Thomas v. State of Washington

Filing 26

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S 21 Motion for Summary Judgment signed by Hon. Brian A Tsuchida. Plaintiff's complaint against the State of Washington is DISMISSED with prejudice. (cc: Plaintiff (via USPS) and counsel for defendant (via ECF))(AE)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 4 5 6 GASKINS E. THOMAS, JR., Plaintiff, 7 8 9 10 11 v. STATE OF WASHINGTON, Case No. 2:17-cv-617-BAT ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Defendant. Defendant State of Washington moves to dismiss this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action 12 pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 on the grounds that Plaintiff Gaskins E. Thomas, Jr. has presented 13 no admissible evidence to support a civil rights complaint against it and because the State of 14 Washington is not subject to liability under § 1983. Dkt. 21. Mr. Thomas, who is proceeding 15 pro se, asked to orally respond to the motion. Dkt. 23. That request was denied. The Court 16 advised Mr. Thomas that the motion would be decided on the parties’ written submissions. The 17 Court also advised Mr. Thomas what he must do to oppose a motion for summary judgment. 18 Dkt. 24. Mr. Thomas was advised to set out specific facts in declarations, depositions, answers 19 to interrogatories, or authenticated documents, as provided in Rule 56(e), that contradict the facts 20 shown in the defendant’s declarations and documents and show that there is a genuine issue of 21 material fact for trial. Id. at 2. He was further advised that if he did not submit his own evidence 22 in opposition, summary judgment, if appropriate, would be entered against him, his case would 23 be dismissed, and there would be no trial. Id. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - 1 1 On December 20, 2017, Mr. Thomas filed a response, stating only: “I shall accept the 2 summary judgment from the court.” Dkt. 25. Because the State of Washington is immune from 3 suit under the Eleventh Amendment and is not a “person” for purposes of § 1983 and further, 4 because Mr. Thomas has provided no probative evidence to support the allegations of his 5 complaint or to contradict Defendant’s factual assertions, the Court finds that the State of 6 Washington is entitled to summary judgment. 7 8 FACTUAL BACKGROUND In April 2017, Mr. Thomas filed his civil rights lawsuit alleging a “premeditated civil 9 right violation” by the State of Washington. Dkt. 1 at 2. He alleges that in the “Summer or 10 Spring of 2014 at a state funded medical event at the Key Arena I was implanted with a bio chip 11 on the 32 tooth as I had it removed aginst [sic] my will.” Id. Mr. Thomas seeks $50 million and 12 “51% copy rights of the bio chip” and removal of the chip. Id. at 4. 13 According to counsel for the State of Washington, the Office of the Attorney General 14 conducted a thorough investigation and found no evidence that the State of Washington was 15 involved in the events that took place at Key Arena during the timeframe alleged in Mr. Thomas’ 16 complaint. Dkt. 22, Declaration of Alexander Foster Brown. Based on an October 23, 2014 17 Seattle Times Newspaper article, the only event held during the timeframe alleged in Mr. 18 Thomas’ complaint was a four day event held by the City of Seattle and King County. Id., 19 Exhibit 2. According to the newspaper account, over 500 volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses, 20 optometrists, and other health-care professionals worked at the event. Id. There is no evidence 21 that any state agencies or state actors were present at the event. 22 23 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - 2 1 On September 8, 2017, the State of Washington served discovery requests on Mr. 2 Thomas. Dkt. 22, Foster Brown Decl., Exhibit 1. Mr. Thomas did not answer the discovery 3 requests. Id. 4 SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD 5 Summary judgment should be granted where “the movant shows that there is no genuine 6 dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. 7 R. Civ. P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Courts apply a 8 burden-shifting analysis in determining whether to grant or deny a motion for summary 9 judgment. Where the non-moving party―Mr. Thomas― bears the burden of proving the claim 10 at trial, the moving party―the State of Washington―can meet its initial burden in two ways: (1) 11 by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the non-moving party’s case; or (1) by 12 demonstrating that the non-moving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an 13 element essential to that party’s case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. 14 Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323–24; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). 15 If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party 16 to produce sufficient evidence to establish that a genuine dispute as to a material fact actually 17 exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non18 moving party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials in the pleadings but must set forth 19 specific facts showing that there exists a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 20 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). 21 A plaintiff must “produce at least some significant probative evidence tending to support” 22 the allegations in the complaint. Smolen v. Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, 921 F.2d 959, 963 (9th Cir. 23 1990). ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - 3 1 2 DISCUSSION To sustain a civil rights action under § 1983, a plaintiff must show (1) that he suffered a 3 violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) that the 4 violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state or federal law. See 5 Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Thus, a plaintiff may only maintain an 6 action under section 1983 for violations of constitutional rights performed by “person[s] acting 7 under color of state law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 8 Mr. Thomas’ cause of action for monetary and injunctive relief for violation of his 9 constitutional rights can only be brought via 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Azul–Pacifico, Inc. v. City of 10 Los Angeles, 973 F.2d 704, 705 (9th Cir.1992); see also Bank of Lake Tahoe v. Bank of America, 11 318 F.3d 914, 917 (9th Cir.2003) (claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against application 12 of state law on constitutional grounds, even though not expressly pleaded under § 1983, are 13 required to be brought under that provision). 14 Mr. Thomas has brought his constitutional claim against only one defendant – the State 15 of Washington. However, Mr. Thomas has provided no evidence tending to support his 16 allegation that the State of Washington or any of its agencies or employees implanted a chip in 17 his tooth. In fact, there is no evidence that a chip was actually implanted in his tooth. 18 Furthermore, under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, a state is not 19 subject to suit by its own citizens in federal court. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662–63 20 (1974). A state agency, as an arm of the state, is also immune from suit in federal court under 21 the Eleventh Amendment. Howlett v. Rose, 496 U.S. 356, 365 (1990); Will v. Michigan Dep't of 22 State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989). 23 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - 4 1 An entity that has Eleventh Amendment immunity also is not a “person” within the 2 meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Howlett, 496 U.S. at 365. States, state agencies, and state 3 officials sued in their official capacity are not persons under § 1983. Will, 491 U.S. at 66; 4 Maldonado v. Harris, 370 F.3d 945, 951 (9th Cir.2004). 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against states, 5 therefore, are legally frivolous. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 641 (9th Cir.1989). 6 Because the State of Washington is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment 7 and is not a “person” for purposes of § 1983, Mr. Thomas’ claim is barred as a matter of law. 8 There is also no probative evidence to support Mr. Thomas’ allegations or to contradict 9 Defendant’s factual assertions. 10 11 CONCLUSION The Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 21). Plaintiff’s 12 complaint against the State of Washington is DISMISSED with prejudice. The Clerk shall 13 provide a copy of this Order to Plaintiff and to counsel for Defendant. 14 DATED this 2nd day of January, 2018. A 15 BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA United States Magistrate Judge 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT - 5

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