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Hall v. Oliver

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 21, 2017

CARL HALL, Plaintiff,


          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 131, 132. For the reasons explained below, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and the motion for summary judgment is denied.


         Carl Hall is an inmate at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (“ADX”). Mr. Hall filed this case pro se against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and several BOP personnel in September 2015, and he filed amended complaints in November 2015 and March 2016. ECF Nos. 1, 14, 40. The Court later granted Mr. Hall's motion to appoint pro bono counsel, and counsel entered an appearance in December 2016. ECF Nos. 99, 105. Through his attorney, Mr. Hall filed his Third Amended Complaint on March 6, 2017. ECF No. 123.

         The Third Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Hall suffers from mental illness, yet defendants have placed him in near-solitary confinement with deliberate indifference to his mental health. He also asserts that defendants provide medically unnecessary antipsychotic drugs as a reward for good behavior, and they withhold the drugs as punishment. Mr. Hall alleges that this placement in ADX and inappropriate psychological care have exacerbated his mental health issues. He raises two claims for injunctive and declaratory relief: (1) an Eighth Amendment claim for failure to provide adequate mental health care, and (2) a First Amendment claim for keeping him in solitary confinement at ADX.

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss both claims and a motion for summary judgment on the First Amendment claim. ECF No. 131, 132. The motions have been fully briefed. See ECF Nos. 136, 137, 138, 140.


         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), purely conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Miller v. Glanz, 948 F.2d 1562, 1565 (10th Cir. 1991).

         The Court may grant summary judgment if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden to show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The nonmoving party must “designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. A fact is material “if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). A material fact is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court will examine the factual record and make reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1517 (10th Cir. 1994).


         Defendants argue that Mr. Hall's Eighth Amendment claim has been released by the class action settlement in another case, and that Mr. Hall has not pled a plausible First Amendment claim or exhausted his administrative remedies before bringing this lawsuit. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

         A. Eighth Amendment.

         In Cunningham v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, several inmates at ADX sued the BOP on the grounds that its inadequate diagnosis and treatment of their mental illnesses violated the Eighth Amendment. No. 12-cv-01570-RPM (D. Colo. June 15, 2015), ECF No. 274. Late last year the parties negotiated a settlement agreement requiring the BOP to change some of its mental health policies. No. 12-cv-01570-RPM (D. Colo. Nov. 16, 2016), ECF No. 382. Judge Matsch certified two settlement classes under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: a “Screening Class, ” consisting of all inmates confined at ADX between January 17, 2017 and the end of the agreement's compliance period, and a “Treatment Subclass, ” covering all members of the Screening Class who have specified mental illnesses. No. 12-cv-01570-RPM (D. Colo. Jan. 17, 2017), ECF No. 398 at ¶ 4. These classes were informed of the material aspects of the case and the proposed settlement in a court-approved notice. Id. at ¶ 2. After conducting a fairness hearing and reviewing objections from class members, Judge Matsch approved the settlement agreement. No. 12-cv-01570-RPM (D. Colo. Dec. 29, 2016), ECF No. 391 at 5-8.

         In exchange for the BOP's policy changes, the settlement agreement required class members to release related claims that they ...

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