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Williams v. Fox

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 26, 2019

KENT WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
GUARD FOX, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Kent Williams, [1] a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. At the time of the events giving rise to his claims, Williams was a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Ada County Jail.

         The Court allowed Williams to proceed, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on two types of First Amendment claims: (1) the right to petition the government for redress and (2) the right to be free from retaliation for the exercise of his constitutional rights. See Dkt. 56.

         Currently pending before the Court are (1) Fox's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 107), (2) Williams' Request for Assistance with Preparing for Trial (Dkt. 116), Request for Status (Dkt. 117), and Motion to Reconsider (Dkt. 119). Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record and that oral arguments is unnecessary. See Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). Accordingly, upon review, the Court GRANTS Fox's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES as MOOT Williams' Request for Assistance Preparing for Trial.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Where material facts are in dispute, the Court has included the version of facts presented by Williams-the non-moving party-for purposes of considering Fox's Motion for Summary Judgment. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). The Court also notes that Williams failed to address Fox's assertions of undisputed facts by not filing “a separate statement…of all [disputed] material facts.” Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(c)(2). Thus, “the Court may consider the uncontested material facts as undisputed for purposes of consideration of the motion [for summary judgement].” Id. at (e)(2). However, the Court may also examine factual allegations in “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c). Taken in the light most favorable to Williams, the evidence is as follows:

While Plaintiff Kent Williams was confined at the Ada County Jail (“ACJ”), Defendant Guard Fox, an Ada County Sheriff's deputy, was assigned to Plaintiff's housing unit.

         On January 11, 2016, Williams slid a prisoner grievance form under his cell door for pickup in accordance with ACJ policies and procedures. The form contained a complaint against a guard who had refused to accept a form Williams had slid under his cell door earlier that day. The unnamed guard did not process the form because it contained disrespectful language. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on January 11, 2016, Fox retrieved Williams' form. After reading the form, Fox told Williams that he would not process it because he believed it contained disrespectful language. Fox alleges-and Williams disputes-that the form also did not grieve an actual issue. Fox told Williams, “You will not address an Ada County Deputy disrespectfully.” Dkt. 107-2 ¶ 7. Fox slid the form back to Williams and threatened to issue a disciplinary report should Williams continue using disrespectful language in grievance forms.

         Williams asked Fox to accept the form a second time and slid it back under the door. Fox did not retrieve the form and the form remained on the floor. The form was presumably discarded as trash.

         Williams immediately slid a second grievance form under his door, grieving Fox's refusal to process the first form. Fox retrieved and read the second form and tossed it into the air where it landed on the floor next to the first form. Fox alleges-and again, Williams disputes-that this second form likewise did not grieve an actual issue.

         On January 12, 2016, Williams submitted grievance form 8843. Fox processed form 8843, which grieved the decision:

[O]f guard fox to throw away my outgoing mail. On 1/11/16 I put a grievance out my cell door for 7PM mail pick up. Fox took it, read it and refused to take it. It was left on the tier. At 7:15, 1/11/16, I then put out the cell door a grievance grieving fox refusing to take and process my mail (courts consider grievance legal mail). He took it, read it and said, “first chance I get at your neck…” and then tossed it in the air onto the tier where it was presumably thrown away.

Dkt 43-1, at 2.

         Fox responded to grievance form 8843, stating:

The grievances you [Williams] have been submitting are not acceptable. You are not grieving any issues, you are making statements and calling deputies names and being disrespectful. You have already been written up for this issue. Do not continue to abuse the grievance system.
You say that I said, “First chance I get at your neck”. I never said any such thing. Please stop making false accusations.

Id. Williams appealed Fox's response, and Fox's response was upheld.

         Prior to his January 11 grievances, Williams submitted grievance form 8821 on January 8, 2016. Grievance form 8821 grieved Williams' placement in segregation for an ACJ infraction for using disrespectful language in a prior grievance form. ACJ staff reviewed and upheld the discipline because it was already “addressed in grievance 8822.” ACJ staff instructed Williams “not [to] submit multiple grievances on the same issue, ” otherwise he might “receive formal discipline.” Dkt. 43-1.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgement is proper “if the movant shows that 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). The Court's role at summary judgement is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Zetwick v. Cty. of Yolo, 850 F.3d 436, 411 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “view[] the facts in the non-moving party's favor.” Id.

         To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the respondent need only present evidence upon which “a reasonable juror drawing all inferences in favor of the respondent could return a verdict in [his or her] favor.” Id. (citation omitted). Accordingly, the Court must enter summary judgement if a party “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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The respondent cannot simply rely on an unsworn affidavit or the pleadings to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather the respondent must set forth the ...


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