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Estate of Roemer v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 12, 2017

THE ESTATE OF JAMES ROEMER, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID JOHNSON, in his individual capacity, NATHAN ALGIEN, in his individual capacity, THOMAS BOYER, in his individual capacity, and CHASE FELZEIN, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Johnson, Algien, Felzein, and Boyer's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 145] and Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider Order Granting Defendant Shoaga's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 155) [Docket No. 160]. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from the June 13, 2012 murder of James Roemer by his cellmate, Paul Farley.

         A. Procedural History

         The background of this case, and the various procedural twists and turns that have brought it to this point, are laid out more fully in the Court's September 27, 2017 order. Docket No. 155 (the “September 27 order”). In that order, the Court granted Ali Shoaga's summary judgment motion based on the two-year statute of limitations for 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims in Colorado.[1] Id. at 20-21. The Court found that, at least ten days before his murder, Mr. Roemer was aware of the facts supporting his § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to substantial risk of serious harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 16. As a result, Mr. Roemer's cause of action accrued on or before June 3, 2012 and yet his estate did not file suit until more than two years later. The Court therefore dismissed plaintiff's claim against Mr. Shoaga as being barred by the statute of limitations. Id. at 20.

         Defendants' summary judgment motion incorporates by reference the same summary judgment arguments made by Mr. Shoaga, Docket No. 145 at 2, and plaintiff responds by incorporating its response to that argument. Docket No. 148 at 8. After the Court's September 27 order, the Court ordered supplemental briefing from the remaining parties on the statute of limitations issue. Docket Nos. 156, 158, 159. On October 4, 2017, plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the Court's September 27 order. Docket No. 160.

         B. Factual Background[2]

         Mr. Farley has an well-documented history of violence and threats against other inmates. Docket No. 155 at 2. When Mr. Farley was transferred from a state prison in Arizona to the Colorado Department of Corrections (“DOC”), his record was reviewed by Mr. Shoaga, the chairperson of the administrative segregation hearing committee. Id. at 4. Despite Mr. Farley's history, Mr. Shoaga recommended that Mr. Farley not be placed in administrative segregation, which meant that Mr. Farley was instead placed in the general prison population. Id.

         Mr. Shoaga's decision was reviewed and affirmed by defendant David Johnson, the associate warden of DOC's Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, the DOC facility where Mr. Farley was placed after arrival in Colorado. Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“DSUMF”) 8; Docket No. 149 at 1. Defendant Nathan Algien, an offender services classification officer, assigned Mr. Farley to be housed at the DOC's Sterling Correctional Facility (“SCF”). DSUMF 23, 48-49.

         Defendant Thomas Boyer, a Corrections Officer I, worked at SCF with defendant Chase Felzein, a housing lieutenant. DSUMF 56, 58. Both Mr. Roemer and Mr. Farley were assigned to Living Unit 2 in the medium security portion of SCF. DSUMF 61, 62. Because he was placed in the general population at SCF, Mr. Farley was required to have a cellmate. Docket No. 155 at 5. After approximately nine months with other cellmates, Mr. Farley was reassigned to a cell with Mr. Roemer. Id. This reassignment resulted from a kite turned in by four inmates asking for a cell reassignment. DSUMF 100. Messrs. Farley and Roemer agreed to live together as part of that request. DSUMF 101. Officer Boyer met with the four inmates, and both he and Lt. Felzein reviewed the request. DSUMF 102, 103.

         In response to a discovery request in this case, plaintiff stated that “Mr. Roemer's relationship with Mr. Farley prior to his murder was permeated with fear and malcontent.” Docket No. 110-11 at 10, Resp. to Interrogatory 21. On May 25, 2012, Mr. Roemer met with his mental health provider, Michelle Long, and expressed concerns about his safety, describing Mr. Farley as a “murderer.” Docket No. 110-11 at 4, Resp. to Interrogatory No. 7.

         Approximately two weeks before the murder, Mr. Farley became “extremely agitated with Mr. Roemer and . . . pinned [Mr. Roemer] against the wall of their cell and told him, ‘Don't you know what I could do to you?'” Docket No. 110-11 at 10, Resp. to Interrogatory 21. “After that point, Mr. Roemer was extremely fearful of Mr. Farley and wanted not to be housed in a cell with him.” Id.

         Approximately ten days before the murder, Mr. Roemer told Officer Boyer that he “could not live with Mr. Farley due to safety concerns” and requested to move to a different cell to get away from Mr. Farley. Docket No. 110-11 at 4, Resp. to Interrogatory No. 7. Officer Boyer immediately denied the request. Docket No. 141 at 18, ¶ 84; Docket No. ...


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