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Fischer v. Griffith

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 23, 2015

DANIEL GRIFFITH et al., Defendants.


MARSHA J. PECHMAN, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Scott Frakes's Objections (Dkt. No. 32) to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Tsuchida (Dkt. No. 31) regarding Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (Dkt. Nos. 16, 28). Having considered the Objections, the Report and Recommendation, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff Frederick Fischer's Response (Dkt. No. 18), Defendants' Reply (Dkt. No. 21), Defendants' Supplementary Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. No. 29), Defendant's Reply (Dkt. No. 30), and all related papers, the Court hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation with respect to the denial of summary judgment and DECLINES TO ADOPT the Report and Recommendation with respect to leave to amend Plaintiff's Complaint.


Because the Objections filed relate solely to the First Amendment retaliation claim on which Judge Tsuchida is recommending denying summary judgment, the background discussed here is limited to facts supporting that claim. In the state of California in 1974, Plaintiff Fischer was sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder. (Dkt. No. 16 at 2.) In 1976, Mr. Fischer was transferred to the Washington Department of Corrections for two reasons about which there is no dispute: proximity to family members and concerns for his safety because he had testified in a mafia trial. (See Dkt. No. 19 at 118; id. at 21-22.)

During his stay in Washington custody, Mr. Fischer litigated a separate claim against Defendant Correctional Officer Griffith in which he alleged that Mr. Griffith was behind a beating Mr. Fischer suffered at the hands of another inmate. See Fischer v. Griffith, No. C10-0106-JCC, 2011 WL 6013548 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 2, 2011). In support of this suit, Mr. Fischer made public records requests regarding Mr. Griffith. (See Dkt. No. 17, Ex. A at 6-9.) He also grieved various examples of subsequent, related conduct by Defendants. (See, e.g., Dkt. No. 17, Ex. C at 15-16.)

In January 2013, Mr. Fischer was transferred from the custody of the Washington Department of Corrections to the California prison system (see Dkt. No. 16 at 2), ostensibly to remedy a man-days imbalance between California and Washington and because Mr. Griffith no longer received visitors in Washington. (See Dkt. No. 28 at 2.) As Judge Tsuchida's Report and Recommendation notes, Plaintiff has submitted evidence that these reasons were pretextual: the rationales given for his transfer shifted over time and prison officials refused to send California other prisoners in Mr. Fischer's place even when it was suggested that they would be more appropriate candidates for transfer. (See Report and Recommendation, Dkt. No 31 at 6-12.) Judge Tsuchida issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommends denying summary judgment with respect to the First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Scott Frakes, Deputy Director of Prisons, granting it in other respects, and granting Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint in conformity with the Report and Recommendation.

Defendant Frakes now objects to the recommendation to deny summary judgment on the First Amendment retaliation claim against him. (Dkt. No. 32 at 1-3.) He also argues that he should be permitted leave to file a second motion for summary judgment in the event that Plaintiff is permitted to file an amended complaint narrowing the claims to First Amendment retaliation. (Dkt. No. 32 at 3.)


I. Legal Standard

The Court reviews de novo the portions of a Report and Recommendation to which there is an objection. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1).

Federal Rule 56(a) provides that the 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 determining whether a factual dispute requiring trial exists, the court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). All material facts alleged by the nonmoving party are assumed to be true, and all inferences must be drawn in that party's favor. Davis v. Team Elec. Co., 520 F.3d 1080, 1088 (9th Cir. 2008).

A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. There is no genuine issue for trial "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

II. First Amendment Retaliation

Defendant Frakes argues the Report and Recommendation erred by finding a disputed issue of material fact with respect to three elements of a First Amendment retaliation claim. As Judge Tsuchida correctly noted, a First Amendment retaliation claim in the prison context requires the plaintiff to prove: (1) the state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and ...

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