United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
CAMERON G. ROUPE, Plaintiff,
JAMES STRICKLAND and ADAM VEACH, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT BASED ON QUALIFIED IMMUNITY
JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity (Dkt. No. 128), the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of the Honorable Brian A. Tsuchida, United States Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 140), Plaintiff's response to the motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 142), Plaintiff's objections to the R&R (Dkt. No. 143), and Defendants' reply (Dkt. No. 145). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing, the R&R, and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion and adopts the R&R for the reasons explained herein.
In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, Plaintiff Cameron G. Roupe alleges that Defendant Strickland violated his constitutional rights when he unlawfully tased him in the scrotum and that Defendant Veach violated his constitutional rights when he stood by and failed to report Defendant Strickland's use of the taser. (Dkt. No. 9.) Defendants move for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. (Dkt. No. 128.)
The factual background of the case is discussed in depth in the R&R (Dkt. No. 140 at 1-7) and the Court will not rehearse those facts here. However, the R&R does not discuss some of the details of Plaintiff's tasering claim that are relevant for the instant motion. Specifically, Defendants' claim of qualified immunity must be assessed in light of Plaintiff's claim that Defendant Strickland's decision to tase him was a direct response to a defiant comment by Plaintiff, and was not intended to address any physical threat posed by Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 9 at 10-11.) Plaintiff alleges that, in response to his comment, Defendant Strickland "shut the curtain that surrounded Plaintiff's restraint bed, pulled out his taser, pointed the tazer at Plaintiff's crotch area and fired the tazer, striking Plaintiff on his scrotum." (Dkt. No. 9 at 11.) Plaintiff further alleges that the tazering "left serious, severe, red and blue, puffy marks and abrasions upon [his] scrotum." (Ex. 1., Dkt. No. 142 at 14.)
A. Standard of Review
This Court reviews the record de novo when considering objections to a magistrate judge's R&R. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this Court must interpret his complaint and objections liberally. See Bernhardt v. Los Angeles County, 339 F.3d 920, 925 (9th Cir. 2003). Here, the R&R was issued before Plaintiff responded to the motion for summary judgment. The document that Plaintiff filed as an "objection" to the R&R (Dkt. No. 143) does not raise any new objections, and instead asks the Court to decline to accept the R&R for reasons that are addressed in his response to the motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 142.) The Court therefore considers Plaintiff's response to the motion (Dkt. No. 142) as an objection to the R&R.
B. Summary Judgment
Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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(a). In making such a determination, the Court must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn there from in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. '" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. Conclusory, non-specific statements in affidavits are not sufficient, and "missing facts" will not be "presumed." Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888-89 (1990). Ultimately, summary judgment is appropriate against a party who "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
C. Qualified Immunity Standard
Government officials acting under color of law are shielded from civil liability for constitutional violations unless every reasonable official in the defendant official's position would have recognized the conduct in question to constitute a constitutional violation.
Qualified immunity shields government officials from "liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). A right is clearly established if the "contours of the right [are] sufficiently clear that [every] reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. This is not to say that an official action is protected by qualified immunity unless the very action in question has previously been held unlawful; but it is to say that in the light of ...