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Wilson v. Montano

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 20, 2016

MICHAEL WILSON, SR., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEPUTY LAWRENCE MONTANO, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants former Valencia County Detention Center (VCDC) Warden Derek Williams, VCDC Warden Joe Chavez, Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard, former Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera, and Valencia County Sheriff's Deputy Lawrence Montano's (collectively, Defendants)[1] “Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment, ”[2] filed on August 20, 2015. (Doc. 126).[3] Plaintiffs filed a response[4] on October 5, 2015, and Defendants filed a reply on November 11, 2015. (Docs. 144 and 149). Having considered Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment, the accompanying briefs, and the relevant evidence, the Court grants in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment. Specifically, the Court dismisses with prejudice (1) the remaining 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims and claims for injunctive relief, (2) all of the claims against Sheriff Burkhard, and (3) the Section 1983 individual capacity claims against former Warden Williams, Warden Chavez, and former Sheriff Rivera.

         A. Background

         The Plaintiffs in these three consolidated cases, the Wilson, Ortiz, and Sarrett cases, allege that in 2010 various law enforcement officers within Valencia County arrested them and others similarly situated without warrants and booked them into VCDC. Plaintiffs allege that VCDC wardens then held Plaintiffs and others without criminal charges having been filed by the arresting officers or probable cause determinations having been made by the magistrate courts.

         1. Relevant Claims

         Plaintiffs bring Section 1983 claims against former Warden Williams and Warden Chavez, in both their individual and official capacities, for establishing a policy or custom of holding persons at VCDC without pending criminal charges. Plaintiffs also contend that former Warden Williams and Warden Chavez trained their staff to accept inmates knowing that charges may not get filed, thereby violating the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, Plaintiffs allege that former Warden Williams and Warden Chavez failed to supervise their staff to prevent people from being held without filed charges.

         Similar to former Warden Williams and Warden Chavez, Plaintiffs bring Section 1983 claims against former Sheriff Rivera and Sheriff Burkhard, in their individual and official capacities, for establishing a policy or custom of allowing officers to arrest people and then wait to file charges, thereby resulting in people being detained without charges ever being filed. Plaintiffs also contend that former Sheriff Rivera and Sheriff Burkhard failed to train their staff not to violate the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by arresting Plaintiffs Dustin Sarrett and Michael Wilson, Sr., and others, without filing criminal charges. Finally, Plaintiffs allege that former Sheriff Rivera and Sheriff Burkhard failed to supervise their staff to prevent people from being incarcerated without filed charges.

         Plaintiff Wilson brings a Section 1983 Fourth Amendment claim against Deputy Montano in his individual capacity. Plaintiff Wilson alleges that Deputy Montano violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to ensure that he received a prompt probable cause determination by an impartial judge. Generally, a probable cause determination is sufficiently prompt if it occurs within 48 hours of an arrest. Cty. of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44, 56 (1991). Plaintiff Wilson also brought Section 1983 Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Deputy Montano, but the Court dismissed those claims. (Doc. 53). Plaintiffs bring similar Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against other law enforcement officers in the Ortiz and Sarrett cases.

         In addition, Plaintiffs bring claims for injunctive relief in the Ortiz and Sarrett cases. The Court already dismissed the claim for injunctive relief in the Wilson case. Id.

         2. Facts Presented with Respect to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment

         a. Affidavit of Former Warden Williams

         Williams was VCDC warden until August 2010. (Doc. 126-3) at 1, ¶ 2. Neither he nor VCDC had a policy or custom of holding detainees without prompt probable cause determinations. Id. at ¶¶ 3 and 4. The policy at VCDC was to require a probable cause statement and criminal complaint[5] when a detainee was booked into VCDC. Id. at ¶ 6. VCDC policy was also to fax, on a daily basis, a list of new detainees to the magistrate court and to bring the detainees before the magistrate court at the next magistrate court session and to each subsequent magistrate court session until the magistrate court acted. Id. at 2, ¶ 8. VCDC further faxed the names of the named Plaintiffs every day to the magistrate court “beginning on their arrest date and continuing to the release date.” Id. at 4, ¶ 26. Former Warden Williams did not know that any of the named Plaintiffs were being detained without a probable cause determination or were denied a hearing before a court. Id. at 2, ¶ 9.

         In 2007, former Warden Williams became aware that detainees were not being “processed quickly enough.” Id. at 2-3, ¶ 13. Former Warden Williams then requested that the Valencia County magistrate judges issue a directive to law enforcement agencies to leave copies of the probable cause statements or criminal complaints at VCDC upon booking. Id. In fact, the Valencia County magistrate judges sent a letter dated November 28, 2007, to law enforcement officials, including former Sheriff Rivera, stating that it came to their attention that VCDC “does not require a Criminal Complaint/Probable Cause Statement at the time of intake to the facility.” Id. at 6. That failure on the part of VCDC apparently became a problem over the Thanksgiving weekend. Id. The magistrate judges noted that they could not make probable cause determinations within 48 hours after custody commences, as required by Rule 6-203, NMRA 1998, without probable cause statements and criminal complaints being “filed” at the time of intake at VCDC. Id. Consequently, the magistrate judges asked the law enforcement officials to instruct their officers “to file the probable cause statement, at the very least, if not the full criminal complaint at the time of intake.” Id. The magistrate judges also noticed that “many complaints take several days to get” filed in magistrate court. Id.

         In a letter dated July 8, 2008, former Warden Williams wrote to law enforcement officials, including former Sheriff Rivera, that officers must present a criminal complaint and a statement of probable cause to VCDC's records department at the time of intake or the defendant would not be processed. Id. at 9. Defendant Williams explained that the purpose of this requirement is “to ensure that defendants are afforded due process under the law, to facilitate a probable cause determination and reduce Valencia County's exposure to liability.” Id. Defendant Williams decided to write this letter after receiving the magistrate judges' November 28, 2007, letter and after it came to Defendant Williams' “attention that some law enforcement personnel was [sic] not leaving the criminal complaints and the probable cause statement at the detention center for each and every detainee.” Id. at 3, ¶ 14. Former Warden Williams also understood that under New Mexico law VCDC could not release a detainee without a court order. Id. at ¶ 18.

         b. Affidavit of Warden Chavez

         Chavez was first hired by Valencia County in February 2010 as Deputy Warden at VCDC and then became the Warden in August 2010. (Doc. 126-4) at ¶¶ 2 and 3. Neither Warden Chavez nor VCDC had a policy or custom of holding detainees without prompt probable cause determinations. Id. at ¶¶ 4 and 5. The policy at VCDC was to require a probable cause statement and criminal charge when a detainee was booked into VCDC. Id. at ¶¶ 7 and 8. VCDC policy was also to fax, on a daily basis, a list of new detainees to the magistrate court and to bring detainees before the magistrate court at the next magistrate court session and to each subsequent magistrate court session until the magistrate court acted. Id. at ¶ 10. VCDC further faxed the names of the named Plaintiffs to the magistrate court every day. Id. at ¶ 24.

         Warden Chavez did not know that any of the named Plaintiffs were detained without a probable cause determination or hearing before the magistrate court. Id. at ¶ 13. Warden Chavez understood that, under state law, he could not release any detainee without a court order. Id. at ¶ 17. Moreover, “[c]opies of the probable cause statement or criminal complaint were available to the detainees and the magistrate court at any time after booking.” Id. at ¶ 21. Magistrate judges would, in fact, request a copy of the probable cause statement or criminal complaint from VCDC “if a formal copy had not yet been filed with the court by law enforcement.” Id. at ¶ 25.

         c. Affidavit of Former Sheriff Rivera

         Rivera was Sheriff prior to the end of December 2010 and was Sheriff at the time named Plaintiffs were arrested. (Doc. 126-2) at ¶¶ 2 and 3. Former Sheriff Rivera did not have a policy or custom of allowing deputies to arrest individuals and then delay the filing of the criminal complaints. Id. at ¶ 5. Former Sheriff Rivera's policy required that the arresting deputy complete a criminal complaint and probable cause statement at the time of arrest and present those documents to the arrestee at the time of booking into VCDC. Id. at ¶ 6. Former Sheriff Rivera also directed the deputies to present the criminal complaints to the District Attorney's office for review prior to filing them in magistrate court. Id. at ¶ 8. Former Sheriff Rivera understood that, once the District Attorney's office approved a criminal complaint, staff from the Sheriff's office would pick up the complaint and have it filed in court. Id. at ¶ 10. The District Attorney's office also indicated to former Sheriff Rivera that it would “immediately” inform the Sheriff's office of any problems with the criminal complaints.

         In 2008, former Sheriff Rivera became aware of untimely filed criminal complaints and probable cause statements. Id. at ¶ 13. Former Sheriff Rivera, therefore, reiterated to deputies, through training, of the policy that criminal complaints be completed at the time of arrest and provided, along with a probable cause statement, to the arrestee and VCDC at the time of booking, and that deputies “immediately” transmit the criminal complaints to the District Attorney's office for review. Id. at ¶ 14. In July 2008, after the training, former Sheriff Rivera instructed his staff to let him know of any problems about untimely filed criminal complaints or the lack of probable cause determinations. Id. at ¶ 15. Former Sheriff Rivera was, thereafter, unaware of any issues with untimely filed criminal complaints or lack of probable cause statements. Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 15 and 16. Furthermore, former Sheriff Rivera did not hear of any ...


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