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Huerta v. Oliver

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 31, 2019

HERIBERTO HUERTA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN OLIVER, ADX Warden, individually, PAYNE, S.I.A. Lt., individually, D. ARMENDARIZ, S.I.S. Tech., individually, S. JULIAN, Assoc. Warden, individually, MARTIN MARTINEZ, FBI Agent, individually, JOHN DOE, name illegible, individually, IAN CONNORS, individually, E. PIERCE, S.I.S. Lt., individually, and RHODES, Lt., individually, Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Kristen L. Mix United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Consolidated Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint [#54][1] (the “Motion”). Plaintiff filed a Response [#62] in opposition to the Motion, and Defendants filed a Reply [#63]. The Motion has been referred to the undersigned for recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.1(c). See [#55]. Having reviewed the entire case file and being sufficiently advised, the Court respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion [#54] be GRANTED.

         I. Summary of the Case

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Plaintiff has been a prisoner in the custody of the United State Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). Am. Compl. [#46] ¶ 4. As of the filing of the Amended Complaint on April 19, 2018, Plaintiff was incarcerated at United States Penitentiary-ADX in Florence, Colorado (“USP-Florence”). Id. Defendants in this matter consist of eight government officials who have purportedly legally injured Plaintiff in various ways. Id. ¶¶ 5-12. Defendant John Oliver (“Oliver”) was the Warden at USP-Florence. Id. ¶ 5. Defendant Stephan Julian (“Julian”) was the Associate Warden at USP-Florence. Id. ¶ 8. Defendant David Rhodes (“Rhodes”) was a Special Investigations Supervisor (“S.I.S.”) at USP-Florence. Id. ¶ 12. Defendant Debra Payne (“Payne”) was a Special Investigations Agent Lieutenant at USP-Florence. Id. ¶ 6. Defendant Daniel Armendariz (“Armendariz”) was on the Special Investigations Staff at USP-Florence and was directly supervised by Defendant Payne. Id. ¶ 7. Defendant Martin S. Martinez (“Martinez”) was an Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“F.B.I.”) in San Antonio, Texas. Id. ¶ 9. Defendant Ian Connors (“Connors”) was the Administrator of National Inmate Appeals. Id. ¶ 10. Defendant Edward Ray Pierce (“Pierce”) was a S.I.S. at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Id. ¶ 11. All eight Defendants are sued in their individual capacities only. Id. ¶ 13.

         Plaintiff has been incarcerated for over twenty-three years. Id. at 1. Defendants “identify him as the founder and president of a prison gang called the Texas Mexican Mafia or ‘Mexikanemi, '” which, according to Plaintiff, has caused Defendants to “target, treat, and injure” Plaintiff more than other inmates at USP-Florence. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff states that he is a “class of one, ” or, alternatively, that he “belongs to a class of inmates targeted because of their perceived membership with a disfavored organization from before their conviction and custodial sentence . . . .” Id. ¶ 19.

         Plaintiff here asserts seven “claims” relating to various aspects of his incarceration, but those claims are grouped around events rather than clearly stating each of his causes of action. See Id. ¶¶ 23-115. Oddly, and as Defendants point out, see Motion [#54] at 25, Plaintiff's original Complaint [#1] much more clearly presents the causes of action he is asserting in connection with each event than is demonstrated by the Amended Complaint [#46]. The Response [#62] does little to provide additional clarity regarding the asserted causes of action. The Court notes that Plaintiff is represented by counsel, and therefore the Amended Complaint, as a formal pleading drafted by a lawyer, is held to a more stringent standard by the Court than the liberal construction given to a pro se litigant's pleadings. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Thus, the Court does not infer or address any claims that are not explicitly made in the Amended Complaint [#46]. The claims at issue, therefore, are as follows:

(1) “Complaint -1- Administrative Remedy Case No. 818050”: violations of the First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, asserted against Defendants Pierce, Oliver, and Julian (“Claim One”). Am. Compl. [#46] ¶¶ 23-53.
(2) “Complaint -2- Administrative Remedy Case No. 811066”: violations of the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, asserted against Defendants Rhodes, Payne, and Armendariz (“Claim Two”). Id. ¶¶ 54-59.
(3) “Complaint -3- Administrative Remedy Case No. 818852”: violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, asserted against Defendants Payne, Rhodes, Armendariz, and Oliver (“Claim Three”). Id. ¶¶ 60-78.
(4) “Complaint -4- Administrative Remedy Nos. 819653 & 834276”: violation of the First Amendment, asserted against Defendants Payne, Rhodes, and Armendariz (“Claim Four”). Id. ¶¶ 79-82.
(5) “Complaint -5- Administrative Remedy Case Nos. 837376 and 831631”: violations of the Fifth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, asserted against Defendants Payne, Armendariz, Julian, Rhodes, and Martinez (“Claim Five”). Id. ¶¶ 83-92.
(6) “Complaint -6- Administrative Remedy Case No. 865846”: violations of the First, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments, asserted against Defendants Payne and Armendariz (“Claim Six”). Id. ¶¶ 93-111.
(7) “Complaint -7- In violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985”: violations of the First and Fifth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1985, asserted against Defendant Connors (“Claim Seven”). Id. ¶¶ 112-15.[2]

         From this lawsuit, Plaintiff seeks “[c]ompensatory damages in the amount of $250, 000 from each Defendant;” and “[p]unitive damages in the amount of $250, 000 from each Defendant.” Id. ¶ 120. In the present Motion [#54], Defendants seek dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims.

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) provides that a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for “lack of personal jurisdiction.” “The district court is given discretion in determining the procedure to employ in considering a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.” Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Oaklawn Apartments, 959 F.2d 170, 174 (10th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations and citation omitted). A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction, although at the preliminary stages of the litigation this burden is light. Intercon, Inc. v. Bell Atl. Internet Solutions, Inc., 205 F.3d 1244, 1247 (10th Cir. 2000). Where a district court does not hold an evidentiary hearing before dismissing the case, the plaintiff “must only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.” Melea, Ltd. v. Jawer SC, 511 F.3d 1060, 1065 (10th Cir. 2007). “The plaintiff may meet this burden ‘by demonstrating, via affidavit or other written materials, facts that if true would support jurisdiction over the defendant.'” Id. (quoting TH Agric. & Nutrition, LLC v. Ace European Grp. Ltd., 488 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2007)). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), courts accept “as true all well-pled . . . facts alleged in [the] complaint.” Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermillion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test “the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true.” Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (stating that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”). “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.” Sutton v. Utah State Sch. for the Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Shero v. City of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds' that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (brackets in original; internal quotation marks omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Christy Sports, LLC v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” a factual allegation has been stated, “but it has not show[n][ ]that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Iqbal, 552 U.S. at 679 (second brackets added; citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Analysis

         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         Defendants seek dismissal of all claims asserted against Defendants Connors, Martinez, and Pierce based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Motion [#54] at 86. Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not made a prima facie showing of general jurisdiction (“Plaintiff does not allege that these Defendants live, work, own property, or pay taxes in Colorado”) or specific jurisdiction (“the Complaint makes no allegation that any of these Defendants had the requisite minimum contacts with Colorado”). Id.

         To determine whether the court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant, “the court must determine (1) whether the applicable statute potentially confers jurisdiction by authorizing service of process on the defendant and (2) whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process.” Niemi v. Lasshofer, 770 F.3d 1331, 1348 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Trujillo v. Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1217 (10th Cir. 2006)). “Because Colorado's long-arm statute ‘confers the maximum jurisdiction permissible consistent with the Due Process Clause . . . the first, statutory, inquiry effectively collapses into the second, constitutional, analysis.'” Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1070. Due process requires both that the defendant “purposefully established minimum contacts with the forum State” and that the “assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with ‘fair play and substantial justice.'” Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320 (1945)).

         The minimum contacts standard “may be satisfied by showing general or specific jurisdiction.” Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348 (quoting Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1159-60 (10th Cir. 2010)).

General jurisdiction is based on an out-of-state defendant's ‘continuous and systematic' contacts with the forum state, and does not require that the claim be related to those contacts. Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, is premised on something of a quid pro quo: in exchange for ‘benefitting' from some purposive conduct directed at the forum state, a party is deemed to consent to the exercise of jurisdiction for claims related to those contacts.

Shrader v. Biddinger, 633 F.3d 1235, 1239 (10th Cir. 2011) (quoting Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1070). For general jurisdiction, “[t]he paradigm forum for the exercise . . . is the individual's domicile[.]” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 137 (2014). For specific jurisdiction, “the ‘minimum contacts' standard requires, first, that the out-of-state defendant must have ‘purposefully directed' [his] activities at residents of the forum state, and second, that the plaintiff's injuries must ‘arise out of' defendant's forum-related activities.” Dudnikov, 414 F.3d at 1071 (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 472). “In tort-based law suits . . .‘purposeful direction' has three elements: (a) an intentional action . . . that was (b) expressly aimed at the forum state . . . with (c) knowledge that the brunt of the injury would be felt in the forum state.” Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348.

         Plaintiff does not argue that the court has general jurisdiction but does argues that he has satisfied the three elements, as articulated in Niemi, to assert specific jurisdiction over Defendants Connors, Martinez, and Pierce. As to element (a), Plaintiff states that “all of Plaintiff's claims allege an intentional act . . . to injure Plaintiff.” Response [#62] at 11. As to element (b), Plaintiff states that “all of Plaintiff's claims except his first occurred when he was involuntarily committed to federal prison in Colorado.” Id. Finally, as to element (c), “for the same reasons as [element] (b), Plaintiff is confined to the forum state and thus these injuries would be fully felt by Plaintiff while being unable to leave the forum state.” Id.

         1. Defendant Connors

         Defendant Connors is the Administrator of National Inmate Appeals in Washington, D.C. Am. Compl. [#46] ¶ 10. One claim is asserted against Defendant Connors (Claim Seven), which alleges violations of the First and Fifth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights). See Id. ¶¶ 112-115. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Connors unfaithfully investigated Plaintiff's complaints and discouraged Plaintiff from using the administrative complaint system with the foreseeable consequence that Plaintiff will continue to be injured by Defendants. Id. Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Connors “[provided] responses of pro forma denials, intentionally inadequate investigations, each full of lies and cover-ups by [Defendant Connors], or promulgated, endorsed, or ratified by him.” Id.

         Defendants argue that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over federal prison officials who have “regional and national supervisory responsibilities over facilities within a forum state.” Motion [#54] at 85 (quoting Hill v. Pugh, 75 Fed.Appx. 715, 719 (10th Cir. 2003)). In Hill v. Pugh, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims against two BOP officials who had national supervisory responsibilities over USP-Florence. 75 Fed.Appx. at 719. The Tenth Court found that the alleged conduct, i.e., that the BOP officials received administrative grievances and letters warning of the potential detrimental effects of ADX placement from the plaintiff and his attorney, fell “far short of the purposeful availment necessary to establish jurisdiction.” Id.

         In McMillan v. Wiley, 813 F.Supp.2d 1238, 1246 (D. Colo. 2011), the Court found that despite the plaintiff alleging that the defendants “had direct knowledge of and approved the transformation of [p]laintiff's ADX housing unit into a solitary confinement ‘control' unit” that “such ‘attempts to make out a case for personal jurisdiction over these defendants by arguing that each of them authorized or implemented [actions] knowing that the effects of these [actions] would be felt by [plaintiff] in Colorado' are insufficient to establish minimum contacts.” Id. (citing Hale v. Ashcroft, No. 06-cv-00541-REB-KLM, 2007 WL 2350150, at *3 (D. Colo. Aug. 15, 2007); Trierweiler v. Croxton & Trench Holding Corp., 90 F.3d 1523, 1534 (10th Cir. 1996)).

         Similarly, because Plaintiff has not demonstrated that Defendant Connors's actions which were taken in Washington, D.C., establish minimum contacts with Colorado, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Claim Seven against Defendant Connors should be dismissed without prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Hollander v. Sandoz Pharm. Corp., 289 F.3d 1193, 1216 (10th Cir. 2002) (stating that dismissals for lack of personal jurisdiction must be without prejudice).

         2. Defendant Martinez

         Defendant Martinez, at the pertinent time of the allegations, was an FBI Agent in San Antonio, Texas. Am. Compl. [#46] ¶ 9. Defendants state that Defendant Martinez was served in Texas. Motion [#54] at 86 (citing Summons [#17]). Plaintiff asserts only one claim against Defendant Martinez, i.e, Claim Five, asserting violations of the First and Fifth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Am. Compl. [#46] ¶¶ 83-92. In Claim Five, Plaintiff alleges that a hold was placed on a $400 deposit to Plaintiff's inmate deposit fund due to “fraudulent information manipulated” by Defendant Martinez (and the other four Defendants named under this claim). Id. ¶ 87. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Martinez (and the other four Defendants named under this claim) “used the known lie of money laundering . . . to oppress, punish, and persecute” Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 90. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that “[Defendants acted] in collusion and agreement with [Defendant Martinez and others]” through fabricated, manipulated, and falsified information to accuse Plaintiff of money laundering through Plaintiff's BOP commissary account. Id. ¶ 84.

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not established personal jurisdiction over Defendant Martinez, but they do not point to case law which discusses the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a law enforcement official as opposed to a prison official. Motion [#54] at 83-86. Nonetheless, the Court agrees with Defendants' position that the Amended Complaint [#46] fails to allege any meaningful contacts by Defendant Martinez with the State of Colorado. In short, the Court finds that the Amended Complaint [#46] does not demonstrate how Defendant Martinez “purposefully availed” himself of the laws of Colorado.

         The Supreme Court in Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 288 (2014), held that a police officer from Georgia lacked minimal contacts with the State of Nevada to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction, even if the officer knew that his allegedly tortious conduct in Georgia would delay return of funds to persons with connections to Nevada. In Walden, the Court found that “[the police officer] never traveled to, conducted activities within, contacted anyone in, or sent anything or anyone to Nevada.” Similarly, here, apart from the few, mostly conclusory allegations stated above, the Court is not presented with allegations to show that Defendant Martinez traveled to, conducted activities in, contacted anyone within, or sent anything to the State of Colorado. Under this precedent, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not shown that the Court can properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant Martinez.

         Accordingly, the Court recommends that Claim Five be dismissed without prejudice to the extent it is asserted against Defendant ...


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