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Rosetta-Rangel v. State

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 28, 2016

ARLENE ROSETTA-RANGEL, BRIAN O'CONNELL, and GREGORY RUTSCHMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF COLORADO, RICK RAEMISCH, ROGER WERHOLTZ, TONY CAROCHI, TOM CLEMENTS, by and through his ESTATE, ARISTEDES ZAVARIS, JOE ORTIZ, and JOHN SUTHERS, Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          NINA Y. WANG, Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6) ("Motion to Dismiss") [#25, filed June 22, 2015], which was referred to this Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Orders of Reference dated April 2, 2015 [#10] and July 13, 2015 [#37], and the Memorandum dated June 26, 2016 [#31]. For the reasons set out below, this court respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Arlene Rosetta-Rangel, Brian O'Connell and Gregory Rutschman (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed the initial Complaint in this case on March 13, 2015.[1] [#1]. Plaintiffs then filed an Amended Complaint on April 2, 2015. [#11]. The Amended Complaint avers that the Plaintiffs are or were inmates incarcerated within the Colorado Department of Corrections ("CDOC"). [#11 at ¶ 12]. Plaintiff Arlene Rosetta-Rangel currently lives in Littleton, Colorado. [#11 at ¶ 1]. Plaintiffs Brian O'Connell and Gregory Rutschman were inmates within the CDOC at the time the Amended Complaint was filed. [#11 at ¶¶ 2-3].

         Plaintiffs' allegations in the Amended Complaint, which are to be considered true for the purposes of considering the instant Motion to Dismiss, include the following. Under Colorado law, almost all inmates of the CDOC are entitled to be credited days off of their sentences. [#11 at ¶ 22]. This time includes presentence confinement time which an inmate serves while awaiting trial or after trial while awaiting sentencing. [ Id. at ¶ 23]. The CDOC has a Time Computation ("Time Comp") department which monitors and applies "good time" and "earned time" to each inmate's sentence. [ Id. at ¶ 30]. While incarcerated, inmates are not allowed to contact Time Comp. [ Id. ]. The Colorado District Courts, supported by the inaccurate and insufficient information and tracking by the Time Comp department, do not credit inmates with Presentence Confinement Good Time and the time they serve in county jails. [ Id. at ¶ 32].

         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint includes four claims for relief. The first claim alleges "willful and wanton neglect, or misconduct, by a public officer to perform his duties to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder." [#11 at 7]. In this claim, Plaintiffs allege that the CDOC has a duty to inmates to release them at the appropriate time, as clearly established by Colorado law, CDOC could foresee that its conduct would breach this duty, and it summarily denied and willfully and wantonly neglected to perform this duty. [#11 at ¶¶ 33-40]. The harm Plaintiffs allege from this breach include that inmates who are unable to be released at the appropriate time lose days of their lives and are unable to enjoy the liberty of freedom. [#11 at ¶ 39]. Plaintiffs further allege that the breach by CDOC "causes inmates to miss funerals of loved ones, marriages of their children, civil court dates, and due to a lengthier than is mandated, the loss of parental rights, among many other demonstrable losses incurred due to CDOC's malfeasance." [#11 at ¶ 40].

         Plaintiffs' second claim alleges violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unlawful seizures under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [#11 at 8]. Plaintiffs allege that some of the named Plaintiffs are being held by the CDOC beyond their Mandatory Release Dates ("MRD") and that others that are not being held past their MRD are nevertheless entitled to the application of Presentence Confinement Good Time and their day-for-day time spent in county jail. [#11 at ¶ 42]. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, acting under color of law, intentionally deprived Plaintiffs of their right to freedom from unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment by unlawfully holding Plaintiffs beyond their MRDs and Statutory Release Dates ("SRD") without probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe they had committed any offense which would have permitted this additional incarceration. [#11 at ¶¶ 44-45].

         Plaintiffs' third claim alleges Defendants violated Plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by holding and retaining Plaintiffs beyond their MRDs and/or SRDs. [#11 at 11]. Plaintiffs' fourth claim alleges Defendants deprived them of procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by holding them beyond the time that they should have been held if the Defendants had properly calculated their release dates. [#11 at 13-14].

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), a court may dismiss a complaint for "lack of subject matter jurisdiction." When a court dismisses a case under Rule 12(b)(1), this is not a determination on the merits of the case, but only a decision that the court lacks the authority to adjudicate the action. See Castaneda v. INS, 23 F.3d 1576, 1580 (10th Cir. 1994) (recognizing federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may only exercise jurisdiction when specifically authorized to do so). A court that lacks jurisdiction "must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceeding in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking." Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974). The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction. See Basso, 495 F.2d at 909. Accordingly, Plaintiffs in this case bears the burden of establishing that this Court has jurisdiction to hear their claims.

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) may take two forms: a facial attack or a factual attack. Stuart v. Colo. Interstate Gas Co., 271 F.3d 1221, 1225 (10th Cir. 2001); Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995). "In reviewing a facial attack on the complaint, a district court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true." Holt, 46 F.3d at 1002. However, mere conclusory allegations of jurisdiction are insufficient. Groundhog v. Keeler, 442 F.2d 674, 677 (10th Cir. 1971). Nevertheless, "a court is required to convert a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss into a Rule 12(b)(6) motion or a Rule 56 summary judgment motion when resolution of the jurisdictional question is intertwined with the merits of the case." Id. As explained in the Holt case, "the jurisdictional question is intertwined with the merits of the case if subject matter jurisdiction is dependent on the same statute which provides the substantive claim in the case." Holt, 46 F.3d at 1002.

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding such a motion, the court must "accept as true all well pleaded factual allegations... and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Casanova v. Ulibarri, 595 F.3d 1120, 1124 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)). However, a plaintiff may not rely on mere labels or conclusions, "and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         Instead, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). As the Tenth Circuit explained in Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007), "the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims." The plaintiff must frame a complaint with enough factual matter, when taken as true, to suggest that he or she is entitled to relief. Robbins v. Oklahoma,519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The ultimate duty of the court is to "determine whether the complaint ...


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