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Carr v. Fleming

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 4, 2018

JODY CARR, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O FLEMING, and SGT. MECHTEL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKTS. 117, 123)

          Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Pending are Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. 117) and Plaintiff's Motion Requesting Entry of Partial Summary Judgment Due to Failure to Respond Timely (Dkt. 123). Having carefully considered the record, heard argument, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following memorandum decision and order, consistent with its rulings from the bench during the hearing held on these motions on August 29, 2018.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jody Carr is incarcerated in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction. Am. Compl. p. 2 (Dkt. 103). He brought this suit in August of 2013 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief. See generally Compl. (Dkt. 3). His Complaint raised various civil rights claims against four Idaho Department of Correction employees. Id. Carr's claims were dismissed on summary judgment and the case was ordered closed (Dkts. 78, 79). Carr appealed (Dkt. 83) and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part this Court's grant of summary judgment. (Dkt. 92). The appellate court reversed (1) the grant of summary judgment to Defendant Fleming; and (2) the denial of Carr's motion for leave to file an amended complaint to add a retaliation claim against Sergeant Mechtel. (Dkt. 92.) Subsequently, Carr's amended complaint was deemed filed (Dkt. 103).

         Carr's amended complaint raises three claims. He alleges that Defendant correctional officer Crystal Fleming fed him human feces contaminated with clostridium difficile bacteria, which caused him to become violently ill for a period of 16 months. Id. He claims that Fleming violated his civil rights by retaliating against him, by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, and by demonstrating deliberate indifference to his health and welfare. Id. He further alleges that Defendant Sergeant Mechtel issued him two Disciplinary Offense Reports (“D.O.R.s”) after Carr sent Fleming what Carr contends was a “settlement letter” in conjunction with this lawsuit. Id. Carr claims that Mechtel violated his civil rights by issuing the D.O.R.s to retaliate against Carr engaging in his protected First Amendment rights in sending the letter. Id.

         Carr moves for partial summary judgment on the liability element of his retaliation claim against Mechtel. (Dkt. 117.) While the motion was pending, Carr filed an additional motion requesting entry of partial summary judgment due to Mechtel's alleged failure to timely respond to Carr's first motion for partial summary judgment. (Dkt. 123.) Mechtel opposes both motions. (Dkts. 121, 125.)

         The Court heard oral argument on both motions on August 29, 2018. During the hearing, the Court ruled from the bench, denying both motions. This memorandum decision and order more fully explains the Court's reasoning for denying the motions.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary 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 principal purpose of summary judgment “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (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.

         The 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. See Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). However, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. See McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. See Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001). 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 non-moving party's case. See Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000). This 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 [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment should not be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Analysis of Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         Carr seeks partial summary judgment on Mechtel's liability with respect to Carr's First Amendment retaliation claim. For incarcerated plaintiffs, the elements of a First Amendment retaliation claim are: “(1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the ...


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