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Hall v. Oliver

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 29, 2017

CARL HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN OLIVER, and FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, Defendants.

          AMENDED FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND ORDER FOR ENTRY OF JUDGMENT

          R. Brooke Jackson, United States District Judge

         This case was tried to the Court July 17-19, 2017. At the conclusion of plaintiff's evidence the Court granted the defendants' motion for judgment on partial findings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(c). The Court announced its findings of fact and conclusions of law from the bench. See ECF No. 172 (transcript). Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration or a new trial, citing Rules 52(b), 59(e) and 60(b). ECF No. 169. Because I agree with the plaintiff that in at least one respect the Court misspoke, I am now issuing amended findings which correct the error. However, while the amended findings reorganize and clean up the oral rulings somewhat, the substance of the findings and conclusions has not changed.

         BACKGROUND

         Carl Hall is an inmate at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (“ADX”) in Florence, Colorado. 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, which became the operative complaint in this case. ECF No. 123. One procedural change introduced in the Third Amended Complaint was that plaintiff claimed that he was seeking injunctive relief pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq. Id. at 3.[1] In terms of substance, Mr. Hall alleged that he suffers from mental illness, but despite that, defendants have placed him in near-solitary confinement at the ADX with deliberate indifference to his mental health. He also asserted that defendants have provided medically unnecessary antipsychotic drugs as a reward for good behavior, and that they have withheld the drugs as punishment. Mr. Hall alleged that this placement in ADX and inappropriate psychological care have exacerbated his mental health issues. He raised 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 the ADX. Id. at 10-13. The injunctive relief he sought was an order that defendants transfer him from the ADX to a different facility. Id. at 12.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss both claims and a motion for summary judgment on the First Amendment claim. The Court ruled on those dispositive motions on April 21, 2017. ECF No. 142. The Court dismissed the Eighth Amendment claim for the reasons set forth in the written order. Briefly, in Cunningham vs. Federal Bureau of Prisons, No. 12-CV-1570-RPM (D. Colo.), ADX inmates including Mr. Hall challenged the adequacy of medical and mental health treatment they were receiving. On June 15, 2015 Judge Matsch approved a settlement of that case in which ADX officials agreed to make changes designed to improve the mental health treatment of inmates at the ADX in exchange for a complete and final release of all claims related to those issues. This Court concluded that the terms of the settlement barred Mr. Hall's Eighth Amendment Claim in the present case. Id. at 4-7, 13.

         The Court, however, did not dismiss the second claim for a violation of Mr. Hall's rights of association under the First Amendment. Id. at 7-13. That claim was tried and is the subject of the findings and conclusions that follow.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW - Rule 52(c)

         Rule 52(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, entitled “Judgment on Partial Findings, provides:

If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a non-jury trial and the court finds against the party on that issue, the court may enter judgment against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue. The court may, however, decline to render any judgment until the close of the evidence. A judgment on partial findings must be supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Rule 52(a).

         Based on the findings and conclusions set forth originally from the bench and restated herein, this Court entered judgment on partial findings in favor of the defendants.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW - The Right of Association

         As I discussed in ruling on the dispositive motions, the “constitutional right of association” protects “the formation and preservation of certain kinds of highly personal relationships.” Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 131 (2003); Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 618 (1984). “[T]he constitutional shelter afforded such relationships reflects the realization that individuals draw much of their emotional enrichment from close ties with others.” Roberts, 468 U.S. at 619. Between the poles of close familial relationships and attenuated business contacts “lies a broad range of human relationships that may make greater or lesser claims to constitutional protection from particular incursions by the State.” Id. at 620. For example, some courts have extended this protection to personal friendships. U.S. Citizens Ass'n v. Sebelius, 705 F.3d 588, 598 (6th Cir. 2013).

         However, the Supreme Court has also stated that “freedom of association is among the rights least compatible with incarceration.” Overton, 539 U.S. at 131. Indeed, “First Amendment associational rights . . . must give way to the reasonable considerations of penal management.” Jones v. N. Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 132 (1977). These rights “may be curtailed whenever the institution's officials, in the exercise of their informed discretion, reasonably conclude that such associations, whether through group meetings or otherwise, possess the likelihood of disruption to prison order or stability, or otherwise interfere with the legitimate penological objectives of the prison environment.” Id.

         Courts determine whether a restriction on an inmate's associational rights is reasonable by evaluating four factors: 1) whether there is a “valid, rational connection” between the government action and a legitimate government interest; 2) whether alternative means of exercising the asserted right remain open to the inmate; 3) what impact an accommodation of the right would have on guards, other inmates, and prison resources; and 4) whether there are “ready alternatives” that would accommodate the prisoner's right, such that the restriction is an “exaggerated response” to prison concerns. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987).

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         I will organize my findings of fact according to the four Turner factors.

         A. Whether there is a “valid, rational connection” between the government action and a legitimate government interest.

         The first of the four Turner factors has been viewed as the most important. “[I]t is ‘not simply a consideration to be weighed but rather an essential requirement.'” Al-Owhali v. Holder, 687 F.3d 1236, 1240 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Boles v. Neet,486 F.3d 1178, 1187 (10th Cir. 2010). Legitimate penological interests include ...


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