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The Estate of Roemer v. Shoaga

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 24, 2019

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

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Docket No. 109] and defendant Ali Shoaga’s Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 110]. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         1. BACKGROUND[1]

         This case arises out of the June 13, 2012 murder of James Roemer by his cellmate, Paul Farley, while in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”). See Docket No. 110 at 9, ¶ 46; Docket No. 109 at 2, ¶ 2; Docket No. 136 at 2, 6.

         In July 2011, Mr. Farley was transferred from the Arizona Department of Corrections (“ADC”) to the CDOC to serve a sentence for a conviction in Colorado. Docket No. 109 at 3, ¶ 5; Docket No. 110 at 1, ¶ 1; Docket No. 136 at 6. Before Mr. Farley’s transfer, an ADC official, Herb Haley, wrote a letter summarizing Mr. Farley’s history with the ADC (“Haley letter”). Docket No. 109 at 3, ¶ 6. That letter was included among the materials provided to the CDOC and was considered by defendant Ali Shoaga (“defendant”) in determining whether to recommend Mr. Farley for administrative segregation. See Docket No. 109 at 6, ¶ 23; Docket No. 110 at 2, 4, ¶¶ 5, 15; Docket No. 110-4 at 2-4 (Haley letter).

         According to the Haley letter, Mr. Farley had been incarcerated with the ADC since August 6, 1997 for armed robbery, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and theft by extortion. Docket No. 110-4 at 2. The letter stated that Mr. Farley had “an extensive disciplinary history, most notable for: causing death/great bodily harm, sexual assault, weapons possession/manufacture, assaults, fighting, and throwing on staff and other inmates.” Id. at 3. Mr. Farley’s ADC records reflect the following incidents that occurred during his incarceration with the ADC: on November 3, 1997, he received a prison disciplinary conviction for fighting with other inmates; on August 13, 1998, he received a disciplinary conviction for possessing dangerous contraband, including escape paraphernalia; on May 18, 1999, he received a disciplinary conviction for sexually assaulting a cellmate with a lethal weapon; in October 2000, he escaped custody using force while being transported from Kansas to Arizona; on July 2, 2000, he received a disciplinary conviction for slicing open his cellmate’s back with a razorblade; and in 2001, he assisted an inmate in an adjoining cell commit suicide by strangling him with a bed sheet, which resulted in Mr. Farley’s conviction for manslaughter. Docket No. 110 at 2-3, ¶ 6. Several of these incidents were specifically noted in the Haley letter. See Docket No. 110-4 at 3-4. The Haley letter also noted that Mr. Farley had made several threatening statements regarding other inmates, including “documented statements to investigators that he ‘had tried to enter protective segregation [“PS”] for the purposes of killing a PS inmate, ’” and statements such as “I just want to do somebody, ” “I want to put steel in someone, ” and “it would be easier to find a victim in PS.” Id. Regarding the latter three statements, the letter noted that the “likelihood of these statements being ‘bravado’ to ensure a single cell setting might explain the[] statements, but the violence [Mr. Farley] has demonstrated in the past has clearly established a threat towards other inmates; and in turn a potential threat towards inmate Farley himself due to his actions and statements.” Id.[2] Finally, the Haley letter indicated that Mr. Farley’s protection issues were “a result of ‘disrespecting’ Aryan Brotherhood hierarchy, ” and that he was identified as either a “Victim” or a “Predator” with respect to thirty-one inmates on his “Do Not House With” list. Id. at 3. As a result of Mr. Farley’s “predatory behavior, ” the ADC decided, on April 28, 2009, to “override” his “classification to maximum custody, ” where it was determined he would “remain . . . while in the ADC.” Id. at 4.

         After arriving at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center (“DRDC”), the CDOC’s intake prison, in July 2011, a case manager completed a Notice for Administrative Segregation Hearing to determine whether Mr. Farley was safe enough for general population or would need to be placed in administrative segregation within the CDOC. Docket No. 109 at 4, ¶ 11; Docket No. 110 at 1, 4, ¶¶ 2, 16. T he notice recited some of Mr. Farley’s disciplinary infractions and stated that his “excessive violation of policy, procedures, and disregard for authority poses a threat to the safety and security of the facility, staff, and other offenders.” Docket No. 110-1 at 1. A hearing was held on September 1, 2011. Docket No. 110 at 1, ¶ 2; Docket No. 110-2 at 1. Defendant, a Case Manager II with the CDOC, was the chairperson of the three-member board that presided over the hearing. Docket No. 110 at 1, ¶ 3. As the chairperson, defendant was responsible for making the recommendation as to whether Mr. Farley should be placed in administrative segregation. Id. at 2, ¶ 4.[3] On September 1, 2011, defendant recommended that Mr. Farley not be placed in administrative segregation. Docket No. 110-2. Defendant explained his recommendation as follows:

At his hearing, offender Farley admitted that he was guilty of the infractions committed while in Arizona. The available information indicates that all of offender Farley’s disciplinary infractions happened nearly a decade ago. The information available also seems to indicate that some of the reason for his confinement in Segregation while in Arizona was due to custody issues. There is no documented evidence of disciplinary infractions within the last ten years.

Id. During his deposition, defendant also stated that he considered the CDOC’s ability to place offenders in more restrictive housing, such as “close custody” housing. Docket No. 110 at 6, ¶ 27.[4] In recommending that Mr. Farley not be placed in administrative segregation, defendant knew it was likely Mr. Farley would be placed in general population with a cellmate. Docket No. 109 at 8, ¶¶ 35-36. However, defendant assumed that Mr. Farley would be properly classified and would receive appropriate treatment and programming. Docket No. 110 at 8, ¶ 41.[5]

         David Johnson, the associate warden at DRDC, affirmed the hearing board’s recommendation, Docket No. 109 at 8, ¶ 34, and Mr. Farley was transferred to Sterling Correctional Facility (“SCF”) in Sterling, Colorado on September 22, 2011. Docket No. 110 at 9, ¶ 45. At some point, Mr. Farley was assigned to a cell with Mr. Roemer. See id., ¶ 46. On June 13, 2012, Mr. Farley murdered Mr. Roemer in their cell. Id.

         Plaintiff, Mr. Roemer’s estate, filed this case on June 12, 2014. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff asserts an Eighth Amendment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendant Shoaga acted with deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of serious harm posed by Mr. Farley in not recommending that Mr. Farley be placed in administrative segregation. Docket No. 141 at 20-21, ¶¶ 95-97. On September 27, 2017, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Shoaga after finding plaintiff’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. Docket No. 155 at 20. In the same order, the Court denied as moot plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment. See Id . at 20. On October 12, 2017, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the remaining defendants on statute-of-limitations grounds. Docket No. 175. Plaintiff appealed both summary judgment orders. Docket No. 179.

         On March 7, 2019, the Tenth Circuit reversed the Court’s summary judgment rulings, holding that the Court had erred by failing to determine when plaintiff’s “claims against each defendant accrued.” Docket No. 186 at 23. The Tenth Circuit also concluded that, with the exception of Thomas Boyer, defendants had failed to establish that plaintiff’s claims accrued outside of the relevant limitations period. Id.

         Following the Tenth Circuit’s remand, see id., the Court directed the parties to file status reports identifying the issues that remained to be resolved in light of the Tenth Circuit’s decision. Docket No. 188. Based on those status reports and the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, the Court determined that the next step in this case is for the Court to determine whether defendants are entitled to summary judgment on any ground other than the statute of limitations. Docket No. 191 at 1. On April 24, 2019, the Court reinstated the parties’ summary judgment motions. Docket No. 191.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 when the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). A disputed fact is “material” if under the relevant substantive law it is essential to proper disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). Only disputes over material facts can create a genuine issue for trial and preclude summary judgment. Faustin v. City & Cty. of Denver, 423 F.3d 1192, 1198 (10th Cir. 2005). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).

         Where “the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may satisfy its burden at the summary judgment stage by identifying a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant’s claim.” Bausman v. Interstate Brands Corp., 252 F.3d 1111, 1115 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998)). “Once the moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a material matter.” Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City & Cty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1518 (10th Cir. 1994). The nonmoving party may not rest solely on the allegations in the pleadings, but instead must designate “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). “To avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must establish, at a minimum, an inference of the presence of each element essential to the case.” Bausman, 252 F.3d at 1115. When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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