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Yessenia Cabrera-Diaz and L.D v. Penn Kidder Campus Jim Thorpe Area School District

February 11, 2011

YESSENIA CABRERA-DIAZ AND L.D., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PENN KIDDER CAMPUS JIM THORPE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Malachy Mannion. (Doc. 26.) It recommends granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 22), in full. The plaintiffs object to the report and recommendation. For the reasons explained below, the report and recommendation will be adopted and summary judgment granted in favor of the defendants.

I. Background

The facts of this case are described fully in the magistrate judge's report. The plaintiffs do not point out any specific error with the magistrate judge's recitation of the facts,*fn1 so they are assumed to correctly state the facts in evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Briefly, L.D. and Cabrera-Diaz (mother of minor child L.D.) filed this action against Jim Thorpe Area School District, a teacher, and a principal at the school L.D. attended. The plaintiffs brought various discrimination, hostile environment, and retaliation claims against the defendants based on alleged actions taken against L.D. while she was a student. The defendants move for summary judgment, and the magistrate judge's report recommends that summary judgment be granted. The plaintiffs object to the report and recommendation.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard for Reviewing a Magistrate Judge's Report

Where objections to the magistrate judge's report are filed, the court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

B. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See 2D Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256--57. The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

C. The Objections Do Not Merit De Novo Review of the Entire Record

In their brief opposing the plaintiffs' objections to the report and recommendation, the defendants argue that because the plaintiffs fail to specifically object to the report and recommendation, de novo review is not triggered. They are correct.

Under 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1), within fourteen days after being served with a copy of a report and recommendation, "any party may serve and file written objections to such proposed findings and recommendations as provided by rules of court. A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." (emphasis added). To triggerde novoreview, the ...


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