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Rodeski v. McDonald

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 17, 2018

Robert Michael Rodeski, Plaintiff,
Jim McDonald, et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert Michael Rodeski, who was previously confined in CoreCivic's La Palma Correctional Center (LPCC) in Eloy, Arizona, brought this civil rights case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (Doc. 7.) Before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 44) and Defendants' Motion for Summary Disposition of their Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47). Although the Court provided notice to Plaintiff pursuant to Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 962 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), regarding the requirements of a response (Doc. 46), Plaintiff did not respond to either motion. The Court will deny the Motion for Summary Disposition, grant the Motion for Summary Judgment, and terminate this action.

         I. Background

         In his two-Count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to excessive force and denied constitutionally adequate medical care. (Doc. 7.) On screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the Court determined that Plaintiff stated an Eighth Amendment medical care claim and directed Captain Bobertz, Sergeant Slaughter, and Correctional Officer (CO) Messer to answer.[2] (Doc. 9, 10.) The Court dismissed the remaining claims and Defendants. (Id.)

         II. Motion for Summary Disposition

         In their Motion for Summary Disposition, Defendants ask the Court to summarily grant their pending Motion for Summary Judgment because Plaintiff failed to file a response. (Doc. 47.) Defendants rely in part on Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7.2(i), which provides that the Court may deem a party's failure to respond to a motion as consent to the granting of the motion. (Id.) In Heinemann v. Satterberg, the Ninth Circuit clarified that a local rule permitting a district court to treat the lack of a response as consent to granting a motion does not apply to summary judgment motions. 731 F.3d 914, 917 (9th Cir. 2013). If a summary judgment motion is unopposed, Rule 56 “authorizes the court to consider a fact as undisputed, ” but does not permit the court to grant summary judgment by default. Id. Indeed, under the summary judgment standard, if the moving party fails to meet its initial burden of production, the opposing party need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). The Court must therefore address Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on the merits, and will deny Defendants' Motion for Summary Disposition.

         III. Summary Judgment Standard

         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 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, 210 F.3d at 1102-03. 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 is required to consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         IV. Relevant Facts[3]

         On July 31, 2015, Defendant Bobertz was the Shift Captain for the third shift; Defendant Slaughter was a third-shift sergeant assigned to the TEWA Unit; and Defendant Messer was a third-shift CO assigned to the TEWA Unit. (Doc. 45 (Defs.' Statement of Facts) ¶¶ 2-4.) That day, the LPCC Special Operations Response Team (“SORT”) conducted an operation in the TEWA unit in order to search specific cells, including Plaintiff's, for drugs or contraband. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 8-9.) During a SORT operation, SORT “typically has authority over the area and inmates within that area in order to maintain consistency and control during the operation, ” and non-SORT employees “are to defer to the SORT Commander and SORT members during an operation.” (Id. ¶ 7.)

         During the July 31, 2015 SORT operation, SORT entered each cell and each inmate was cuffed behind his back using “flex cuffs, ” which are plastic wrist restraints that resemble zip ties. (Id. ¶ 9.) Each inmate was then taken to a hallway where they passed through a metal detector and, once cleared, brought into a multi-purpose room where they were seated on a chair backwards with the inmate's chest facing the back of the chair. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Once all inmates were in the multi-purpose room, SORT began its operation searching the cells, and Defendant Messer monitored the inmates in the multi-purpose room. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.)

         Messer notified Bobertz and Slaughter that several inmates, including Plaintiff, were complaining that their cuffs were too tight and hurting their hands, but Messer, Bobertz, and Slaughter were non-SORT employees and “did not have authority to remove, loosen, tighten or readjust [Plaintiff's] flex cuffs at that time.” (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Bobertz informed the Assistant SORT Commander that Plaintiff was complaining that his cuffs were too tight, and members of SORT took Plaintiff into the hallway and loosened his flex cuffs. (Id. ¶ 14.)[4] Bobertz, Slaughter and Messer were not “made aware that [Plaintiff] had suffered any sort of injury during SORT's operation” or that Plaintiff requested medical attention either during or after the SORT operation. (Doc. 45 ¶ 19.)

         According to Plaintiff, at 3:30 a.m. on July 31, 2015, two officers woke him up and told him to lie on the floor. (Doc. 7 at 5.) Plaintiff was handcuffed behind his back, yanked to his feet, and escorted to a multi-purpose room. (Id.) Plaintiff was then dropped into a chair, causing his cuffed hands to hit the chair back. (Id.) Plaintiff immediately felt a sharp, throbbing pain in his right hand. The injury occurred either while he was being restrained and lifted up or when he was dropped into the chair. (Id.)

         Plaintiff informed Defendant Messer that something was wrong with his right hand and that he needed medical attention, but Messer replied that “this is just a drill, ” “turn around and shut-up.” (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff showed Messer his right hand, which was red and swollen, and Messer said “yes, it is swollen and red but that's just because you are fighting your ...

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