United States District Court, D. Colorado
A. Brimmer Chief United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The Court has
subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
case arises out of an assault by Victor Rocha-Estupian
(“Rocha-Estupian”) on plaintiff Mark Janny
(“Janny”) in the Washington County Jail (the
“Jail”) on February II, 2015. Docket No. 112 at
2-3, ¶ 1, 5.
night was not Rocha-Estupian’s first in the Jail. On
July 7, 2012, an unknown Washington County Sheriff’s
Deputy wrote in a report that Rocha-Estupian “could be
a threat to the safety and security of the facility as he
might hurt someone if placed in an enclosed area with other
inmates.” Docket No. 116 at 5, ¶ 5. Defendant Sheila
Harford (“Harford”), a Jail deputy, may have seen
the report at some point in 2012. Id. ¶ 6;
Docket No. 118 at 5, ¶ 6. On July 22, 2012, while housed
at the Jail, Rocha-Estupian threatened to commit suicide, an
event that defendant Sheila Harford (“Harford”),
a Jail deputy, observed and responded to. Docket No. 116 at
4, ¶¶ 2-3.
February 11, 2015, Janny and Rocha-Estupian were transported
to the Jail. Docket No. 112 at 2, ¶¶ 1-3. Prior to
being booked into the Jail, Janny and Rocha-Estupian were
placed in a holding cell (“Holding Cell 1”) along
with five or six other inmates. Id. ¶¶
3-4. Janny and Rocha-Estupian were in Holding Cell 1 when
Harford and defendant Cristian Ortega (“Ortega”),
another Jail deputy, began their shift. Id. ¶
4. Upon seeing Rocha-Estupian’s name on the list of
inmates in Holding Cell 1, Harford remembered
Rocha-Estupian’s July 22, 2012 suicide attempt. Docket
No. 116 at 7, ¶17. Rocha-Estupian began banging and
kicking on the door of the cell and demanding to be moved
from Holding Cell 1. Id. at 4, ¶ 1.
Rocha-Estupian told Harford that he was experiencing
“severe mental health anxiety issues” and did not
feel safe. Id. at 5, ¶ 7. Harford and Ortega
did not move Rocha-Estupian from Holding Cell 1. Id.
at 8, ¶ 25-16; Docket No. 118 at 7, ¶¶
25-26. Janny never informed either Harford or
Ortega that (1) he did not want to be in the same cell as
Rocha-Estupian; (2) he feared for his safety because he was
in the same cell as Rocha-Estupian; or (3) Rocha-Estupian
threatened him or others. Docket No. 112 at 3, ¶¶
8-10. At approximately 11:00 p.m. that evening,
Rocha-Estupian assaulted Janny. Id., ¶ 5.
Harford and Ortega responded to Holding Cell 1 as soon as
they heard the disturbance. Id. ¶ 6.
Rocha-Estupian was charged with third-degree assault for
assaulting Janny. Id. ¶ 7.
January 4, 2017, Janny filed this lawsuit. Docket No. 1. In
the operative complaint, Janny asserts an Eighth Amendment or
Fourteenth Amendment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against both Harford and Ortega, alleging that defendants
acted with deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of
serious harm posed by Rocha-Estupian by not separating
Rocha-Estupian from other inmates when there was room
available to do so. Docket No. 111 at 3-5, ¶¶ 1-17.
On December 26, 2018, Harford and Ortega moved for summary
judgment on the grounds that they are both entitled to
qualified immunity. Docket No. 112.
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).
“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.
the doctrine of qualified immunity, “government
officials performing discretionary functions generally are
shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). When a defendant asserts a qualified immunity
defense, the plaintiff has a “heavy two-part
burden” of establishing “(1) that the
defendant’s action violated a federal constitutional or
statutory right; and (2) that the right violated was clearly
established at the time of the defendant’s
actions.” Grissom v. Roberts, 902 F.3d 1162,
1167 (10th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Failure to satisfy either prong of this test will result in a
grant of qualified immunity to the defendant. Id.
Courts are “permitted to exercise their sound
discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the
qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in
light of the circumstances in the particular case.”
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009).
evaluating a claim of qualified immunity,
“‘clearly established law’ should not be
defined ‘at a high level of generality.’”
White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552 (2017) (quoting
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 742 (2011))).
“The relevant, dispositive inquiry . . . is whether it
would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was
unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Al-Turki
v. Robinson, 762 F.3d 1188, 1194 (10th Cir. 2014).
Ordinarily, a right is clearly established if there is
“a Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit decision on point, or
the clearly established weight of authority from other courts
. . . have found the law to be as the plaintiff
maintains.” Toevs v. Reid, 685 F.3d 903, 916
(10th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). This
does not require a case “directly on
point.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct. 1148, 1152
(2018) (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).
On the other hand, precedent that merely states “a
general proposition of applicable law” will not make a