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Session v. Clemings

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 31, 2018

FRANKY L. SESSION, Plaintiff,
v.
CLEMENTS, Deputy Sheriff, in his individual capacity, ROMERO, Deputy Sheriff Captain, in his individual capacity, and JORDAN, Deputy Sheriff Sergeant, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kristen L. Mix United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#249][1] (the “Motion”). Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, [2] filed a Response [#268] in opposition to the Motion, and Defendants filed a Reply [#273]. The Motion has been referred to the undersigned for a recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.1(c)(3). See [#250]. The Court has reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, the entire case file, and the applicable law and is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the Court respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion [#249] be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background[3]

         In March 2013, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Denver Detention Center (the “DDC”). Decl. of Pl. [#140] ¶ 4. Plaintiff was housed in Cell Pod 4A, a Special Housing unit reserved for alleged sex offenders. Id. On March 24, 2013, Defendant Clements was assigned to work in Cell Pod 4A and contacted the Classification division regarding Plaintiff. Motion [#249] at 3; Response [#268] at 41. Plaintiff was subsequently moved to Cell Pod 4D, a twenty-three hour lock-down segregation unit. Response [#268] ¶¶ 30, 31; Reply [#273] ¶¶ 19-21. Plaintiff asserts that this transfer was made purely for punitive reasons, although he had done no wrong, and that he received no notice or hearing before his placement in segregation. Decl. of Pl. [#140] ¶ 4. Plaintiff was housed in segregation from March 24, 2013, to December 18, 2013. Response [#268] ¶ 37; Reply [#273] ¶ 26. D u r i n g this time he had weekly administrative review meetings with the Administrative Review Board, which included Defendants Jordan and Romero. Response [#268] ¶¶ 36, 41; Reply [#273] ¶¶ 25, 30.

         Plaintiff is now seeking compensatory damages for alleged loss of privileges, quality of life, and adverse effects to his mental and physical health caused by his time in segregation. Fourth Am. Compl. [#137] at 12-13. Plaintiff asserts three claims:[4] (1) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendant Clements; (2) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendant Romero; and (3) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendant Jordan. Fourth Am. Compl. [#137] at 9-11. Defendants move for entry of summary judgment in their favor on all three claims. Motion [#249] at 8, 17.

         II. Standard

         The purpose of a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is to assess whether trial is necessary. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment should be entered if the pleadings, the discovery, any affidavits, and disclosures on file show “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” An issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the issue in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Id.

         The burden is on the movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670-71 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). When the movant does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, the “movant may make its prima facie demonstration [of the absence of a genuine issue of material fact] simply by pointing out to the [C]ourt a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant's claim.” Id. at 671. If the movant carries the initial burden of making a prima facie showing of a lack of evidence, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to put forth sufficient evidence for each essential element of his claim such that a reasonable jury could find in his favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmovant must go beyond the allegations and denials of his pleadings and provide admissible evidence, which the Court views in the light most favorable to him. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Panis v. Mission Hills Bank, N.A., 60 F.3d 1486, 1490 (10th Cir. 1995) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Conclusory statements based merely on conjecture, speculation, or subjective belief are not competent summary judgment evidence. Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004). T h e nonmoving party's evidence must be more than “mere reargument of [his] case or a denial of an opponent's allegation” or it will be disregarded. See 10B Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2738 (4th ed. 2017).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's claims. Motion [#249] at 8. The doctrine of qualified immunity “shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability ‘insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'” Boles v. Neet, 486 F.3d 1177, 1180 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)).

         When a defendant raises qualified immunity on summary judgment, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to satisfy a strict two-part test. Nelson v. McMullen, 207 F.3d 1202, 1206 (10th Cir. 2000). First, taking the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff must provide evidence demonstrating that each defendant's actions violated a constitutional or statutory right. Id. Second, the plaintiff has the burden of showing that “the constitutional or statutory rights the defendant allegedly violated were clearly established at the time of the conduct at issue.” Id. (quoting Albright v. Rodriguez, 51 F.3d 1531, 1534-35 (10th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted)). If the plaintiff does not meet his burden of demonstrating both of these elements, then the defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. Nelson, 207 F.3d at 1206.

         Here, regarding the first prong of the qualified immunity test, under the due process clause, a pretrial detainee may not be punished prior to a lawful conviction. Peoples v. CCA Det. Ctrs., 422 F.3d 1090, 1106 (10th Cir. 2005) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1970)). However, the government may impose certain restrictions and conditions on pretrial detainees so long as the conditions and restrictions do not amount to punishment. Id. The government may have a legitimate interest in segregating an individual detainee for non-punitive reasons, such as maintaining the safety and security of the institution. Id. Thus, in order to satisfy the first prong, Plaintiff must show that by being moved and held in segregation, Defendants acted with punitive intent. Bell, 441 U.S. at 538.

         A. Fourteenth Amendment Claim Against Defendant Clements

         Plaintiff maintains that Defendant Clements violated Plaintiff's due process rights by moving him to segregation without a disciplinary write-up or hearing. See Fourth Am. Compl. [#137] at 2-3, 9. Plaintiff questions the veracity of Defendant Clements' contention that he was approached by three inmates who complained about Plaintiff's hygiene, which thereafter led to Plaintiff's transfer to Unit 4D, i.e., the segregation unit. Response [#268] at 6. Plaintiff maintains that whether or not this encounter between Defendant Clements and the three inmates occurred is a genuine issue of material fact. Id. Plaintiff also maintains that the question of whether Defendant Clements personally made the decision to transfer Plaintiff is a disputed factual issue. Pl. Statement of Disputed Factual Issues [#269] ¶¶ 3-4.

         Defendants provide evidence that the Classification division made the decision to transfer Plaintiff to segregation “in order to avoid potential conflicts with other inmates” following complaints from three inmates to Defendant Clements regarding Plaintiff's hygiene. Decl. of Def. Clements, Exhibit B [#249-2] ¶¶ 4, 7-8; see also OIC Incident Report, Exhibit C [#268] at 84. Defendants also provide evidence that there was a history of complaints about Plaintiff's hygiene, specifically that on November 27, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to Unit 4D, “due to him being unsanitary” and that on March 14, 2013, he was transferred from Unit 4A-201 to Unit 4A-101 due to complaints about his sanitation. See Id. Further, Defendants provide evidence that Defendant Clements' actions were limited to alerting the Classification division to the complaints from other inmates and helping Plaintiff move out of Cell Pod 4A. Decl. of Def. Clements, Exhibit B [#249-2] ¶¶ 7-10. The uncontroverted evidence demonstrates that the actual decision to reclassify Plaintiff was made by the Classification division and was done in order to protect Plaintiff's safety and “maintain institutional security.” Decl. of Def. Clements, Exhibit B [#249-2] ¶¶ 6, 8; see also Decl. of Def. Jordan, Exhibit D [#249-4] ¶ 3 (“The Classification division evaluates and determines the appropriate housing for inmates.”); Decl. of Romero, Exhibit C [#249-3] ¶ 5 (“Staff within the Classification division evaluate and make the decision when to reclassify an inmate and where that inmate will be housed.”).

         Regarding Defendants' evidence that Defendant Clements' actions were limited to contacting the Classification division regarding complaints about Plaintiff's hygiene and then helping him move units, Plaintiff presents no contradictory evidence that Defendant Clements had a more substantial role. Further, while Plaintiff may question whether the encounter between Defendant Clements and three other detainees occurred, he presents no evidence to support these doubts. See Bones, 366 F.3d at 875 (“To defeat a motion for summary judgment, evidence, including testimony, must be based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or surmise.”).

         Additionally, reading the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, he presents no evidence to support the contention that Defendant Clements acted with punitive intent when he spoke with the Classification division regarding Plaintiff's housing. See Bell, 441 U.S. at 538. While Plaintiff presents the declaration of another inmate at DDC suggesting that Plaintiff “had multiple issues with Officer Clements, ” he provides no evidence showing any specific instances of “issues” between Plaintiff and Defendant Clements or how these alleged “issues” affected Defendant Clements' communication with the Classification division regarding Plaintiff's housing on March 24, 2013. See Decl. of Louis Cordova, Exhibit F [#268] at 88. Further, Plaintiff contends, without evidentiary support, that Defendant Clements “repeatedly tryed [sic] to make [Plaintiff] angry, upset, or even getting in my face trying to get me to react or give him a reason to initiate violence towards me, ” but does not contend or provide evidence that Defendant Clements acted with hostility in connection with Plaintiff's transfer to Unit 4D, i.e., segregation. See Decl. of Pl., Exhibit A [#268] at 67, 69, 71. Rather, a staff report written by Defendant Clements on March 24, 2013, maintains that leading up to Plaintiff's transfer, he was “approached by all three of my Tier Porters informing me that [Plaintiff] was unsanitary, ...


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