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Ashcroft v. Hartman

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

November 25, 2014

DOUGLAS ALLEN ASHCROFT, Plaintiff,
v.
JERIAL HARTMAN, in his Personal/Individual Capacity, Defendant.

Douglas Allen Ashcroft, Umatilla County Jail, Pendleton, OR, Plaintiff appearing pro se.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Andrew D. Hallman, Assistant Attorney General Department of Justice, Salem, OR, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

DENNIS JAMES HUBEL, Magistrate Judge.

The plaintiff Douglas Allen Ashcroft brings this civil rights action against the defendant Jerial Hartman, a Correctional Officer with the Oregon Department of Corrections ("ODOC"), in Hartman's individual capacity (i.e., not in his official capacity). Ashcroft alleges Hartman used excessive or unnecessary force against him in an incident that occurred on August 31, 2011. Ashcroft, appearing pro se, asserts two claims against Hartman: (1) a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for "cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution"; and (2) an Oregon common-law claim for assault and battery. See Dkt. #54. He seeks compensatory damages of $25, 000, and punitive damages consisting of a "$10, 000.00 fine, " and Hartman's dismissal from his job with the ODOC. Id., p. 6.

The case is before the court on Hartman's motion for summary judgment, Dkt. #84. The motion is fully briefed, and neither party has requested oral argument. The parties have consented to jurisdiction and the entry of final judgment by a United States Magistrate Judge, in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73(b).

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

Summary judgment should be granted "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(c)(2). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court "must not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter but only determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Playboy Enters., Inc. v. Welles, 279 F.3d 796, 800 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp., 85 F.3d 407, 410 (9th Cir. 1996)).

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has described "the shifting burden of proof governing motions for summary judgment" as follows:

The moving party initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence Id. to support the non-moving party's case. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Where the moving party meets that burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial. Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. This burden is not a light one. The non-moving party must show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The non-moving party must do more than show there is some "metaphysical doubt" as to the material facts at issue. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 528 (1986). In fact, the non-moving party must come forth with evidence from which a jury could reasonably render a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. In determining whether a jury could reasonably render a verdict in the non-moving party's favor, all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in its favor. Id. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010).

II. SECTION 1983 STANDARDS GENERALLY

Section 1983 provides, in relevant part, that "[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress." 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

To establish an individual defendant's personal liability in an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must show that the defendant, "acting under color of state law, caused the deprivation of a federal right." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 3105, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985) (citation omitted). Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred. The first step in any such claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271, 114 S.Ct. 807, 811-812, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

III. STANDARDS FOR EXCESSIVE FORCE CLAIMS

"When prison officials use excessive force against prisoners, they violate the inmates' Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment[.]" Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 903 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the use of force does not constitute an Eighth Amendment violation when it is "applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline [rather than] maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 1085, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (1986) (citation omitted). Factors relevant to the court's analysis include (1) "the need for the application of force"; (2) "the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used"; (3) "the extent of injury inflicted"; (4) "the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as reasonably perceived by the responsible officials on the basis of the facts known to them"; and (5) "any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response." Whitley, 475 U.S. at 21, 106 S.Ct. at 1085 (citations omitted). The Whitley Court observed that consideration of the first ...


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