Valson v. Mesa et al

Filing 24

ORDER granting 16 Motion for Summary Judgment as to Joseph Mesa. Signed by Chief Judge Gloria M. Navarro on 9/29/2017. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - JM)

Download PDF
1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 3 VJ VALSON, 4 Plaintiff, 5 vs. 6 JOSEPH MESA, et al., 7 Defendants. 8 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No.: 2:15-cv-00082-GMN-NJK ORDER 9 Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant 10 11 Joseph Mesa (“Defendant”). (ECF No. 16). Plaintiff VJ Valson (“Plaintiff”)1 filed a response, 12 (ECF No. 20), and Defendant filed a reply, (ECF No. 21). For the reasons discussed below, 13 Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. 14 I. BACKGROUND On March 3, 2014, Plaintiff drove his 1974 Chevy Blazer to the State of Nevada Parole 15 16 and Probation Office on 215 E. Bonanza Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada. (See Compl. at 4, ECF 17 No. 9). While at the office, Plaintiff alleges that he had a “verbal disagreement” with his parole 18 officer, Defendant Joseph Mesa. (Id.). As a result of this exchange, Plaintiff alleges that 19 Defendant arrested him without probable cause and had his vehicle towed, despite his uncle 20 being available to drive the vehicle home. (Id.). According to Defendant, however, he arrested 21 Plaintiff for violating the terms of Plaintiff’s parole and had the vehicle towed because it was 22 unattended. (See Def.’s MSJ 6:11–17, ECF No. 16; see also Parole and Probation Report, Ex. 1 23 to Def.’s MSJ, ECF No. 16-1). 24 25 In light of Plaintiff’s status as a pro se litigant, the Court has liberally construed his filings, holding them to standards less stringent than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). 1 Page 1 of 5 1 On December 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Complaint before this Court, alleging three 2 causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See Compl.). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges: (1) the 3 towing of his vehicle violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United 4 States Constitution; (2) the decision to tow the vehicle violated his First Amendment right to be 5 free from retaliation; and (3) the impoundment of his vehicle resulted in an excessive fine in 6 violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id.). 7 II. 8 9 LEGAL STANDARD The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the 10 affidavits, if any, show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant 11 is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those that 12 may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 13 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable 14 jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id. “Summary judgment is inappropriate if 15 reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict 16 in the nonmoving party’s favor.” Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P’ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th 17 Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Shumway, 199 F.3d 1093, 1103–04 (9th Cir. 1999)). A 18 principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported 19 claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–24 (1986). 20 In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When 21 the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come 22 forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went 23 uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing 24 the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” C.A.R. Transp. 25 Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In Page 2 of 5 1 contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the 2 moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an 3 essential element of the nonmoving party’s case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving 4 party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party’s case 5 on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323– 6 24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and 7 the court need not consider the nonmoving party’s evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 8 398 U.S. 144, 159–60 (1970). 9 If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing 10 party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. 11 Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, 12 the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is 13 sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the 14 parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors 15 Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid 16 summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual 17 data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go 18 beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing 19 competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. 20 At summary judgment, a court’s function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth 21 but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The 22 evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in 23 his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not 24 significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See id. at 249–50. 25 Page 3 of 5 1 2 III. DISCUSSION Defendant argues that he is entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity 3 grounds. (Def.’s MSJ 3:14–15, ECF No. 16). “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects 4 government officials ‘from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate 5 clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have 6 known.’” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 817–18 (1982). The Court’s inquiry turns on the 7 “objective legal reasonableness of the action, assessed in light of the legal rules that were 8 clearly established at the time it was taken.” Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 614 (1999). 9 A right is “clearly established” if it is “sufficiently clear that every reasonable official 10 would have understood that what he is doing violates that right.” Reichle v. Howards, 132 S. 11 Ct. 2088, 2093 (2012). In other words, “existing precedent must have placed the statutory or 12 constitutional question beyond debate.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011). The 13 plaintiff “bears the burden of proving that the rights she claims were ‘clearly established’ at the 14 time of the alleged violation.” Moran v. State of Washington, 147 F.3d 839, 844 (9th Cir. 15 1998); see also Shoshone-Banncock Tribes v. Fish & Game Comm’n, Idaho, 42 F.3d 1278, 16 1285 (9th Cir. 1994). 17 Here, Defendant argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity because “[t]here is no 18 ‘clearly established’ right to not having one’s illegally parked car towed, even if efforts have 19 been made to have the car retrieved by another person.” (Def.’s Suppl. Resp. 3:15–17, ECF No. 20 23). In support of this assertion, Defendant cites to an image indicating that the parole office 21 parking is a tow away zone. (See Parking Sign, Ex. A to Def.’s Suppl. Resp). Plaintiff does not 22 dispute that the vehicle was left parked at the probation office. (See Pl.’s Resp. at 2, ECF No. 23 20). Accordingly, and based on the record, the Court finds that Defendant’s decision to tow the 24 vehicle was justified under Defendant’s community caretaking functions. See, e.g., Miranda v. 25 Page 4 of 5 1 City of Cornelius, 429 F.3d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 2005); see also South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 2 U.S. 364, 369 (1976). 3 Even absent such a finding, the ultimate burden is on Plaintiff to show that the alleged 4 rights were clearly established at the time of the incident. Moran, 147 F.3d at 844. Plaintiff has 5 provided no factual or legal evidence demonstrating that Defendant violated a clearly 6 established right in towing the vehicle parked at the probation office.2 Accordingly, the Court 7 finds Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. 8 IV. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgement, (ECF 9 10 CONCLUSION No. 16), is GRANTED. 29 DATED this _____ day of September, 2017. 11 12 13 ___________________________________ Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge United States District Judge 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 On August 25, 2017, out of an abundance of caution and in light of Plaintiff’s pro se status, the Court ordered additional briefing on the qualified immunity issue. Plaintiff failed to respond to the Court’s Order. 2 Page 5 of 5

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?