Castro v. Clovis Unified Sch. Dist., 1:19-cv-00821-DAD-SKO

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Writing for the CourtDale A. Drozd, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation604 F.Supp.3d 944
Parties Andy E. CASTRO, Plaintiff, v. CLOVIS UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.
Docket Number1:19-cv-00821-DAD-SKO
Decision Date24 May 2022

604 F.Supp.3d 944

Andy E. CASTRO, Plaintiff,

No. 1:19-cv-00821-DAD-SKO

United States District Court, E.D. California.

Signed May 24, 2022

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John William Hastrup, Fresno, CA, for Plaintiff.

Anthony N. DeMaria, DeMaria Law Firm, Fresno, CA, for Defendants Clovis Unified School District, Stephanie Hanks, Andrew Bolls.



This matter is before the court on the motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of defendants Clovis Unified School District, Stephanie Hanks, and Andrew Bolls. (Doc. No. 45.) Pursuant to General Order No. 617 addressing the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, defendants’ motion was taken under submission on the papers. (Doc. No. 46.) For the reasons explained below, the court will grant defendants’ motion for summary judgment.


Plaintiff is a former Clovis High School student who graduated in 2019. (UF at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff was scheduled to attend his graduation ceremony on May 30, 2019. (Id. at ¶ 3.) On that same day, plaintiff posted to his personal Twitter page a picture of another classmate with the caption "nigger." (Id. ) Plaintiff posted the tweet while on the school's campus and during school hours. (Id. ) The classmate featured in the picture plaintiff posted is African American. (Id. ) Another student saw the tweet and contacted defendant Stephanie Hanks—the site principal of Clovis High School—to inform her of the tweet and how it had upset the reporting student. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Plaintiff and his parents were called into defendant Hanks’ office, and plaintiff was provided with his high school graduation diploma and informed that he would not be permitted to walk at his graduation ceremony as a result of his May 30, 2019 online behavior. (Id. at ¶ 5.)

Plaintiff asserts four causes of action in his first amended complaint ("FAC"): (1) violation of his First Amendment right to free speech; (2) violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process; (3) violation of his right to free speech under Article I, § 2 of the California Constitution ; and (4) violation of his right to free speech under California Education Code § 48950(a). (Doc. No. 27.)

On August 9, 2021, defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 45.) Plaintiff did not initially file an opposition to that motion.3 Nonetheless,

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defendants filed a reply in support of their motion on September 13, 2021. (Doc. No. 49.) Subsequently, the court ordered counsel for both parties to appear at a specially set hearing on April 19, 2022, in order to address why plaintiff's counsel had not filed an opposition or statement of non-opposition to defendants’ pending motion for summary judgment as is required pursuant to Local Rule 230(c). (Doc. No. 54.) Counsel for both parties appeared via video at the April 19, 2022 hearing. (Doc. No. 55.) At that hearing, plaintiff's counsel confirmed that plaintiff wished to proceed with this action, and pursuant to the agreement of the parties, the court set a new briefing schedule with respect to the pending motion for summary judgment. (Id. ) Counsel on behalf of plaintiff finally filed his opposition to the pending motion on April 29, 2022. (Doc. No. 56.) Defendants filed a renewed reply thereto on May 12, 2022.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party "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 summary judgment practice, the moving party "initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig. , 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ). The moving party may accomplish this by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," or by showing that such materials "do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, as plaintiff does here, "the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Oracle Corp. , 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex , 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548 ); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, 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. See Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of summary judgment ... is satisfied." Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually

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does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits or admissible discovery material in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) ; Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 586 n.11, 106 S.Ct. 1348 ; Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA , 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002) ("A trial court can only consider admissible evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment."). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ; T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n , 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). The opposing party also must demonstrate the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ; Wool v. Tandem Computs. Inc. , 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv. , 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.’ " Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (citations omitted).

"In evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact," the court draws "all inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party." Walls v. Cent. Contra Costa Cnty. Transit Auth. , 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011). It is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines , 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244–45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd , 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts ... [w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’ " Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (citation omitted).


A. Violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment Right to Free Speech

Plaintiff's first cause of action alleges that defendants’ actions violated his right to free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. (FAC at 4.) In their motion for summary judgment, defendants argue that they were entitled to regulate plaintiff's speech because that speech took place on school grounds, had the potential to cause disruptions at school, and invaded the rights of other students. (Doc. No. 45-1 at 5.) Defendants contend that not only was plaintiff's speech hateful and adversely impacting other students, but defendant Hanks "had a reasonable expectation that Plaintiff's words would cause further disruption both before and during the graduation...

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