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Dominguez v. Colfax County

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 30, 2018

ELIJAH DOMINGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COLFAX COUNTY, RATON POLICE OFFICERS D. BREITFELDER, and HOLLAND, and CORRECTIONAL OFFICER JAMES SALAZAR, LIEUTENTANT ROSE BERNAL, and ADMINISTRATOR GABRIEL SANDOVAL Of the VIGIL/MALDONADO [COLFAX COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, Defendants.

          Attorneys for Plaintiff Randy S. Bartell Alexia Constantaras, Montgomery & Andrews, P.A.

          Attorneys for Defendants Joseph P. Kennedy Theresa V. Hacsi Kennedy Kennedy & Ives, LLC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA VÁZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Amended Motion for Summary Judgment on Claims Against Individual County Defendants and Memorandum of Law in Support Thereof [Doc. 70]. The Court, having considered the motion, briefs, and relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed, finds that the Motion is well-taken in part and not well-taken in part and will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         “The facts supported by evidence, [viewed] in the light most favorable to [Plaintiff]” as the party opposing summary judgment, are as follows.[1] Cavanaugh v. Woods Cross City, 625 F.3d 661, 662 (10th Cir. 2010). At approximately 11:00 a.m. on May 24, 2013, the Friday leading into Memorial Day Weekend, Raton Police Officers Breitfelder and Holland were dispatched to the Denny's restaurant in Raton, New Mexico, in response to complaints that a man, later identified as Plaintiff Elijah Dominguez, was creating a disturbance inside the restaurant. Doc. 70-1. Upon arrival, Breitfelder and Holland recognized Plaintiff as the same person who had been at a nearby McDonald's earlier that day engaging in similarly disturbing behavior that resulted in a call to the police to which these same officers had responded. Id.

         The manager at Denny's reported to the officers that Plaintiff had been soliciting a ride from the restaurant's customers, and was “quite disruptive, loudly preaching to customers about his obscure religious beliefs and positions on gang violence and outreach to a lost world.” Id. The manager further reported that Plaintiff “became verbally abusive when he was repeatedly asked to leave, ” and “refused to leave and continued this activity” until the officers arrived. Id. As the officers entered the restaurant, they observed several customers leaving, who thanked the officers “for their quick response.” Id. Both at Denny's and at McDonald's earlier that day, the officers “were approached by citizens telling [them] that Mr. Dominguez had created a disturbance that made them uncomfortable, and they were leaving as a result.” Id.

         Breitfelder and Holland arrested Plaintiff for disorderly conduct and transported him to the Colfax County Detention Center (the “Detention Center”). Doc. 70-7. At 11:24 a.m., Sergeant James Salazar booked Plaintiff into the Detention Center. Doc. 70-2, Doc. 70-3. The Administrator of the Detention Center, Gabriel Sandoval, was also present at the time of Plaintiff's booking. Doc. 70-6 at ¶ 3. Correctional Officer Sanchez administered to Plaintiff a Suicide Screening Questionnaire and a Medical Screening Questionnaire. Docs. 70-4, 70-5.

         The Suicide Screening Questionnaire instructed the Questioning Officer to “ask the detainee” specific questions. Doc. 70-4. The form indicates that Plaintiff responded “yes” to the following questions: “Has anyone in your family, or significant other ever attempted suicide? Do you have a psychiatric history? Do you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse? Have you ever made a previous attempt at suicide? Do you feel that you have nothing to look forward to in the future?” Id. Although the form asks for specific dates for psychiatric history and history of drug or alcohol abuse, and for the method of previous suicide attempts, no such information was noted on Plaintiff's form. Id. The form further instructed the Questioning Officer to complete specific questions. The Questioning Officer responded “yes” to the following questions: “Is the detainee showing signs of depression? Is the detainee acting or talking in a strange manner (cannot focus, hallucinating)?” Id.

         The Medical Screening Questionnaire similarly asks for the officer to solicit “yes” or “no” responses from the detainee. Doc. 70-5. The form indicates that Plaintiff responded yes to having “any current illness or injury, ” and that, yes, he had been treated for heart problems, hypertension, diabetes, mental illness, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and bruises. Id. Although the form asks for dates of treatment, none are provided on the form. Id. The form further includes “Questions for Officers.” Id. As to those questions, the Officer noted “yes” next to the question, “Is the inmate disoriented?” Id.

         During the booking process, Plaintiff “was hard to keep on track . . . when answering simple questions.” Doc. 70-7 at 1. Also during the booking process, Plaintiff “became disruptive.” Doc. 70-6 at ¶ 7. As a result, Sandoval called Tri-County Behavioral Health Services “for help in calming him down.” Id. at ¶ 7. Tri-County Behavioral Health Services, however, advised that they could not respond to the Detention Center at that time. Id. ¶ 7.

         According to evidence submitted by Plaintiff, his brother, Marcel Dominguez (“Marcel”), saw Plaintiff's truck abandoned on the road, found a police officer, and asked whether there had been “any call outs” for Plaintiff. Doc. 74-10 at ¶¶ 2, 4, 5. The officer advised that there had been “an incident at McDonalds involving” Plaintiff, and that Plaintiff had been “taken to the local jail.” Id. at ¶ 6. Marcel went to the jail and asked to see Plaintiff, but was not permitted to do so. Id. at ¶ 8. Marcel “told Jail staff that [Plaintiff] had been diagnosed with something like Schizophrenia and that he was under the care of [their] mother, and that [Plaintiff] needed medication and that his need was urgent.” Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. Marcel “called [his] mother and got the name of [Plaintiff's] medication and then [he] told a staff member at the jail the medication [Plaintiff] needed.” Id. at ¶ 12. While Defendants' evidence similarly establishes that, shortly after Plaintiff was booked into the Detention Center, “a male came into the administrative area and identified himself as Plaintiff's brother, ” according to Defendants' evidence, Plaintiff's brother “did not provide any information about Plaintiff beyond stating that he thought that Plaintiff needed to be on medication but he did not identify which medication Plaintiff needed nor did he provide any medications for Plaintiff at the time of this visit.” Doc. 70-6 at ¶ 5.

         When Salazar took Plaintiff to put on his jail uniform, Plaintiff “began talking vulgar and asked [Salazar] to hurt him.” Doc. 70-7 at 1. “Because of his [demeanor] and his answers on intake (medical and suicidal) forms, ” Salazar had Plaintiff “fill out a medical request form to see a doctor.” Id. Initially, Salazar placed Plaintiff in a “holding tank” with two other inmates. Id. Five minutes later, he “had to remove the other two inmates and place them somewhere else because [Plaintiff] was talking vulgar to them.” Id. Plaintiff was then “housed by himself.” Id. Plaintiff thereafter “removed his jail uniform and was yelling profanities and pouring water upon himself in the nude.” Id. Plaintiff “had his clothing on and off most of the day.” Id.

         Over the three-day weekend, “Plaintiff was under constant video surveillance and was physically checked every 30 minutes.” Doc. 70-6 at ¶ 10. Three “Resident Welfare/Safety Logs” were created, recording jail staff's observations of Plaintiff every 30 minutes. Doc. 70-8. The Log includes the following observations of Plaintiff made over the course of his four-day detention: “standing up walking around (nude)”; “walking around nude;” “walking around nude”; “walking around nude”; “walking around nude”; “sitting singing”; “pacing talking to the door”; “pacing talking to self”; “pacing back and forth, cursing”; “talk to himself”; “talk to himself”; “talking to himself - naked;” “walking back and forth naked”; “naked lying down”; “throwing cup at door”; “undressing, naked”; “yelling naked”; “undressing again”; “up walking around naked”; “naked talking to self”; “nude standing”; “walking around nude”; “sitting down talking to self”; “awake nude”; “awake nude, standing”; “awake standing walking around incoherent”; “sitting down taking pants off”; “lying down nude”; “up nude yelling incoherent”; “yelling - sitting in the nude”; “walking around in the nude”; “sitting down - nekkid [sic] - movement”; “laying down - nekkid [sic] - movement”; “walking around nude”; “walking around nude”; “standing/dancing”; “walking around nude”; “looking out window - nude”; “yelling at door nude”; “awake nude folding blanket”; “walking around screaming - delirious - no clothes”; “laying down yelling with no clothes”; “standing up yelling with no clothes”; “walking around yelling with no clothes”; “sitting down with no clothes”; “standing/throwing cup against wall and banging on door”; “standing up yelling”; “lying down fondling himself”; “howling”; “kneeling folding shirt nude”; “standing against wall nude”; “walking around nud [sic] talking to wall”; “laying down nude”; “dancing nude/walking around”; “walking around nued [sic]; “walking around yelling”; “laying down nude”; “laying down nude”; “laying down nude”; “standing by door nude”; “nude walking around”; “incoherent”; “undressed, up eating”; “awake nude”; “laying down talking to self”; “walking around with no clothing on (naked)”; “sitting there in the nude”; “nude standing up;” “walking around/taking clothing off (nude”)”; walking around (naked)”; “walking around (nude)”; “walking around (nude)”; “walking around (nude)”; “walking around nude talking to himself”. Id.

         The first Log, which is three pages long, begins at 1:34 p.m. on Friday May 24, 2013, and ends at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday May 26, 2013. The bottom of the last page of the first Log indicates that it was received and signed by Sandoval; the date on which it was received is not legible. The Administrator comments state: “Mr. Dominguez needs mental health evaluation so he has been separated from the population so he does not get hurt. Making racial slurs and telling staff he wants to kill them.” Id. The second Log, which is three pages long, begins at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday May 26, 2013 and ends at 12:27 p.m. on Monday, May 27, 2013. The bottom of the second page of the second Log indicates that it was received and signed by Sandoval on May 27, 2013. The Administrator Comments state: “Mr. Dominguez still being disrespectful to staff. Tried contacting Judge so he could let Mr. Dominguez out but no reply.” Id. The third Log, which is two pages long, begins at 12:04 p.m. on Monday May 27, 2013 and ends at 15:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 28, 2013. The second page of the third Log indicates that it was received and signed by Sandoval on May 28, 2013. The Administrator Comments state: “Mr. Dominguez needs mental evaluation. Hope to see the Judge today.” Id.

         The Detention Center is too small to employ a staff doctor or operate an onsite medical clinic. Id. at ¶ 6. When a detainee has a medical emergency, Detention Center staff send the detainee, by ambulance, to the Miners' Colfax Medical Center (“Medical Center”). Id. The Medical Center Emergency Department was the only facility “to which Plaintiff could be sent over the long weekend.” Id. at ¶ 8. Sandoval “did not deem Plaintiff's condition to be a medical emergency because he was not hurting himself and was placed in a private cell so that he would not be at risk of being harmed by any of the other detainees.” Id. at ¶ 9.

         The Colfax County Magistrate Court was closed over Memorial Day weekend. Doc. 70-6 at ¶ 8. On Tuesday May 28, 2013, Sandoval called Magistrate Judge Walton and requested that Plaintiff be brought before him as soon as possible. Id. at ¶ 11. Judge Walton then called to arrange for “video court” for Plaintiff. Doc. 70-7 at 1. Salazar and Sanchez took Plaintiff into the video courtroom. Id. After the hearing, Judge Walton ordered Salazar to have Plaintiff transported to the Medical Center for a medical evaluation. Id. Sanchez transported Plaintiff to the Medical Center at 4:30 p.m. Id.

         At the Medical Center, Plaintiff was treated by attending physician Richard M. Amesquito, DO. Doc. 70-10 at 1. The Medical Center report indicates that the “chief complaint” for Plaintiff's visit was “psychosis as reported by his jailers.” Id. The report further indicates that Plaintiff, while in custody at the county jail, had “been in a private secluded room because he [had] been acting psychotic, crazy, boisterous, agitated and some anxiety when in the company of other prisoners.” Id. Plaintiff was “a poor historian” and would not give the Medical Center “any useful information” regarding his medical history, but Plaintiff's mother reported to the Medical Center that he suffered from psychosis. Id. The report describes Plaintiff as “agitated, anxious, non-cooperative, ” talking “in circles, ” “very loud and boisterous, ” and “verbally abusive to staff and accompanying police officers.” Id. at 2. The report documents the “emergency room course” as follows: “While in the ER patient required Geodon 20 mg IM x2 [an antipsychotic drug] which finally made him sedate and easier to handle and not a threat to himself or others.” Id. The report indicates that Dr. Amesquita assessed Plaintiff with psychosis and mania. Id. The report further indicates that the “plan” was to admit Plaintiff to the ICU; “[c]onsult with mental health first thing in the morning”; and “[f]ind placement for [Plaintiff] for proper psychological evaluation and treatment.” Id. The report notes that medical staff “consulted with the judge in [Plaintiff's] case, ” who found the plan to be acceptable. Finally, the report notes that Plaintiff was “admitted to the hospital in stable condition.” Id.

         The following day, on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, a Release Order and Bond was signed, releasing Plaintiff from custody on an unsecured appearance bond of $500. Doc. 70-11. The Order includes the following language: “Please release this defendant so that he can get mental evaluation and meds. We will send summons at later date.” Id.

         As a result of the foregoing facts, Plaintiff commenced an action in the Eighth Judicial District Court, Colfax County, in the State of New Mexico against Colfax County, Breitfelder, Holland, Salazar, Sandoval, and Rose Bernal, Lieutenant of the Detention Center. Doc. 1-2. Collectively, the Defendants removed the action to this Court on September 26, 2014. Doc. 1. In his Complaint to Recover Damages for Deprivation of Civil Rights and Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Plaintiff, inter alia, alleges that the “County Defendants” violated his rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Count IV), and that Salazar, Sandoval and Bernal (hereinafter referred to as “Defendants”) violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to provide medical care (Count V).

         Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of Counts IV and V as against them. Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff is not permitted to bring an ADA claim against them in their individual capacity, and that they are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's due process claim. Plaintiff consents to dismissal of Count IV as to Defendants, but argues that they are not entitled to qualified immunity on his due process claim.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate 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 movant has the initial burden of establishing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-movant's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must come forward with specific facts, supported by admissible evidence, that demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute. Comm. for First Amendment v. Campbell, 962 F.2d 1517, 1526 n. 11 (10th Cir. 1992). The court “construe[s] the factual record and the reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Mata v. Saiz, 427 F.3d 745, 749 (10th Cir. 2005).

         In the instant case, Defendants move for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects government officials performing discretionary functions “when their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1164 (10th Cir. 2011). In keeping with the purposes of qualified immunity, “special rules apply when an official raises a defense of qualified immunity on summary judgment.” Hinton v. City of Elwood, Kan., 997 F.2d 774, 779 (10th Cir. 1993). Specifically, “qualified immunity requires a two-step sequence.” Morris v. Noe, 672 F.3d 1185, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). “When a defendant asserts qualified immunity at summary judgment, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right and (2) the constitutional right was clearly established.” Id. (citation omitted). “If the plaintiff fails to satisfy either part of the two-part inquiry, the court must grant the defendant qualified immunity.” Gross v. Pirtle, 245 F.3d 1151, 1156 (10th Cir. 2001). The court has “the freedom to decide ‘which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand.'” Lundstrom v. Romero, 616 F.3d 1108, 1118 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009)).

         “A constitutional right is clearly established when, at the time of the alleged violation, the contours of the right were sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that his actions violate that right.” Lundstrom, 616 F.3d at 1118-19 (citation omitted). “This inquiry must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.” Fisher v. City of Las Cruces, 584 F.3d 888, 900 (10th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Accordingly, a “plaintiff must do more than identify in the abstract a clearly established right and allege that the defendant has violated it.” Lundstrom, 616 F.3d at 1119. Specifically, a “plaintiff must show legal authority making it apparent that in light of pre-existing law a reasonable official would have known that the conduct in question violated the constitutional right at issue.” Id.

         This does not mean that the plaintiff must “present a case with an identical factual situation.” Id. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has made clear that “officials can still be on notice that their conduct violates established law even in novel factual circumstances.” Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741 (2002) (“[A] general constitutional rule already identified in the decisional law may apply with obvious clarity to the specific conduct in question, even though the very action in question has not previously been held unlawful”); see also Casey v. City of Fed. Heights, 509 F.3d 1278, 1284 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The Hope decision shifted the qualified immunity analysis from a scavenger hunt for prior cases with precisely the same facts toward the more relevant inquiry of whether the law put officials on fair notice that the described conduct was unconstitutional.”). The “salient question” thus is whether the state of the law at the time of the alleged misconduct gave the defendant “fair warning” that her alleged misconduct was ...


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