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Shapiro v. Chapdelaine

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 29, 2015

JOHN CHAPDELAINE, in his official capacity, MARCUS RYNEK, in his individual and official capacities, TOBIAS TRUJILLO, in his individual and official capacities, STEVEN DOANE, in his individual and official capacities, and CARLOS CHAVARRIA, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.


William J. Martinez United States District Judge

Plaintiff Anthony Shapiro (“Shapiro”), having filed his Third Amended Complaint (ECF No. 74), now sues the warden of the Sterling Correctional Facility (John Chapdelaine) and four corrections officers (collectively, “Defendants”), accusing all of some degree of involvement in an allegedly unconstitutional strip search. Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Third Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 76.)

Both Defendants’ motion and Shapiro’s response raise issues already decided by this Court with respect to previous versions of Shapiro’s complaint. For the reasons explained below, the Court reaffirms those previous resolutions. Thus, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Although Defendants move under both Rule 12(b)(1) (lack of subject matter jurisdiction) and Rule 12(b)(6) (failure to state a claim), the analysis below reveals that Defendants’ arguments largely require the Court to apply the Rule 12(b)(6) standards. Under that Rule, the Court must “assume the truth of the plaintiff’s well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). In ruling on such a motion, the dispositive inquiry is “whether the complaint contains ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Granting a motion to dismiss “is a harsh remedy which must be cautiously studied, not only to effectuate the spirit of the liberal rules of pleading but also to protect the interests of justice.” Dias v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 567 F.3d 1169, 1178 (10th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Thus, ‘a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).


Shapiro is an inmate in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) and housed at the Sterling Correctional Facility (“Sterling”). (ECF No. 74 ¶ 6.) In August 2006, Shapiro was one among many inmates subject to a mass strip search in the Sterling gymnasium. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) That search led to multiple lawsuits, although Shapiro was not a plaintiff in any of them. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) CDOC settled those lawsuits and changed its regulations to prohibit strip searches in front of other inmates except in cases of emergency. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.)

On December 6, 2012, Shapiro and ten other inmates were waiting in a “receiving” area at Sterling before being put on a bus to drive them to Denver for court appearances. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 26.) At some point, either Defendant Chavarria, Defendant Doane, Defendant Rynek, or Defendant Trujillo came to the receiving area and conducted a strip search on all of the inmates present. (Id. ¶¶ 28-37.) Shapiro later filed a grievance but CDOC declined to grant any relief. (Id. ¶ 45.) Shapiro argues that “CDOC has never asserted a legitimate penological interest justifying the group strip search, and none exists.” (Id. ¶ 46.)


A. Official Capacity Claims

Shapiro has named Defendants Chavarria, Doane, Rynek, and Trujillo (collectively, “Individual Capacity Defendants”) in both their individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 74 ¶¶ 7, 9-11.) The Individual Capacity Defendants argue that they cannot be sued for damages in their official capacities because it would be equivalent to damages against the State of Colorado, which the Eleventh Amendment prohibits in these circumstances. (ECF No. 76 at 3-4.) In response, Shapiro clarifies that he seeks damages against these defendants only in their individual capacities. (ECF No. 77 at 3.) Thus, the question of official-capacity damages is moot.

Shapiro, however, goes on to say that he seeks declaratory relief against the Individual Capacity Defendants in their official capacities. (Id. at 3-4.) Shapiro characterizes such declaratory relief as “ancillary to his claim for injunctive relief.” (Id. at 3.) There are two problems with this assertion.

First, Shapiro does not specify what sort of declaration he seeks. To the extent he requests a declaration that the December 2012 strip search was unconstitutional, the Eleventh Amendment does not permit such relief. Buchwald v. Univ. of N.M. Sch. of Med., 159 F.3d 487, 495 (10th Cir. 1998) (Eleven Amendment bars parties from using declaratory judgment statute “to obtain a declaration that a state officer has violated a plaintiff’s federal rights in the past”).

Second, although there is an exception to this rule for declarations ancillary to injunctive relief, Shapiro does not satisfy the standards for that exception because he has not stated a viable claim for injunctive relief. In a previous complaint, Shapiro requested “[i]njunctive relief enjoining Defendants from strip searching [him] in front of other inmates when being transported.” (ECF No. 6 at 8.) This Court ruled, however, that Shapiro had failed to establish more than a speculative possibility that he would face the same allegedly unconstitutional conduct in the future, and therefore had not properly pleaded a request for injunctive relief. (ECF No. 26 at 5 (adopting ECF No. 20 ...

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