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Howard v. Lane

United States District Court, D. Alaska

April 8, 2015

C. LANE, et al., Defendants.


RALPH R. BEISTLINE, District Judge.


At Docket 55 Defendants M. Harris and J. Martin filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Timothy Howard, a state prisoner appearing pro se, has opposed the motion[1] and Defendants have replied.[2] This matter being ripe for decision, it is submitted for decision on the moving and opposing papers without oral argument.[3]


Summary judgment is appropriate if, when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.[4] Support and opposition to a motion for summary judgment is made by affidavit made on personal knowledge of the affiant, depositions, answers to interrogatories, setting forth such facts as may be admissible in evidence.[5] In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.[6] The issue of material fact required to be present to entitle a party to proceed to trial is not required to be resolved conclusively in favor of the party asserting its existence; all that is required is that sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial. In order to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists a nonmoving plaintiff must introduce probative evidence that establishes the elements of the complaint.[7] Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case.[8] A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party.[9] "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge, [when] he is ruling on a motion for summary judgment."[10] The evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are drawn in his favor.[11] The moving party has the burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact; therefore, he or she bears the burden of both production and persuasion.[12] The moving party, however, has no burden to negate or disprove matters on which the non-moving party will have the burden of proof at trial. The moving party need only point out to the Court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.[13] There is no genuine issue of fact if, on the record taken as a whole, a rational trier of fact could not find in favor of the party opposing the motion.[14]

In general, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court may not weigh the evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses.[15] Instead, it generally accepts as true statements made under oath.[16] However, this rule does not apply to conclusory statements unsupported by underlying facts, [17] nor may the court draw unreasonable inferences from the evidence.[18] "To survive summary judgment, a plaintiff must set forth non-speculative facts, not sweeping conclusory statements."[19]


Howard's complaint arises out of his validation as a member of the Black Guerilla Family gang while held in Administrative Segregation ("Ad-Seg") at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("CSATF"). Howard is presently incarcerated at the Pelican Bay State Prison.

In his Amended Complaint Howard raised several claims. In screening this Court dismissed all claims except his First Amendment claim as against Defendants M. Harris, J. Martin, and S. Furlong.[20] In his First Amendment claim Howard alleges that Defendants Harris and Martin stated they would file paperwork against him, ostensibly in retaliation for Howard having filed inmate appeals. As against Defendants Harris and Furlong, Howard alleges that they created false documentation to validate him as a member of the Black Guerilla Family ("BGF") gang. Defendants Harris and Martin answered.[21] The Court dismissed the action as against Defendant S. Furlong on the basis that the Screening Order as against Furlong had been improvidently entered in error.[22]

In their motion Defendants contend that there is no evidence to support Plaintiff's allegations that Defendants, or either of them: (1) Took any adverse action against Plaintiff; (2) Plaintiff's frivolous inmate grievance was not protected conduct; (3) There is no causal connection between Defendant's allegedly adverse action and any protected conduct; and (4) Defendants had a legitimate penological interest in drafting the memoranda used in validating Plaintiff's gang validation. Defendants further contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

In his opposition Plaintiff contends that: (1) Defendants took an adverse action against him; (2) The grievance was not frivolous and his conduct was protected; (3) A causal connection exists between Defendants' adverse action and the protected conduct; and (4) Defendants had no legitimate penological interest in drafting the memoranda used in validating Plaintiff as a gang member. Plaintiff also argues that: (1) Defendants violated his due process rights by interviewing him in connection with an assault on a staff member; (2) Retaliated against him for submitting internal grievances against Defendants; (3) Deliberately falsified documents used in validating him as a member of BGF gang; and (4) Permitted the use of outdated documents to be used in the gang validation process.

For the most part the relevant facts in this case are undisputed.

1. On August 21, 2009, while incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison ("CSP"), Howard attempted to murder a correctional officer.[23] Subsequently, Howard was transferred to CSATF where the incidents giving rising to this action occurred.

2. On or about February 2, 2010, an assault on a correctional officer occurred at Corcoran.

3. On or about February 2 and February 3, 2010, Howard was interviewed concerning the February 2 assault by two, or more, correctional officers, not the Defendants.

4. On or about March 10, 2010, Howard was interviewed by Defendants Harris and Martin concerning the ...

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