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Saunders v. Jacobson

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 3, 2017

LINDSAY A. SAUNDERS, [1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDERS JACOBSON, in his official capacity as Interim Director of the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections; and ERIN JACOBS, in her official capacity as Director of Platte Valley Youth Services Center, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' THIRD MOTION TO DISMISS.

          Craig B. Shaffer United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Lindsay A. Saunders sued Defendants Anders Jacobson and Erin Jacobs, in their official capacities for respectively the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Youth Corrections (“DYC”) and the DYC's Platte Valley Youth Services Center (“Platte Valley) for not permitting her to access local news while she was in Platte Valley's custody. She seeks prospective injunctive relief in the form of requiring Platte Valley to permit her personal subscription to the Denver Post, subject to the facility's existing screening policies. Defendants move to dismiss the action as moot because Plaintiff is no longer in DYC custody and is not expected to return to DYC. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion and dismisses this action without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed her complaint pro se on October 2, 2015. Doc. 1. On October 7, 2015, Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher granted Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered appointment of a guardian ad litem. Doc. 4. Attorney Megan Anne Baker accepted the appointment as guardian ad litem on a pro bono basis. Doc. 5.[2]

         Later the same month, Plaintiff sought appointment of a pro bono lawyer. On November 17, 2015, Judge Gallagher granted Plaintiff's request and placed her on the list seeking pro bono representation under the court's Civil Pro Bono Panel, D.C.COLO.LAttyR 15. Doc. 9. Pro bono counsel Chuan “CiCi” Chen and Douglas L. Abbott accepted the appointment and entered appearances in respectively March 2016 and November 2016. Docs. 13, 47. Pursuant to initial review procedures for in forma pauperis complaints, Judge Gallagher required Plaintiff to amend her complaint. Doc. 18. Through counsel, Plaintiff did so on June 30, 2016. Doc. 19.

         On July 1, 2016, the case was redrawn to Judge William J. Martínez, who referred the case to this magistrate judge for nondispositive proceedings. Docs. 20-22. On September 1, 2016, the parties consented to this magistrate judge's jurisdiction to hear the case under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Doc. 34. Judge Martínez then referred the case to the undersigned for all purposes. Doc. 36. After Defendants moved to dismiss, the parties agreed that Plaintiff could file a second amended complaint. Plaintiff's second amended complaint brought two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: violation of her First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association (first claim), and retaliation for her exercising the right to petition (second claim). Doc. 39 (“SAC”). Plaintiff subsequently dismissed the retaliation claim. Doc. 52.

         Plaintiff alleges inter alia that

At all relevant times during Ms. Saunders's commitment at Platte Valley, Platte Valley has maintained a stated policy prohibiting its youth residents from accessing “local media[, ] including newspapers and TV news.” * * * Ms. Saunders has a First Amendment right to freedom of speech and association that has been violated by Defendants' policy to categorically ban access to local news media.
The policy as established, maintained, and enforced by Defendants prevents youth residents and detainees from receiving local news media, whose access is important to the rehabilitative nature of the youths' commitment or detention at Platte Valley.
Such a policy, both facially and as applied to Ms. Saunders, violates the free speech and association rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. * * * Accommodating Ms. Saunders's First Amendment right to free speech and association through access to local news would not place on Platte Valley or other DYC detention centers an undue burden with respect to their guards or staff members, their other youth residents or adjudicated delinquent juveniles, or their allocation of resources.

Doc. 39, SAC ¶¶ 14, 79-81, 86. Plaintiff requests “[a]ppropriate prospective injunctive relief against Defendants prohibiting further violations of Ms. Saunders's First Amendment rights.” Id. at p. 15.

         On October 25, 2016, the court set a final pretrial conference in February 2017 and a two day bench trial in March 2017. Docs. 44, 45. On January 24, 2017, the parties jointly moved to continue the final pretrial conference because Plaintiff had a

sentencing hearing on an unrelated criminal charge scheduled for February 17, 2017.… Depending on the sentence she receives, she may be transferred to the Colorado Department of Corrections before the trial in this action. … If she is moved, Ms. Saunders may no longer be subject to the Division of Youth Corrections policies she challenges in this lawsuit.

Doc. 57 at pp. 1-2. At Plaintiff's February 17 sentencing, she “was sentenced to probation … on an adult charge. … [S]he returned to Platte Valley to carry out adult probation concomitantly with [her] juvenile commitments.” Doc. 76 at p. 2. During the trial, Plaintiff was in DYC's custody, and she remained so when ...


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