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Dawson v. Medina

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 30, 2014

JAMES RALPH DAWSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
PAUL AUDET; DONALD BRIGHTWELL; and ANGEL MEDINA, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTONS SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARCIA S. KRIEGER, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on motions from both parties. Mr. Dawson filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (#84) and supporting Brief (#85), the Defendants' responded (#91), and Mr. Dawson replied (#94). Defendants' also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#86).

I. ISSUES PRESENTED

Mr. Dawson, a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections ("CDOC"), brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983.[1] The Defendants are CDOC employees, and all of Mr. Dawson's claims against Defendants relate to his incarceration at the Limon Correctional Facility (LCF). Specifically, Mr. Dawson asserts that: (1) Mr. Audet terminated Mr. Dawson from his prison job in retaliation for Mr. Dawson's threat to file a grievance; (2) Mr. Brightwell retaliated against Mr. Dawson for filing a grievance against Mr. Audet; and (3) Mr. Medina impeded Mr. Dawson's access to the courts.

Mr. Dawson and the Defendants each move for summary judgment on all of Mr. Dawson's claims.

II. MATERIAL FACTS

Based upon the evidence submitted by the parties, [2] the material facts are rather straight forward. The Court views the submissions in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Although both sides seek summary judgment here, for purposes of expediency, the Court generally construes the facts in the light most favorable to Mr. Dawson, unless otherwise noted.

Mr. Dawson's retaliation claims against Mr. Audet and Mr. Brightwell relate to his termination from his prison job in the LCF recreation department. While working in the LCF recreation department on September 30, 2011, Mr. Dawson approached Mr. Audet, who was supervising the recreation staff and offenders, and requested to return to his living unit to make a legal phone call. Mr. Audet refused Mr. Dawson's request because his scheduled shift was not complete. In response, Mr. Dawson told Mr. Audet that he was going to file a grievance against him. Mr. Audet then directed Mr. Dawson to return to his living unit and stated that he would be released from his recreation department job. Mr. Audet filed an incident report stating that "[Mr.] Dawson refused to work in Recreation." On the same day, Mr. Dawson completed a Step One Grievance Form ("the grievance") complaining about Mr. Audet's conduct. He submitted the grievance to Mr. Brightwell that same day.[3]

Mr. Brightwell was responsible for making a computer entry reflecting Mr. Dawson's termination from his job. Mr. Dawson has submitted evidence indicating that Mr. Brightwell made that entry on or about October 1, 2011. (Mr. Brightwell's affidavit regarding the matter does not recite a particular date.) Mr. Brightwell initially classified Mr. Dawson as "Unassigned-Complete, " a status that generally does not result in any loss of inmate privileges. However, Mr. Brightwell contends that he later realized that this was a "typographical error" and corrected Mr. Dawson's status to "Unassigned-30, " a code used by CDOC to designate offenders who have been terminated from a job and, as a result, are required to remain unassigned for thirty days before becoming eligible for a new job. Inmates classified as "Unassigned-30" also lose a variety of privileges including single-cell status, additional time outside their cells, etc.

Mr. Dawson's claim against Mr. Medina relates to a scheduling policy implemented by Mr. Medina as the Warden of LCF. The scheduling policy limited the amount of time unassigned offenders could spend outside of their cells on a daily basis. From October 15, 2011 to November 16, 2011, Mr. Dawson was allowed out of his cell for 30 minutes daily, Monday through Friday after 6:00 p.m. but was often unable to reach his lawyer during this time because he had to spend his time standing in line to either shower, access legal help or material from fellow inmates, access the unit office to obtain legal access kites, cleaning supplies, and communicate with staff. Mr. Dawson argues that this limited time impeded his ability to successfully pursue an appeal to Colorado Supreme Court by precluding him from learning about additional arguments he could have raised.

Both sides now seek summary judgment on all claims by/against them. The Court addresses their specific arguments in its discussion. Mr. Dawson did not respond to the Defendants' summary judgment motion, but the Court treats Mr. Dawson's reply in support of his own motion as his response to the Defendants' motion as well.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure facilitates the entry of a judgment only if no trial is necessary. See White v. York Intern. Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995). Summary adjudication is authorized when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law governs what facts are material and what issues must be determined. It also specifies the elements that must be proved for a given claim or defense, sets the standard of proof, and identifies the party with the burden of proof. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. v. Producer's Gas Co., 870 F.2d 563, 565 (10th Cir. 1989). A factual dispute is "genuine" and summary judgment is precluded if the evidence presented in support of and opposition to the motion is so contradictory that, if presented at trial, a judgment could enter for either party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a summary judgment motion, a court views all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, thereby favoring the right to a trial. See Garrett v. Hewlett Packard Co., 305 F.3d 1210, 1213 (10th Cir. 2002).

If the movant has the burden of proof on a claim or defense, the movant must establish every element of its claim or defense by sufficient, competent evidence. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). Once the moving party has met its burden, to avoid summary judgment the responding party must present sufficient, competent, contradictory evidence to establish a genuine factual dispute. See Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d 887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991); Perry v. Woodward, 199 F.3d 1126, 1131 (10th Cir. 1999). If there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, a trial is required. ...


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