United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT NO. II
HONORABLE GREGORY J. FOURATT MAGISTRATE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's “Motion
for Summary Judgment No. II: Summary Judgment for the Board
of County Commissioners” (“Motion”) [ECF
No. 33], filed April 26, 2017. After careful consideration of
the pertinent law and the parties' briefing, the Court
will grant the Motion and will dismiss Plaintiff's
federal civil rights claim (Count I of the Complaint) with
prejudice. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
concludes that the evidence submitted by Plaintiff has failed
to establish a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the
existence of any unconstitutional policy or custom by the
municipal defendant that caused her injuries. The Court
further concludes that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law as to Count I in its entirety.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
case arises out of Plaintiff's incarceration at the Curry
County Detention Center (“CCDC”)
“Women's Annex” in Clovis, New Mexico.
Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff was
incarcerated there as a sentenced state prisoner from January
21, 2014, through May 30, 2014, when she was transferred to
another facility. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges
that she was battered by another inmate on February 1, 2014,
during which she sustained a broken hand, scratches on her
face, and bruising on her head, knee, and face. Id.
¶¶ 10, 15. Plaintiff contends that her injuries
stemmed from Defendant Curry County Board of
Commissioners' (hereafter “Board's” or
“Defendant's”) multiple policy failures,
of which combined to violate her Fourteenth Amendment due
process rights, including: failing to properly classify and
segregate violent inmates, failing to adequately train and
supervise detention officers, failing to provide proper
medical care for inmates, failing to prevent overcrowding of
the Women's Annex, failing to adequately staff and fund
operations at the Women's Annex, and failing to provide a
safe and humane physical plant at the Women's Annex.
Id. ¶¶ 40, 46-55.
April 26, 2017, Defendant moved for summary judgment on
Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim. ECF No. 33.
Plaintiff responded on May 18, 2017 [ECF No. 41], and
Defendant replied on June 1, 2017. ECF No. 46.
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS
argues that Plaintiff's claims under the Fourteenth
Amendment must be dismissed because “there simply is
not any evidence that a municipal policy, practice or custom
caused a violation of Plaintiff's Due Process rights, or
that the Board was deliberately indifferent.”
Def.'s Mot. 12, ECF No. 33. It emphasizes that there was
a policy in place at CCDC for classifying and segregating
violent inmates, both at the booking stage and at any other
point when detention personnel become aware of a problem
between inmates. Id. at 8. The Board also contends
that there is no evidence that any allegedly deficient policy
or custom caused Plaintiff's injuries. Defendant asserts
that Plaintiff's injuries arose solely out of a personal
dispute between two inmates, as opposed to any policy or
custom attributable to the Board as a municipal entity.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's criticism of the
medical care provided to inmates at CCDC is irrelevant
because she does not allege that she herself was denied care.
Defendant also characterizes Plaintiff's allegations of
insufficient staffing, overcrowding, lack of training and
supervision, inadequate facilities, and improper funding as
either irrelevant or baseless. Id. at 8-13.
responds that the severe beating she experienced was
“totally preventable” by Defendant. Pl.'s
Resp. 15, ECF No. 41. She insists that inmate Moore was
“known to be an aggressive, dangerous inmate that
should have been segregated and kept away from the general
population.” Id. at 16. She further asserts
that Defendant failed in its duty to “adequately screen
detainees for violence, adequately staff the facility and
prevent violence.” Id. at 17-18. Plaintiff
also alleges that the Board tolerated a policy or custom of
failing to provide adequate medical care to inmates,
primarily by imposing a $10 fee before any treatment would be
rendered. Id. at 18-19. Plaintiff concludes by
criticizing the Board for understaffing the Women's Annex
and failing to update its antiquated logbook to a
computerized system, all of which caused Plaintiff to be
beaten. Id. at 19.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment shall be granted “if 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). The entry of summary judgment is mandated
“after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
party who will bear the burden of proof at trial on a
dispositive issue must designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. In
order for an issue to be genuine, the evidence of it must be
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If there is not sufficient evidence
favoring the nonmoving party, there is no issue for trial.
Id. at 249. Furthermore, “[w]here the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing First
Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253,
289 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
summary judgment stage, “a plaintiff's version of
the facts must find support in the record.” Thomson
v. Salt Lake Cnty., 584 F.3d 1304, 1312 (10th Cir.
2009). As with any fact asserted by a party in a summary
judgment motion, the non-movant must point the Court to such
support by “citing to particular parts of materials in
the record[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). All material
facts set forth in the motion and response that are not
specifically controverted are deemed undisputed.
the Court decides motions for summary judgment by viewing the
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
the Court obeys three general principles. First, the
Court's role is not to weigh the evidence, but only to
assess the threshold issue of whether a genuine issue exists
as to material facts such that a trial is required. See
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. “An issue is
‘genuine' if there is sufficient evidence on each
side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue
either way. An issue of fact is ‘material' if under
the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition
of the claim.” Thom v. Bristol Myers Squibb
Co., 353 F.3d 848, 851 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal
citation omitted). Second, the Court must resolve all
reasonable inferences and doubts in favor of the non-moving
party, and construe all evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party. See Hunt v. Cromartie, 526
U.S. 541, 550-55 (1999). Third, the Court cannot decide any
issues of credibility. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
at 255. “[T]o survive the . . . motion, [the
non-movant] need only present evidence from which a jury
might return a verdict in his favor.” Id. at
257. Nonetheless, “[w]hen opposing parties tell two
different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by
the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a
court should not adopt that version of the facts[.]”
York v. City of Las Cruces, 523 F.3d 1205, 1210
(10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 380 (2007)).
LEGAL STANDARD FOR MUNICIPAL LIABILITY CLAIMS
U.S.C. § 1983 provides remedies for persons who have
been deprived of their constitutional rights under color of
state law. In pertinent part, the statute provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for
redress . . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012). Though the statute
expressly creates a cause of action against
“persons” who act under the color of state law to
violate rights of others, the Supreme Court has held that
municipalities and local governments may also be sued under
§ 1983. See Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. of City
of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978) (“[L]ocal
governments, like every other § 1983 ‘person,
' by the very terms of the statute, may be sued for
constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental
‘custom' . . . .”).
and local governments cannot be sued on a respondeat superior
theory alone, however, meaning that they cannot be held
liable on the sole basis that they employed a tortfeasor.
Id. at 691. Instead, they can only be sued
“when execution of a government's policy or custom,
whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or
acts may fairly be said to represent official policy,
inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is
responsible under § 1983.” Id. at 694.
The Supreme Court has made clear that this requirement
“was intended to distinguish acts of the
municipality from acts of employees of the
municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability
is limited to action for which the municipality is actually
responsible.” Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati,
475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986) (emphasis in original). A
municipality is therefore only responsible for acts that it
“officially sanctioned or ordered.” Id.
liability under § 1983 attaches only where “a
deliberate choice to follow a course of action is made from
among various alternatives by the official or officials
responsible for establishing final policy with respect to the
subject matter in question.” Id. at 483. In
the Tenth Circuit, a municipal policy or custom can take the
(1) a formal regulation or policy statement; (2) an informal
custom amounting to a widespread practice that, although not
authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is so
permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage
with the force of law; (3) the decisions of employees with
final policymaking authority; (4) the ratification by such
final policymakers of the decisions - and the basis for them
- of subordinates to whom authority was delegated subject to
these policymakers' review and approval; or (5) the
failure to adequately train or supervise employees, so long
as that failure results from deliberate indifference to the
injuries that may be caused.
Bryson v. City of Oklahoma City, 627 F.3d 784, 788
(10th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations
establishing the existence of a policy, however, does not by
itself create municipal liability. Bd. of Cty.
Comm'rs of Bryan Cty., Okl. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397,
404 (1997). “[A] plaintiff must also demonstrate that,
through its deliberate conduct, the municipality was
the ‘moving force' behind the injury
alleged.” Id. (emphasis in original). To prove
this, “a plaintiff must show that the municipal action
was taken with the requisite degree of culpability and must
demonstrate a direct causal link between the municipal action
and the deprivation of federal rights.” Id.
The Tenth Circuit has emphasized that “[t]he causation
element is applied with especial rigor when the municipal
policy or practice is itself not unconstitutional, for
example, when the municipal liability claim is based upon
inadequate training, supervision, and deficiencies in
hiring.” Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police
Dept., 717 F.3d 760, 770 (10th Cir. 2013) (citation
municipality is sued for failure to adequately train its
officers, liability attaches “only where the failure to
train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of
persons with whom the police come into contact, ” and
that deliberate indifference was the moving force behind the
violation of the plaintiff's federally protected right.
City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989).
The plaintiff must demonstrate specific training deficiencies
and either (1) a pattern of constitutional violations of
which policy-making officials can be charged with knowledge,
or (2) that training is obviously necessary to avoid
constitutional violations. Id. at 390; see also
Barney v. Pulsipher, 143 F.3d 1299, 1307-08 (10th Cir.
1998). The plaintiff must identify a particular deficiency in
the training program and then prove that the identified
deficiency was the actual cause of the plaintiff's
constitutional injury. City of Canton, 489 U.S. at
a “pattern of similar constitutional violations by
untrained employees is ordinarily necessary to demonstrate
deliberate indifference for purposes of failure to
train[.]” Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350,
1360 (2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
In the specific context of the training of jail guards,
“[i]t is not enough . . . to show that there were
general deficiencies in the county's training program for
jailers. Rather, [the plaintiff] must identify a specific
deficiency in the county's training program closely
related to his ultimate injury, and must prove that the
deficiency in training actually caused his jailer to act with
deliberate indifference to [the plaintiff's]
safety.” Lopez v. LeMaster, 172 F.3d 756, 760
(10th Cir. 1999) (citing City of Canton, 489 U.S. at
391) (emphasis added).
Court divides this section into two parts: (1) facts that the
parties have expressly agreed are undisputed, and (2) facts
submitted by Defendant that the Court has found to be
undisputed despite Plaintiff's argument to the contrary.
Stipulated Undisputed Facts
forty-two (42) material facts that Defendant enumerated in
its Motion [Def.'s Mot. 2-7], Plaintiff admitted
twenty-three (23) of them in her Response. Pl.'s Resp. 2.
The Court will therefore treat the following as undisputed
Plaintiff was arrested and booked into the Curry County Adult
Detention Center on January 21, 2014.
Plaintiff was playing cards in the evening and another inmate
named Mary Jane Aragon told Plaintiff that inmate Moore
wanted to meet her in the shower area, because there were no
cameras back there.
the time, Plaintiff was playing cards in the dayroom with
some other inmates and listening to her headphones.
the time, the Detention Officer on duty, Raedean Burbank, was
not on the floor.
Plaintiff responded to inmate Aragon by telling her that she
did not have any time “for that, ” which
indicated that she was not going to go.
short time later, inmate Moore came into the dayroom and
confronted Plaintiff. Inmate Moore then grabbed
Plaintiff's hair and started hitting and kicking
Plaintiff testified that, prior to the fight taking place,
she had told various officers at the Detention Center that
Ms. Moore was threatening to “mess her up.”
Plaintiff claims that, on the first day of her incarceration,
she told Detention Center staff that she did not want to be
held in the “freeway, ” which is an open area in
the Women's Annex. Plaintiff claimed she was concerned
about issues with inmate Moore, and asked to be moved to a
Detention Center honored Plaintiff's request, and
Plaintiff was moved to a cell.
the entire time period from January 21, 2014 to February 1,
2014, inmate Moore was held in the “freeway.”
Plaintiff testified that she told Detention staff that she
was concerned because of her relationship with the Perez
family and inmate Moore's relationship with the Guerra
According to Plaintiff, inmate Moore is married to Louis
Guerra, who is serving a sentence for killing Daniel Perez.
Plaintiff's daughter has a child with the Perez family.
Plaintiff was present when Daniel Perez was killed and
Plaintiff gave a statement to the police during the