purposes of summary judgment “is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-34
(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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a
genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact
“that may affect the outcome of the case.”
Id. at 248.
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility
findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the
non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie
v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir.
1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt
unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. See
McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. See
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th
Cir. 2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party
need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as
affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out
the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case. See Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212
F.3d 528, 532 (9thCir. 2000).
shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence
sufficient to support a jury verdict in his favor. See
Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must
go beyond the pleadings and show “by her [ ]
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine
dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S.
a plaintiff is able to show a violation of a constitutional
right under § 1983, a defendant may still be entitled to
summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The
doctrine of qualified immunity protects state officials from
personal liability for on-the-job conduct so long as the
conduct is objectively reasonable and does not violate an
inmate's clearly-established federal rights. See
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
Conversely, a state official may be held personally liable in
a § 1983 action if he knew or should have known that he
was violating a plaintiff's clearly-established federal
rights. See id. True to its dual purposes of
protecting state actors who act in good faith and in allowing
for the redress of clear wrongs caused by state actors, the
qualified immunity standard “gives ample room for
mistaken judgments by protecting all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991)
qualified immunity analysis consists of two prongs: (1)
whether, “[t]aken in the light most favorable to the
party asserting the injury, . . . the facts alleged show the
[defendant's] conduct violated a constitutional
right”; and (2) whether that right was clearly
established. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201
(2001); C.B. v. City of Sonora, 730 F.3d 816, 825
(9th Cir. 2013). Qualified immunity operates to
ensure that a government official is on notice that his
conduct is unlawful, before he is subject to suit.
Pearson, 555 U.S. at 244 (citing Hope v.
Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002)).
determine whether the right was clearly established, a court
turns to Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit law existing at the
time of the alleged act. See Osolinski v. Kane, 92
F.3d 934, 936 (9th Cir. 1996). In the absence of
binding precedent, the district courts should look to
available decisions of other circuits and district courts to
ascertain whether the law is clearly established. See
inquiry of whether a right was clearly established
“must be undertaken in light of the specific context of
the case, not as a broad general proposition.”
Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. For the law to be clearly
established, “[t]he contours of the right must be
sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would
understand” that his conduct violates that right.
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987). It
is not necessary that the “very action in question has
previously been held unlawful, ” but “in the
light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be
apparent” to the official. Id. “The
relevant, dispositive inquiry is whether it would be clear to
a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the
situation he confronted.” Saucier, 533 U.S. at
202 (citing Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 615
(1999)); see also Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305,
308 (2015) (“[E]xisting precedent must have placed the
statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.”)
(citing Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741
(2011)). “This exacting standard ‘gives
government officials breathing room to make reasonable but
mistaken judgments.'” City and Cnty. of San
Francisco, Calif. v. Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765, 1774
(2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 131 S.Ct. 1765,
of qualified immunity is appropriate where “the law did
not put the [defendant] on notice that his conduct would be
clearly unlawful.” Id. However, “[i]f
there is a genuine dispute as to the ‘facts and
circumstances within an officer's knowledge, ' or
‘what the officer and claimant did or failed to do,
' summary judgment is inappropriate.” Moreno v.
Idaho, 2017 WL 1217113, *3 (D. Idaho 2017) (quoting
Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873
(9th Cir. 1993)). When a § 1983 defendant
makes a properly supported motion for summary judgment based
on qualified immunity, the plaintiff has the obligation to
produce evidence of his own; the district court cannot simply
assume the truth of the challenged factual allegations in the
complaint. Butler v. San Diego Dist. Attorney's
Office, 370 F.3d 956, 963 (9th Cir. 2004)).
That being said, the court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to plaintiff and resolve all material
factual disputes in favor of plaintiff. See Martinez v.
Stanford, 323 F.3d 1178, 1184 (9th Cir.
prove an excessive force claim under § 1983, a pretrial
detainee must show that the “force purposely used
against him was objectively unreasonable.” Kingsley
v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). A court
(judge or jury) cannot apply this standard mechanically.
See id. Rather, “objective reasonableness
turns on the ‘facts and circumstances of each
particular case.'” Id. (quoting Graham
v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989)). A court must make
this determination from the perspective of a reasonable
officer on the scene, including what the officer knew at the
time, not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See
Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2473.
“must also account for the ‘legitimate interests
that stem from [the government's] need to manage the
facility in which the individual is detained, '
appropriately deferring to ‘policies and practices that
in th[e] judgment' of jail officials ‘are needed to
preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain
institutional security.'” Id. (quoting
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 530, 540 (1979))
(alterations in original). Indeed, in such settings, the
Supreme Court has stated in no uncertain terms:
[T]he use of an objective standard adequately protects an
officer who acts in good faith. We recognize that running a
prison is an inordinately difficult undertaking, and that
safety and order at these institutions requires the expertise
of correctional officials, who must have substantial
discretion to devise reasonable solutions to the problems
they face. Officers facing disturbances are often forced to
make split-second judgments - in circumstances that are
tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. For these reasons, we
have stressed that a court must judge the reasonableness of
the force used from the perspective and with the knowledge of
the defendant officer. We have also explained that a court
must take into account of the legitimate interest in managing
a jail, acknowledging as part of the objective reasonableness
analysis that deference to policies and practices needed to
maintain order and institutional security is appropriate. And
we have limited liability for excessive force to situations
in which the use of force was the result of an intentional
and knowing act (though we leave open the possibility of
including a “reckless” act as well).
Additionally, an officer enjoys qualified immunity and is not
liable for excessive force unless he has violated a clearly
established right, such that it would have been clear to a
reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the
situation he confronted. It is unlikely (though theoretically
possible) that a plaintiff could overcome these hurdles where
an officer acted in good faith.
Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2474-75 (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted).
that may bear on the reasonableness of the force used include
“the relationship between the need for the use of force
and the amount of force used; the extent of the
plaintiff's injury; any effort made by the officer to
temper or to limit the amount of force; the severity of the
security problem at issue; the threat reasonably perceived by
the officer; and whether the plaintiff was actively
resisting.” Id. at 2473.
with these standards in mind that the Court must attempt to
understand what took place between Mr. Fletcher and Deputy
Marquardt on August 7, 2013; whether excessive force was
employed; and whether qualified immunity applies. In that
space, the parties' accounts of the incident diverge in
nearly every respect.
begin, during his deposition, Mr. Fletcher described his
interaction with Deputy Marquardt as follows:
Q: Where did he confront you actually on that tier? Where
were you at?
A: I was in the middle of the tier walking from 841. After I
asked the guy for the cleaning supplies after he was done
cleaning his cell.
Q: And that was 841?
A: Yes. As I was walking he stepped in front of my face.
Q: Why did he do that?
A: I don't know. I have no idea.
Q: Did he say why he was stopping you?
A: He stopped me and asked me why I was coming from down
there. And I told him.
Q: What did you tell him?
A: I told him I was getting the cleaning supplies when he was
done. Apparently he didn't like my attitude.
Q: Why would he not like your attitude?
A: Because we already had an altercation earlier that day.
Q: Is it fair to say you were frustrated with him?
A: No. I wasn't frustrated at all.
Q: Why do you think he thought you had an attitude?
A: I don't know.
Q: How would you describe your demeanor?
A: I was just doing what I was told. I mean, when someone in
authority steps in your face like that there has to be a
significant reason for them to do it. And from there I felt
like something bad was about to happen. And that is when he
told me to step into someone else's cell.
Q: Did you raise your voice to him at that time?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you raise your arms or hands or anything like that?
A: No. I had clothes in my hand.
Q: You had clothes in your hand?
A: Yes, I did.
. . . .
Q: How was Deputy Marquardt's demeanor when he stopped
A: He was angry.
Q: Was he raising his voice at you?
Q: Did he touch you in the tier way there?
A: Yeah. He grabbed my arm with his right hand. My left
shoulder with his right hand telling me to go into 844. And
that is with everybody on the tier just stepped back and just
watched. There was no movement on the tier.
Q: Why was he moving you into that cell?
A: I have no idea. Away from the cameras, ...