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Guion v. Spurlock

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 23, 2014

CURTIS GUION, # 129917, Plaintiff,
v.
SPURLOCK, Correctional Officer, WITZ, Correctional Officer, DANFORTH, Correctional Officer, SOLANO, Mail Room Correctional Officer BROWN, Mail Room Correctional Officer, TRAVIS TRANI, Warden, SEAN FOSTER, Associate Warden, R. CORDOVA, Laundry Lieutenant, CUTCHER, Sergeant, GROOMS, Correctional Officer, MAHER, Correctional Officer, CASADY, Correctional Officer, WHITE, Correctional Officer, OLIVETTE, Correctional Officer, MISTY LOGAN, Captain, A. CORTEZ, Correctional Officer, PEEK, Correctional Officer, VIGIL, Correctional Officer, PRINNS, Sergeant, FINAGGAN, Correctional Officer, HALVERSON, Correctional Officer, CHAVEZ, Correctional Officer, TRUJILLO, Correctional Officer, BENSKO, Correctional Officer, BUTERO, Sergeant, T. TRUJILLO, Sergeant, D. RAYMOND, Sergeant, BARBERO, Captain, R. RICHARDSON, Captain, J. OLSEN, Case Manager 3/Lieutenant, L. LAMPELA, Dr., Head Administrator of Health, L. MAIFIELD, Major, GILBERT, Correctional Officer, MAHONEY, Correctional Officer, P. ARCHULETA, Correctional Officer, J.R. ADAMS, Correctional Officer, K. MILLER, Correctional Officer, MONTOYA, Correctional Officer, FAIRBAIRN, Captain, P. PERSONS, Lieutenant, MORRIS, Lieutenant, WALLACE, Lieutenant, SAULS, Correctional Officer, FIELDS, Correctional Officer, SIMS, Case Manager/Lieutenant, TAVNER, Lieutenant, LITTLE, Lieutenant, ANDRIELLO, Correctional Officer, T. WIXTON, Sergeant, MEYER, Correctional Officer, YOUNGER, Sergeant, BLAKE, Correctional Officer, JAMES FALK, Warden, KEVIN MILYARD, Deputy Director of Prisons, and LARRY REID, Deputy Director of Prisons. Defendants.

ORDER TO DISMISS IN PART AND TO DRAW CASE

LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff, Curtis Guion, is in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canón City, Colorado. Mr. Guion initiated this action by filing a Prisoner Complaint asserting a deprivation of his constitutional rights pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

On March 10, 2014, Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland reviewed the Complaint and determined that it was deficient because Mr. Guion failed to allege the personal participation of the Defendants in a deprivation of his constitutional rights. Magistrate Judge Boland directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint within thirty days of the March 10 Order. Mr. Guion filed a "Motion to File Amended Complaint" on April 10, 2014. (ECF No. 12). On April 16, 2014, he filed a Letter with the Court asserting an additional claim for relief. (ECF No. 13). The Court construes these two documents liberally and together as the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

Mr. Guion has been granted leave to proceed pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(I), the Court must dismiss the action if Mr. Guion's claims are frivolous or malicious. A legally frivolous claim is one in which the plaintiff asserts the violation of a legal interest that clearly does not exist or asserts facts that do not support an arguable claim. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Subsection (e)(2)(B)(iii) of § 1915 requires a court to dismiss at any time an action that seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

The Court must construe the Amended Complaint liberally because Mr. Guion is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not act as an advocate for pro se litigants. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss this action in part and draw the remainder to a presiding judge and, if appropriate, to a magistrate judge.

I. Analysis of Claims

A. First Claim for Relief

Mr. Guion alleges in the Amended Complaint that beginning on January 3, 2012, while he was incarcerated at the Sterling Correctional Facility (SCF), and continuing through his transfer to Centennial Correctional Facility (CCF), and to his current placement at the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP), the Defendants have conspired to murder him and his family and friends, and have threatened his family and friends so they will cease communications with the Plaintiff. In support of his first claim, Mr. Guion alleges that SCF correctional officers (Defendants Gilbert, Mahoney, Archuleta, and Adams), CCF correctional officers (Defendants Montoya and Morris), and CSP correctional officers (Defendants Spurlock, Witz, Cutcher, Grooms, White, Casady, and Maher) spread rumors throughout each facility's inmate population that Plaintiff is a "snitch" and that unidentified prison officials have given inmates shanks for the purpose of stabbing the Plaintiff. He alleges that Defendants Vigil, Cortez, Peek, Olivette, Finaggan, Trujillo, Danforth, Prinns, Chavez, Halverson, and Richardson were "made aware of this conspiracy" during a confidential meeting in July 2013. (ECF No. 12, at 8). Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants Lt. Wallace, Lt. Tavner, Lt. Little, Captain Fairbairn, Associate Warden Foster, Warden Falk, Warden Trani, and DOC Deputy Directors Milyard and Reid, failed to take appropriate remedial action after he notified them about the alleged conspiracy to murder him.

Mr. Guion further alleges that after he was transferred to SCF, Defendant Miller filed false disciplinary charges against him for threatening a nurse, which resulted in a disciplinary conviction and the loss of privileges, including use of the telephone.

1. Failure to Protect

"[P]rison officials have a duty [under the Eighth Amendment] to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (quotations omitted). The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has held that labeling an inmate a "snitch" or otherwise inciting other inmates to harm an inmate states an Eighth Amendment violation, regardless of whether the inmate is ever actually physically harmed. See, e.g., Benefield v. McDowall, 241 F.3d 1267, 1271-72 (10th Cir. 2001) (holding that it is clearly established law that labeling an inmate a snitch and informing other inmates of that label with knowledge of the obvious risk of danger associated with that label violates the Eighth Amendment even though the inmate is never actually harmed; "a violation of the Eighth Amendment does not turn on the type [of] relief sought" and "may be implicated not only to physical injury, but also by the infliction of psychological harm"); Brown v. Narvais, No. 07-6120, 265 F.Appx. 734, 735-36 (10th Cir. 2008) (unpublished) (allegation that defendant disclosed plaintiff's status as a child molester knowing such label would subject the plaintiff to serious bodily harm stated an Eighth Amendment violation even though the plaintiff was never actually physically attacked); Johnson-Bey v. Ray, No. 01-3382, 38 F.Appx. 507, 510 (10th Cir. 2002) (unpublished) (plaintiff's allegations that correctional officer intentionally told another inmate that plaintiff had tried to set him up for a disciplinary violation in order to place plaintiff in danger stated an Eighth Amendment violation; "[t]he fact that plaintiff suffered no physical injury resulting from the officer's alleged action, although relevant to the issue of damages, does not require dismissal") (citation omitted). Accordingly, Plaintiff's allegations state an arguable Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Gilbert, Mahoney, Archuleta, Adams, Montoya, Morris, Spurlock, Witz, Cutcher, Grooms, White, Casady, and Maher.

However, Plaintiff does not allege specific facts to show that any of the other named Defendants personally participated in the alleged Eighth Amendment violation. Mr. Guion was warned in the March 10 Order that personal participation is an essential allegation in a civil rights action. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant's participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993); see also Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1200-1201 (10th Cir. 2010) ("[D]efendant-supervisors may be liable under § 1983 where an affirmative' link exists between the unconstitutional acts by their subordinates and their adoption of any plan or policy...-express or otherwise-showing their authorization or approval of such misconduct.'") (quoting Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371 (1976)). A supervisor defendant may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his subordinates on a theory of respondeat superior. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009).

Mr. Guion cannot maintain his first claim for relief against Defendants Vigil, Cortez, Peek, Olivette, Finaggan, Trujillo, Halverson, and Richardson, Lt. Wallace, Lt. Tavner, Lt. Little, Captain Fairbairn, Associate Warden Foster, Warden Falk, Warden Trani, and DOC Deputy Directors Milyard and Reid, solely on the basis that he notified those Defendants about threats to his safety, but the prison officials failed to take appropriate remedial action or otherwise denied his grievances. The "denial of a grievance, by itself without any connection to the violation of constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983." Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th Cir. 2009); see also Whitington v. Ortiz, No. 07-1425, 307 F.Appx. 179, 193 (10th Cir. Jan. 13, 2009) (unpublished) (stating that "the denial of the grievances alone is insufficient to establish personal participation in the alleged constitutional violations.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Davis v. Ark. Valley Corr. Facility, No. 02-1486, 99 F.Appx. 838, 843 (10th Cir. May 20, 2004) (unpublished) (sending "correspondence [to high-ranking prison official] outlining [a] complaint... without more, does not sufficiently implicate the [supervisory official] under § 1983"). Mr. Guion does not allege facts to show that Defendants Vigil, Cortez, Peek, Olivette, Finaggan, Trujillo, Halverson, and Richardson, Lt. Wallace, Lt. Tavner, Lt. Little, Captain Fairbairn, Associate Warden Foster, Warden Falk, Warden Trani, and DOC Deputy Directors Milyard and Reid were involved directly in the alleged Eighth Amendment violation. Because Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not contain any other allegations against Defendants Vigil, Cortez, Peek, Olivette, Finaggan, Trujillo, Halverson and Richardson, Lt. Wallace, Lt. Tavner, Lt. Little, Captain Fairbairn, Warden Falk, and DOC Deputy Directors Milyard and Reid, those Defendants are improper parties to this action and will be dismissed.

Finally, Mr. Guion does not allege any specific facts to show that Defendants Sauls, Meyer, Blake, Younger, Wixton, Fields, Andriello, Sims, Trujillo, Olsen, Lampela, Persons, or Mailfield acted with deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm to Plaintiff's safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Plaintiff's vague and conclusory assertions that all of the Defendants conspired to murder him and threatened his family and friends so they will cease communications with the Plaintiff are insufficient to state an arguable claim for relief. See Gee v. Pacheco, 627 F.3d 1178, 1191 (10th Cir. 2010) (vague and conclusory allegations are not actionable under § 1983); Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110 (vague and conclusory allegations need not be accepted by the court). Because Plaintiff does not allege specific factual ...


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