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Robinson v. Adame

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 19, 2019

DARREN ADAME, individually and in his official capacity, and SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER BONGIRNO, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.


          Kristen L. Mix, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#36][1] (the “Motion”). Plaintiff filed a two-page Response [#42] in opposition to the Motion [#36], and Defendants filed a Reply [#43]. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and D.C.COLO.LCivR 72.1(c), the Motion has been referred to the undersigned for a recommendation regarding disposition. See [#38]. 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 [#36] be GRANTED.

         I. Summary of the Case

         At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”). Compl. [#1] ¶ 3. On July 5, 2018, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed his Complaint [#1] against Defendants Correctional Officer Darren Adame (“Adame”) and Sergeant Christopher Bongirno (“Bongirno”), both in their individual and official capacities, citing several constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the basis for this Court's jurisdiction. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4.

         Plaintiff's claims center on allegations that Defendants used excessive force against him while they were preparing to transfer him from his cell to a hearing on July 7, 2016.[2]Id. ¶ 5. Upon arrival, Defendants handcuffed Plaintiff and then instructed him to walk backwards out of his cell. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff, however, suffers from severe vertigo resulting from a pre-incarceration motorcycle accident and cannot safely walk backwards. Id. ¶¶ 6, 8. Plaintiff further alleges that both Defendants were aware of this disability prior to the date in question. Id. ¶ 7. Nevertheless, in spite of Plaintiff's protestations, Defendants ordered him to walk backwards out of his cell, at which time he lost his balance and began to fall. Id. ¶ 10-11. In response, Defendant Adame allegedly put Plaintiff in a choke hold, causing him to lose consciousness, and Defendant Bongirno subsequently tased him. Id. ¶ 11. As a result of Defendants' actions, Plaintiff alleges that he suffers partial paralysis and other permanent disabilities relating to his motor skills and neurological abilities. Id. ¶ 13.

         On the face of the Complaint [#1], Plaintiff presents the following claims for relief: he states that “Defendants used excessive force upon [him] in violation of the [Fourth], [Fifth], [Eighth] and [Fourteenth] Amendments, causing both sever [sic] and permanent injuries.” Id. ¶ 12. For relief, Plaintiff seeks money damages for the physical and emotional pain he has suffered, as well as the loss of future earning capacity, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.

         On January 17, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss in Part [#22], pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). On April 23, 2019, Defendants filed the instant Motion [#36], arguing that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies bars the current litigation, pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. See Motion [#36].

         II. Standard of Review

         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). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted if “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits 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; Simms v. Okla. ex rel. Dep't of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Servs., 165 F.3d 1321, 1326 (10th Cir. 1999). 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). The 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 at 356 (3d ed. 1998).

         In addition, the Court “must accord substantial deference to the professional judgment of prison administrators, who bear a significant responsibility for defining the legitimate goals of a corrections system and for determining the most appropriate means to accomplish them.” Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 132 (2003). To this end, the Court notes the well-established law that prison management functions should be left to the broad discretion of prison administrators to enable them to manage prisons safely and effectively. See, e.g., Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215 (1976). Accordingly, courts should interfere with the management of prisons only under exceptional and compelling circumstances. Taylor v. Freeman, 34 F.3d at 266, 268-70 (4th Cir. 1994). Indeed, the Tenth Circuit has stated that it “abhor[s] any situation or circumstance requiring the intervention of the federal courts in matters involving the administration, control and maintenance by the sovereign states of their penal systems. It is a delicate role assigned to the federal courts to display that restraint so necessary 'in the maintenance of proper federal-state relations.'” Battle v. Anderson, 564 F.2d 388, 392 (10th Cir. 1977) (citation omitted). As such, “sweeping intervention in the management of state prisons is rarely appropriate when exercising the equitable powers of the federal courts.” Taylor, 34 F.3d at 269 (citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants Adame and Bongirno contend that they are entitled to summary judgment in their favor because the undisputed facts demonstrate that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing the suit, as required by the PLRA. Motion [#36] at 2. The PLRA requires that a prisoner exhaust all available administrative remedies before he or she can bring any action with respect to prison conditions. Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 520 (2002) (“1997e(a)'s exhaustion requirement applies to all prisoners seeking redress for prison circumstances or occurrences.”). Specifically, the exhaustion provision states:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983] of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

         “There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006) (“Exhaustion is no longer left to the discretion of the district court, but is mandatory.”). However, the burden is not on the plaintiff to sufficiently plead exhaustion or attach exhibits to the complaint proving exhaustion. Jones, 549 U.S. at 215. Rather, the burden is on defendants to assert ...

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