Bibbs v. Singh et al

Filing 40

ORDER DISMISSING CASE: Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment is GRANTED. (Docket # 29.) The claims against defendants Salgado and Mora are dismissed without prejudice to plaintiff filing an action against them if he ever compli es with the requirement for exhaustion of administrative remedies. Judgment will be entered in the other defendants' favor and against plaintiff. In light of the foregoing, the court dismisses as unnecessary the second motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. (Docket # 36.) The clerk shall close the file; Signed by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on 5/17/2011. (Attachments: # 1 CertServ)(awb, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/18/2011)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 TOMMY BIBBS, 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 No. C 09-2031 MHP (pr) Plaintiff, ORDER DISMISSING TWO DEFENDANTS AND GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR OTHER DEFENDANTS v. Sergeant SINGH; et al., Defendants. / 14 INTRODUCTION 15 In this pro se prisoner's civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Tommy Bibbs 16 alleged that he had been subjected to excessive force and retaliation at Salinas Valley State 17 Prison, where he formerly was housed. Defendants have moved (a) to dismiss the claim 18 against defendants Salgado and Mora for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and (b) 19 for summary judgment on the claims against the other defendants. Defendants later filed a 20 second motion with more evidence. Plaintiff has not filed an opposition to defendants' 21 motions. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' first motion to dismiss and for 22 summary judgment will be granted and the second motion will not be reached. The claims 23 against Salgado and Mora will be dismissed without prejudice and judgment will be entered 24 in favor of the remaining defendants. 25 BACKGROUND 26 The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted: 27 The events alleged in the amended complaint occurred on December 20, 2007 at 28 Salinas Valley State Prison. At the relevant time, Tommy Bibs was an inmate housed in the A-pod of Building C-1 at Salinas Valley. Building C-1 has three pods, a rotunda area, a 1 watch tower and a dining hall. Also at the relevant time, defendant correctional officers 2 Basic, Reynoso, Singh, Betancourt, Mora and Salgado were on the correctional staff at 3 Salinas Valley. 4 Salinas Valley has a canteen, or store, at which inmates may buy discretionary items. 5 Most inmates are permitted to visit the canteen once a month, but only if they have funds in 6 their inmate trust accounts. Each month, the canteen manager generates lists of inmates who 7 have funds in their trust accounts and who are therefore eligible to visit the canteen. During 8 canteen visiting hours, correctional officers review the canteen lists (which are kept in 9 housing units) to determine which inmates will be allowed to go to the canteen. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 One of the regular duties for defendants Singh and Betancourt was to conduct random 11 cell searches. On December 20, 2007, correctional officers Singh and Betancourt or Basic 12 prepared to conduct a random search of Bibbs' cell. (There is a disagreement in the evidence 13 as to whether the second officer was Betancourt or Basic. Compare Betancourt Decl., ¶¶ 1-4 14 (Betancourt declares he was second officer) with McClain Decl., Ex. A at 74 (Bibbs states 15 that he is certain that Basic was second officer and Betancourt was in the control tower).) 16 Before the two officers started the cell search, Bibbs complained to them about not 17 being permitted to visit the canteen. The two officers explained to him that he was not on the 18 list of inmates who were permitted to visit the canteen that day, and offered to show him the 19 canteen list which was in an office in the rotunda. Bibbs indicated that he wanted to see the 20 list, so the officers escorted him to the office. After being shown that he was not on the 21 canteen list, Bibbs became increasingly agitated and argumentative, and began shouting. 22 Officer Betancourt ordered Bibbs to face the rotunda wall and submit to hand restraints. 23 Bibbs faced the wall but did not comply with repeated orders to submit to hand restraints and 24 instead "suddenly turned around, moved aggressively toward Singh, and verbally threatened 25 Singh and [Betancourt] by stating something like 'I aint got no problem about giving you a 26 fade!'" Betancourt Decl., ¶6. Fearing for their safety, Singh and Betancourt grabbed Bibbs 27 and pushed him to the ground. Betancourt fell to the ground with Singh and Bibbs, and 28 continued to maintain control over Bibbs' right wrist. Id. 2 Bibbs vigorously resisted their 1 efforts, making striking motions with his free left arm and kicking his legs. Betancourt got 2 control of Bibbs' arm and triggered his personal alarm. Correctional officer Reynoso 3 responded to the alarm and arrived a moment later. At that time, Bibbs was still kicking his 4 legs to avoid further restraint. Reynoso held Bibbs' legs down, and Betancourt put restraints 5 on Bibbs' arms. Defendants correctional officers Mora and Salgado, as well as correctional 6 sergeant Jones arrived on the scene. Sergeant Jones instructed Betancourt to put leg 7 restraints on Bibbs. Officers Mora and Salgado then escorted Bibbs to the medical unit and 8 put him in a holding cell there. 9 A videotape was made of an interview with Bibbs the day after the incident. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 See McClain Decl., Ex. B. In the taped interview, Bibbs identified all his injuries and 11 showed them to the camera. The visible injuries he showed to the camera were slight: a 12 couple of minor scratches on his back, a bruise and abrasion on his arm, a slight bruise on his 13 face and abrasions and/or old scars at the locations where handcuffs and ankle cuffs were 14 placed. 15 16 DISCUSSION In their dispositive motion, defendants seek the dismissal of the claim against 17 defendants Salgado and Mora for failure to exhaust administrative remedies on that claim 18 and seek summary judgment on the claim against the remaining defendants. 19 opposed the motion. 20 Bibbs has not Bibbs has apparently lost interest in prosecuting this action. In September 2010, 21 Bibbs requested a stay of this action for 5-6 months due to his expected parole in October 22 2010. The court denied the request for the reasons stated in the order filed September 21, 23 2010 (docket # 26). Bibbs' inmate-helper also mailed a second copy of the stay request that 24 apparently crossed in the mail with the order denying it, but nothing else has been received 25 from plaintiff since then. He apparently later was released from custody and later still 26 returned to custody (see docket # 39 (notice from defense counsel)), but never informed the 27 court of his several address changes despite being ordered to "promptly keep the court 28 informed of any change of address." Order Of Service at 5. Plaintiff's loss of interest has 3 1 been demonstrated by (1) his failure to comply with the order to keep the court informed of 2 address changes, (2) his failure to file an opposition to either of defendants' motions to 3 dismiss and for summary judgment, and (3) his failure to respond to defendants' request for 4 admissions. Despite Bibbs' apparent loss of interest in prosecuting the action, and failure to 5 oppose the motions, the case moves forward with the court determining whether defendants 6 are entitled to the relief they seek. See Cristobal v. Siegel, 26 F.3d 1488, 1494-95 & n.4 (9th 7 Cir. 1994) (unopposed motion may be granted only after court determines that there are no 8 material issues of fact). 9 A. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Motion To Dismiss For Non-Exhaustion "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 11 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other 12 correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 13 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The State of California provides its inmates and parolees the right to 14 appeal administratively "any departmental decision, action, condition or policy perceived by 15 those individuals as adversely affecting their welfare." See Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 16 3084.1(a). In order to exhaust available administrative remedies within this system, a 17 prisoner must proceed through several levels of appeal: (1) informal resolution, (2) formal 18 written appeal on a CDC 602 inmate appeal form, (3) second level appeal to the institution 19 head or designee, and (4) third level appeal to the Director of the California Department of 20 Corrections and Rehabilitation. See id. § 3084.5; Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85-86 21 (2006). 22 Exhaustion in prisoner cases covered by § 1997e(a) is mandatory. Porter v. Nussle, 23 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002). All available remedies must be exhausted; those remedies "need 24 not meet federal standards, nor must they be 'plain, speedy, and effective.'" Id. (citation 25 omitted). Even when the prisoner seeks relief not available in grievance proceedings, 26 notably money damages, exhaustion is a prerequisite to suit. Id.; Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 27 731, 741 (2001). The statute requires "proper exhaustion" of available administrative 28 remedies. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. at 93. 4 1 A prisoner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is a matter in abatement. 2 Defendants have the burden of raising and proving the absence of exhaustion, and may do so 3 by way of an unenumerated Rule12(b) motion. Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th 4 Cir. 2003). "In deciding a motion to dismiss for a failure to exhaust nonjudicial remedies, the 5 court may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact." Id. at 1119-20, 6 citing Ritza v. Int'l Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, 837 F.2d 365, 368 (9th Cir. 7 1988). The court can decide factual issues in a jurisdictional or related type of motion 8 because there is no right to a jury trial as to that portion of the case, unlike the merits of the 9 case (where there is a right to a jury trial). See id. Wyatt and Ritza allow this court to United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 resolve factual disputes, but only with regard to the exhaustion issue. Bibbs did not exhaust the administrative remedies available to him for his claim that 12 defendants Salgado and Mora shoved him head-first into a wall when they took him to the 13 medical unit after force was used on him. See Amended Complaint at 11. Although the 14 amended complaint alleged that they joined in the beating, and did not identify Salgado and 15 Mora as the persons who shoved him head-first into a wall, Bibbs clearly answered in his 16 deposition that the two defendants who carried him to the medical unit were defendants 17 Salgado and Mora, that they arrived on the scene after the earlier assault, and that their role 18 was limited to transporting him to the medical unit – during which they shoved him into a 19 wall. See McClain Decl., Ex. A at 114-15. The administrative grievance Bibbs filed did not 20 mention Salgado or Mora, and did not mention their alleged wrongdoing of shoving him into 21 a wall during transport to the medical unit. See Amended Complaint, Ex. A (docket # 18). 22 The administrative grievance Bibbs filed concerned only the alleged beating and did not 23 mention that, when he was taken to the medical unit, he was shoved into a wall. The two 24 issues are separate, and presentation of the grievance about the former did not suffice to 25 fairly present the latter for prison officials to consider. Defendants have demonstrated that 26 the CDCR has no record that plaintiff ever filed an inmate appeal that (a) concerned the 27 claim about being shoved into the wall and (b) received a decision at the director's level 28 before he filed this action. 5 A prisoner must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the 1 applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal 3 court. See id. at 83-84. Bibbs did not do so for his claim that he was shoved head-first into a 4 wall by Salgado and Mora while being escorted to the medical unit. He never received a 5 director's level decision on that claim, as required for exhaustion of administrative remedies 6 by a California prisoner. Defendants have carried their burden to prove that Bibbs did not 7 satisfy the exhaustion requirement with regard to that claim. Due to the differences between 8 the unexhausted and exhausted claims, the claim against defendants Mora and Salgado can 9 be dismissed and the other claims can proceed. That is, the rest of the action need not be 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 2 dismissed based on the non-exhaustion of just one of the claims. See Jones v. Bock, 549 11 U.S. 199, 222-24 (2007) (rejecting "total exhaustion-dismissal" rule); Lira v. Herrera, 427 12 F.3d 1164, 1175 (9th Cir. 2005). The dismissal is without prejudice to him pursuing his 13 claim against defendants Salgado and Mora after he properly exhausts administrative 14 remedies for it. 15 B. Motion For Summary Judgment 16 1. 17 Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show that Legal Standards For Summary Judgment 18 there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact and [that] the moving party is entitled to 19 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A court will grant summary judgment 20 “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an 21 element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at 22 trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving 23 party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 24 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the lawsuit 25 under governing law, and a dispute about such a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is 26 such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. 27 Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). 28 Generally, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of 6 1 the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden 2 dthen shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the pleadings, and by his own affidavits, 3 or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file,’ designate ‘specific 4 facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (citations 5 omitted). 6 The court’s function on a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a disputed material fact. See 8 T.W. Elec. Serv. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). The 9 evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 7 inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the 11 nonmoving party. See id. at 631. 12 2. 13 Before turning to the merits of defendants argument, the court needs to consider the The State Of The Evidence 14 evidentiary value of the amended complaint. Rule 56(c) provides that a party asserting that a 15 fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by, among other things, affidavits or 16 declarations. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). If a matter is required or permitted to be supported 17 by a sworn declaration in writing, the requirement may be met by providing an unsworn 18 declaration if the declaration is signed by the maker as true under penalty of perjury, and 19 dated, in “substantially” the following form for a declaration executed in the United States: 20 "I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and 21 correct. Executed on (date). (Signature)." 28 U.S.C. § 1746(2). The purpose of the oath or 22 affirmation is to make certain the declarant understands “the legal significance of the 23 declarant's statements and the potential for punishment if the declarant lies.” United States v. 24 Bueno-Vargas, 383 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir.2004). A verified complaint may be used as an 25 opposing affidavit or declaration under Rule 56, as long as it is based on personal knowledge 26 and sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence. See Schroeder v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 27 454, 460 & nn.10-11 (9th Cir. 1995) (treating plaintiff’s verified complaint as opposing 28 affidavit where, even though verification not in conformity with 28 U.S.C. § 1746, plaintiff 7 1 stated under penalty of perjury that contents were true and correct, and allegations were not 2 based purely on his belief but on his personal knowledge). Here, Bibbs used the form civil 3 rights complaint, which includes on the last page the statement, "I declare under penalty of 4 perjury that the foregoing is true and correct." Amended Complaint at 4. Bibbs signed the 5 form, making the contents of the form amended complaint useable as evidence. However, 6 although Bibbs' form amended complaint is verified, the verified form only says "see the 7 attachment" in its statement of the claim. The 12-page attachment is not made under penalty 8 of perjury, and instead is signed as "respectfully submitted by" Bibbs and the inmate-helper 9 who drafted it. The attachment contains the legal argument, claims and statement of facts. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 The attachment (like the other exhibits attached to the amended complaint) has no indication 11 that it is intended to be a statement under oath. Bibbs' signature at the end of the attachment 12 that omitted the "under penalty of perjury" language is strong evidence that he did not intend 13 it to be under penalty of perjury. One certainly would have a difficult path to prove perjury if 14 one of the statements in the attachment (or any exhibit) was false. Under these 15 circumstances, the attachment is not considered to be under penalty of perjury and therefore 16 does not count as an opposing affidavit that will be considered in deciding the motion for 17 summary judgment. Defendants have argued that Bibbs' changing tale of the events between 18 the attachment to the amended complaint and his later deposition shows that the statements in 19 the former are not believable, but the divergence is just as likely reflective of the fact that he 20 knew he was under oath when he testified in his deposition and did not think he was under 21 oath at the time he signed the attachment to the pleading prepared by his inmate assistant. 22 3. 23 A prisoner has the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, including Eighth Amendment Claim 24 physical abuse by guards. Whenever prison officials stand accused of using excessive 25 physical force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the core judicial inquiry is whether 26 force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and 27 sadistically to cause harm. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992) (citing Whitley v. 28 Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 317 (1986)). In determining whether the use of force was for the 8 1 purpose of maintaining or restoring discipline, or for the malicious and sadistic purpose of 2 causing harm, a court may evaluate the need for application of force, the relationship 3 between that need and the amount of force used, the extent of any injury inflicted, the threat 4 reasonably perceived by the responsible officials, and any efforts made to temper the severity 5 of a forceful response. See Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7; see also Spain v. Procunier, 600 F.2d 6 189, 195 (9th Cir. 1979) (guards may use force only in proportion to need in each situation). 7 Applying the several Hudson factors to the evidence before the court leads to the 8 conclusion that the force used by defendants did not violate Bibbs' Eighth Amendment rights 9 and no reasonable jury could find otherwise. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 There was a need for the use of some force against Bibbs, and the amount of force 11 used was in reasonable proportion to that need. When the incident started, Bibbs had his 12 back to the officers and was ordered to submit to handcuffs; he refused the correctional 13 officers' orders to submit to handcuffs, and had turned around and moved toward an officer 14 while threatening the two officers he confronted. In response to Bibbs' actions, the officers 15 grabbed him and shoved him to the ground and then restrained the struggling inmate who 16 was resisting their efforts to subdue him. Wrestling him to the ground to subdue and 17 handcuff him was force reasonable in relation to the need for it. Bibbs does not dispute that 18 he refused to comply with orders, that he threatened the officers as he physically advanced 19 on them. He also does not dispute that, once on the ground, he was swinging his free arm 20 and kicking his legs as the officers attempted to restrain him. He has presented no evidence 21 to dispute defendants' evidence that he was not complying with orders when they grabbed 22 him and shoved him to the ground and that he continued to resist with his arm and legs once 23 on the ground. Handcuffing did not end the need for force in light of Bibbs' continued 24 physical resistance to efforts to subdue him, and leg restraints were applied. 25 The extent of the injuries inflicted was not great. Bibbs displayed his injuries for the 26 camera in a videotaped interview conducted the day after the incident. His visible injuries 27 were slight. Although Bibbs suggested in his amended complaint that he was severely 28 beaten, the videotape images belie that description such that, even if his attachment to his 9 1 amended complaint was considered as evidence, it would not raise a triable issue of fact that 2 he was severely beaten or seriously injured. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-83 3 (2007) (police officer entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity in light of 4 video evidence capturing plaintiff’s reckless driving in attempting to evade capture which 5 utterly discredits plaintiff’s claim that there was little or no actual threat to innocent 6 bystanders). This is not to say that he had no injuries, or that he did not have injuries not 7 visible (such as back pain), but only that the visible injuries were minor ones. 8 9 The threat reasonably perceived by the correctional staff was moderate but real. From the perspective of the initial two correctional officers, Bibbs was an inmate who had just United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 disobeyed repeated orders and was advancing on one of them as he made threatening 11 statements. From the perspective of the officers who came in response to the personal alarm 12 being sounded by one of the initial two officers, Bibbs was an inmate on the ground but 13 nonetheless struggling to avoid being restrained. 14 Finally, before force was used, the officers had tried to get Bibbs to submit to 15 handcuffs. Once he advanced toward an officer and uttered threatening words, there was no 16 opportunity for a cool-down period or anything other than immediate physical force to stop 17 him. There is no evidence that the use of force to subdue him was more than a measured 18 response to the situation presented by Bibbs' aggressive behavior. 19 Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Bibbs, no reasonable jury could 20 find that defendants applied force maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of 21 causing harm. Bibbs failed to establish a triable issue of fact that he was subjected to 22 excessive force by defendants. Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the 23 Eighth Amendment claim. 24 4. 25 Prisoners may not be retaliated against for exercising their right of access to the 26 courts. Schroeder v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 461 (9th Cir. 1995). "Within the prison 27 context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An 28 assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that Retaliation Claim 10 1 prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First 2 Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional 3 goal." Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005) (footnote omitted). 4 In his amended complaint, Bibbs alleged that defendants beat him in retaliation for 5 him complaining about his lack of access to the canteen. Bibbs has failed to show a triable 6 issue of fact in support of his retaliation claim. As discussed in the preceding section, the 7 undisputed evidence shows that defendants used only the force necessary to subdue the 8 inmate who was disobeying orders to submit to handcuffing, uttered a threatening statement, 9 and was advancing toward the two officers. Plaintiff has not provided any evidence that United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 defendants' actions did not reasonably advance the legitimate correctional goal of staff safety. 11 Bibbs also has failed to present any evidence that defendants used force on him because of 12 his protected conduct. In light of the absence on these essential elements, no reasonable jury 13 could find in his favor on his retaliation claim. Defendants are entitled to judgment as a 14 matter of law on the retaliation claim. 15 5. 16 The defense of qualified immunity protects "government officials . . . from liability Qualified Immunity Defense 17 for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or 18 constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 19 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). The rule of qualified immunity "'provides ample protection to all 20 but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'" Burns v. Reed, 500 21 U.S. 478, 495 (1991) (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)). 22 In Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), the Supreme Court set forth a particular 23 sequence of questions to be considered in determining whether qualified immunity exists. 24 The court must consider this threshold question: "Taken in the light most favorable to the 25 party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a 26 constitutional right?" Id. at 201. If no constitutional right was violated if the facts were as 27 alleged, the inquiry ends and defendants prevail. See id. If, however, "a violation could be 28 made out on a favorable view of the parties' submissions, the next, sequential step is to ask 11 1 whether the right was clearly established. . . . 'The contours of the right must be sufficiently 2 clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.' . . . 3 The relevant, dispositive inquiry in determining whether a right is clearly established is 4 whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the 5 situation he confronted." Id. at 201-02 (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 6 (1987)). 7 The first step under Saucier is to determine whether there was a constitutional 8 violation on the parties' submissions, taken in the light most favorable to Bibbs. As 9 discussed above, the evidence in the record does not establish an Eighth Amendment United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 violation or retaliation. The analysis therefore need not and will not proceed to the second 11 step of the Saucier analysis. Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the 12 qualified immunity defense. 13 C. 14 Defendants' Second Motion After their first motion had been pending for several months, defendants filed a 15 second motion for summary judgment and to dismiss after Bibbs failed to respond to their 16 requests for admissions ("RFAs"). Defendants urged in their second motion that Bibbs' 17 failure to respond to the RFAs meant that all the statements in the RFAs were now deemed 18 admitted by plaintiff and, with such admissions, defendants were entitled to judgment as a 19 matter of law. Although defendants' first motion for summary judgment was still pending, 20 defendants apparently felt that the admissions were of such weight that they made summary 21 judgment even more compelling. 22 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a)(3) provides that a "matter is admitted unless, 23 within 30 days after being served, the party to whom the request is directed serves on the 24 requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party 25 or its attorney." And Rule 36(b) provides that "[a] matter admitted under this rule is 26 conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn 27 or amended." Rule 36 does not require that the requesting party warn the recipient of the 28 consequences of failing to respond to the RFAs. 12 1 The absence of such a warning gives the court pause when a party is requesting that a 2 pro se opponent be deemed to have admitted things because he failed to respond to RFAs. 3 See generally Raiser v. Utah County, 409 F.3d 1243 (10th Cir. 2005) (district court abused 4 discretion in not allowing pro se litigant to amend RFA responses to which he had failed to 5 timely respond); cf. McCollough v. Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger, LLC, No. 09-35767, 6 slip op. 3117, 3134-38 (Mar. 4, 2011) (serving RFA containing false information on a 7 pro se defendant without an explanation that the requests would be deemed admitted after 30 8 days was an unfair debt collection practice). 9 Here, however, the court need not decide whether Rule 36's RFA procedure is another United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 one of those technicalities for which a pro se litigant deserves an explicit warning (like the 11 warning for summary judgment motions). Defendants have relied on the RFAs for only their 12 second summary judgment motion. As this order grants defendants' first motion for 13 summary judgment, it is not necessary to decide their second motion. The court therefore 14 declines to reach defendants' second motion for summary judgment and the subsidiary 15 question of whether RFAs sent to pro se litigants must be accompanied by a warning of the 16 consequences of failing to respond before non-responses may be deemed to be admissions. 17 CONCLUSION 18 For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment is 19 GRANTED. (Docket # 29.) The claims against defendants Salgado and Mora are dismissed 20 without prejudice to plaintiff filing an action against them if he ever complies with the 21 requirement for exhaustion of administrative remedies. Judgment will be entered in the other 22 defendants' favor and against plaintiff. In light of the foregoing, the court dismisses as 23 unnecessary the second motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. (Docket # 36.) 24 The clerk shall close the file. 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 Dated: May 17, 2011 ______________________ Marilyn Hall Patel United States District Judge 27 28 13

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?