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Hernandez v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 6, 2019

Fabian Hernandez, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID G, CAMPBELL SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 81) filed by the State Defendants.[1]

         I. Background

         On June 9, 2016, Plaintiffs Fabian Hernandez, Joseph Artiaga, David J. Daniels, Jesus Garcia, Paul Harris, Nathaniel Hooks, Vincente Longoria, Brandon Wilson, Christopher Henderson, and Guy Snider filed, through counsel, a civil rights Complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court. On September 29, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint that added the State of Arizona as a Defendant. On October 25, 2016, the State of Arizona removed the matter to this Court. Defendants were served thereafter.

         The State Defendants have filed this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs Harris, Henderson, and Longoria for failure to exhaust their administrative remedies pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e et seq. (Doc. 81.) Plaintiffs have responded in opposition. (Doc. 96.) The State Defendants have replied (Doc. 101), conceding that the PLRA did not apply to Plaintiffs Henderson and Longoria because they had been released from prison at the time the Complaint was filed, but arguing that summary judgment against Plaintiff Harris remained appropriate.

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment

         A court must grant summary judgment “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); however, it must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court must believe the nonmovant's evidence and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         B. Exhaustion

         Under the PLRA, a prisoner must exhaust “available” administrative remedies before filing an action in federal court. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Vaden v. Summerhill, 449 F.3d 1047, 1050 (9th Cir. 2006); Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 934-35 (9th Cir. 2005). The prisoner must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable rules. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 92 (2006). Exhaustion is required for all suits about prison life, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 523 (2002), regardless of the type of relief offered through the administrative process, Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001).

         The defendant bears the initial burden to show that there was an available administrative remedy and that the prisoner did not exhaust it. Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1169, 1172 (9th Cir. 2014); see Brown, 422 F.3d at 936-37 (a defendant must demonstrate that applicable relief remained available in the grievance process). Once that showing is made, the burden shifts to the prisoner, who must either demonstrate that he, in fact, exhausted administrative remedies or “come forward with evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172. The ultimate burden, however, rests with the defendant. Id. Summary judgment is appropriate if the undisputed evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner, shows a failure to exhaust. Id. at 1166, 1168; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

         If the defendants move for summary judgment for failure to exhaust and the evidence shows that the plaintiff did, in fact, exhaust all available administrative remedies, it is appropriate for the court to grant summary judgment sua sponte for the nonmovant on the issue. See Albino, 747 F.3d at 1176 (pro se prisoner did not cross-move for summary judgment on issue of exhaustion, but ...


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