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Reyes v. Thueson

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 20, 2019

RALPH JAMES REYES, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER THUESON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Currently pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment, filed on September 4, 2019. (Dkt. 30.) Plaintiff did not respond to the motion and it is ripe for the Court's determination. Having reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the brief and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be decided on the record before this Court. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.[1]

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Ralph Reyes' claim arises from an incident on June 13, 2017, during which Reyes alleges that he was struck in the groin area by Defendant Thueson, a correctional officer at Idaho State Correctional Center (“ISCC”). (Dkt. 10.) The relevant uncontested facts are straight forward. At the time of the incident, Reyes was an inmate in the Idaho Department of Correction (“IDOC”) system at ISCC. (Dkt. 30-4 at 12:8-13:7.) Officer Thueson was employed as a correctional officer at ISCC. (Dkt. 30-5 at ¶ 2.)

         During the time of the incident, Officer Thueson was in the Case Manager's office, standing near a desk, assisting inmates with paperwork. (Dkt. 30-4 at 53:10-18; Dkt. 30-5 at ¶ 7.) Also in the office was another correctional officer, Officer Held. (Dkt. 30-4 at 46:19-22, 47:17-21; Dkt. 30-5 at ¶ 6.) Officer Held was standing at the filing cabinet directly across from where Officer Thueson was standing. (Dkt. 30-4 at 53:2-18, 54:9-13.) At this same time, Reyes was in the back of the Case Manager's officer where the Sergeant's office was located. (Dkt. 30-4 at 50:14-17; Dkt. 30-5 at ¶ 6.) Reyes was talking to the Sergeant while Officers Thueson and Held were helping other inmates with paperwork. Id.

         Upon exiting the Sergeant's office, Reyes had to pass behind and in between Officers Thueson and Held, in order to access the filing cabinet. (Dkt. 30-4 at 52:6-23.) At the moment Reyes stepped behind and between Officers Thueson and Held, Officer Thueson turned with a stapler in his hand, intending to return the stapler to the desk drawer. (Dkt. 30-5 at ¶ 7.) When Officer Thueson turned, he struck Reyes in the groin area with the hand that held the stapler. (Dkt. 30-4 at 56:13-15; Dkt. 30-5 at ¶ 7.) Later that day, Reyes was medically examined, and it was determined that Reyes had no visible injury and was not in pain as a result of being struck with the stapler. (Dkt. 30-8 at ¶ 7.)

         On March 9, 2018, Reyes filed a complaint against Officer Thueson. (Dkt. 3.) An amended complaint was filed on July 26, 2018. (Dkt. 10). The Amended Complaint alleges two constitutional claims under the Eighth and Fourth Amendments for excessive use of force, and two state law claims for assault and battery. (Id.) On December 3, 2018, the Court issued a Successive Review Order, allowing Reyes to proceed on the excessive force claim as well as on the two state law claims.[2] (Dkt. 11 at 8-9.) Officer Thueson filed a motion to dismiss the two state law claims on February 1, 2019. (Dkt. 17.) Reyes did not file a response to Officer Thueson's motion to dismiss, and the Court granted the motion on July 19, 2019.[3] (Dkt. 29). Officer Thueson now moves for summary judgment on the remaining excessive force claim. (Dkt. 30).

         The Clerk notified Reyes of his rights and obligations regarding Officer Thueson's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 31.) The notice informed him that the motion required a response within 21 days. (Id.) The notice also stated, in accordance with Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(e)(1), that Reyes risked having his claims dismissed if he failed to respond to Officer Thueson's motion. The Court gave Reyes ample opportunity to respond to the motion, which was filed on September 4, 2019. (Dkt. 22, 23, and 25.) To date, Reyes has not responded.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, and other matters presented to the court show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact will be absent if, upon “viewing the evidence and inferences which may be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the adverse party, the movant is clearly entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” James River Ins. Co. v. Hebert Schenk, P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 920 (9th Cir. 2008); see also, Mutual Fund Investors, Inc. v. Putnam Mgmt. Co., 553 F.2d 620, 624 (9th Cir. 1977).

         Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(e), provides that, “[i]n the event an adverse party fails to file any responsive documents required to be filed under this rule in a timely manner, such failure may be deemed to constitute a consent to the . . . granting of said motion.” When a party does not have legal representation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held “an ordinary pro se litigant, like other litigants, must comply strictly with the summary judgment rules.” Soto v. Sweetman, 882 F.3d 865, 872 (9th Cir. 2018).

         Nonetheless:

[a] district court may not grant a motion for summary judgment simply because the nonmoving party does not file opposing material, even if the failure to oppose violates a local rule. However, when the local rule does not require, but merely permits the court to grant a motion for summary judgment, the district court has ...

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