United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
B. WORMUTH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion and
Supporting Memorandum for Qualified Immunity and Summary
Judgment. Doc. 47. Having reviewed the Motion, the attendant
briefing and oral argument (docs. 52, 57, 60, 61, 64), and
being otherwise fully advised regarding relevant case law,
the Court will GRANT Defendants' motion.
case stems from events surrounding an assault on
Plaintiff's minor child, A.L., in the juvenile pod of the
Doña Ana County Detention Center
(“DACDC”). Doc. 1. Plaintiff filed suit on behalf
of A.L. in this Court on February 15, 2018. Id. In
her Complaint, Plaintiff brings federal and state law claims
against the Doña Ana County Board of County
Commissioners, doing business as DACDC, and on-duty guards
Paco Luna, Jaime Casado, and Shaylene Platero (“the
Individual Defendants”). Id. Particularly,
Plaintiff brings (1) claims against the Individual Defendants
in their individual capacities for violating A.L.'s
Fourteenth Amendment due process right to reasonable safety
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (2) a §1983 municipal
liability claim against DACDC, (3) state law claims against
Defendants for negligence and negligent operation of a
building or equipment, and (4) claims against Defendants
under the New Mexico Constitution for the alleged violation
of humane conditions of confinement. Id.
13, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment,
which was fully briefed on August 21, 2018. Docs. 47, 52, 57,
60. In the Motion, Defendants seek summary judgment on
Plaintiff's § 1983 claims on the basis of qualified
immunity. See doc. 47 at 7-17. The Court held oral
argument on the Motion on August 28, 2018. Doc. 64. During
the hearing, the Court permitted the parties an additional
week to file supplemental case citations and parentheticals
relevant to the “cross-pollination of Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment analyses” and the
“delegation of policy” arguments discussed by
counsel during the hearing. Id. In response,
Plaintiff filed her Notice of Additional Authority on August
30, 2018. Doc. 61. Defendants similarly filed a Notice of
Additional Authority on August 31, 2018. Doc. 62.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is now before the
Qualified Immunity & Summary Judgment
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), this Court must
“grant summary judgment 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 bears the initial burden of
“show[ing] ‘that there is an absence of evidence
to support the nonmoving party's case.'”
Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d
887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). Once the movant
meets this burden, the non-moving party is required to
designate specific facts showing that “there are . . .
genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by
a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in
favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); see also
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
however, summary judgment motions based upon the defense of
qualified immunity are reviewed differently from other
summary judgment motions. Martinez v. Beggs, 563
F.3d 1082, 1088 (10th Cir. 2009). “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. (citing
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231-32 (2009)).
This is a “strict two-part test” that must be met
before the defendant asserting qualified immunity again
“bear[s] the traditional burden of the movant for
summary judgment- showing that there are no genuine issues of
material fact and that he or she is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Clark v. Edmunds, 513 F.3d
1219, 1222 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Nelson v.
McMullen, 207 F.3d 1202, 1205 (10th Cir. 2000))
(internal quotations omitted). The Court may address the two
prongs of the test in any order. Pearson, 555 U.S.
immunity is applicable unless the official's conduct
violated a clearly established constitutional right.”
Id. at 232 (citing Anderson v. Creighton,
483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)). “A Government official's
conduct violates clearly established law when, at the time of
the challenged conduct, ‘[t]he contours of [a] right
[are] sufficiently clear' that every ‘reasonable
official would have understood that what he is doing violates
that right.'” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563
U.S. 731, 741 (2011) (quoting Creighton, 483 U.S. at 640).
“We do not require a case directly on point, but
existing precedent must have placed the statutory or
constitutional question beyond debate.” Id.
(citing Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)).
“Ordinarily, in order for the law to be clearly
established, there must be a Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit
decision on point, or the clearly established weight of
authority from other courts must have found the law to be as
the plaintiff maintains.” Clark v. Wilson, 625
F.3d 686, 690 (10th Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted).
determining whether the plaintiff has met its burden, the
Court still construes the facts in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff as the non-moving party. See Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007). In so doing, the Court
must keep in mind three principles. First, the Court's
role is not to weigh the evidence, but to assess the
threshold issue of whether a genuine issue exists as to
material facts requiring a trial. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “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 nonmovant] need
only present evidence from which a jury might return a
verdict in his favor.” Id. at 257.
Nonetheless, at the summary judgment stage, “a
plaintiff's version of the facts must find support in the
record.” Thomson v. Salt Lake County, 584 F.3d
1304, 1312 (10th Cir. 2009).
Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause governs
pre-adjudication detainee suits against jails. Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 536 (1979). The Supreme Court has
held the following with respect to §1983 liability in
cases that allege a failure to protect inmates from other
inmates, such as the one at bar.
[P]rison officials . . . must take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates. [Particularly, ] prison
officials have a duty…to protect prisoners from
violence at the hands of other prisoners. . . . It is not,
however, every injury suffered by one prisoner at the hands
of another that translates into constitutional liability for
prison officials responsible for the victim's safety. . .
. First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively,
sufficiently serious, [and] the inmate must show that he is
incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of
serious harm. [S]econd[, ] a prison official must have a
sufficiently culpable state of mind. . . .that [of]
deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety. . . .
[A]cting or failing to act with deliberate indifference to a
substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner is the
equivalent of recklessly disregarding that risk. We hold. . .
that a prison official cannot be found liable. . . for
denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the
official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety; the official must both be aware of the
facts from which the inference could be drawn that a
substantial risk of harm exists, and he must also draw the
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-36 (1970)
(internal quotations and citations omitted).
to the liability of supervisors in particular, to meet his or
her supervisory liability burden under §1983, a
plaintiff must demonstrate that the supervisor:
[P]ersonally violated [the plaintiff's] constitutional
rights. To do that [the plaintiff must] show an affirmative
link between [the supervisor] and [the violation.] And to
demonstrate such an affirmative link, [the plaintiff must]
establish (1) personal involvement, (2) causation, and (3)
state of mind.
[Plaintiff] could satisfy the personal-involvement
requirement by showing that [the supervisor] was responsible
for but failed to create and enforce policies to protect [the
plaintiff] from the [violation]. To establish causation, [the
plaintiff] had to show that [the supervisor] set in motion a
series of events that [the supervisor] knew or reasonably
should have known would cause others to deprive [the
plaintiff] of [the plaintiff's] constitutional rights.
Finally, in the context of a Fourteenth Amendment claim like
this one, [the plaintiff] could establish the requisite state
of mind by showing that [the supervisor] acted with
In turn, the deliberate-indifference test itself has three
requirements. [The plaintiff] had to show (1) that [the
supervisor] was aware of facts from which the inference could
be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm existed; (2)
that he actually drew that inference; and (3) that he was
aware of and failed to take reasonable steps to alleviate
Perry v. Durborow, 892 F.3d 1116, 1121-22 (10th Cir.
2018) (internal quotations and citations omitted). “A
supervisor's mere knowledge of his subordinate's
conduct” falls short of meeting the standard.
Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dept.,
717 F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013) (internal citation
cannot be held liable for the acts of their employees under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the basis of a respondeat superior
theory. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 691-94 (1978); see also Bryson v. City of Okla.
City, 627 F.3d 784, 788 (10th Cir. 2010). Instead,
“[a] plaintiff suing a municipality under section 1983
for the acts of one of its employees must prove: (1) that a
municipal employee committed a constitutional violation, and
(2) that a municipal policy or custom was the moving force
behind the constitutional violation.” Myers v.
Okla. Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 151 F.3d 1313, 1316
(10th Cir. 1998). In order to meet this burden, a plaintiff
must first “identify a government's policy or
custom that caused the injury.” Schneider, 717 F.3d at
769 (internal quotations and citation omitted). The plaintiff
is then required to show “that the policy was enacted
or maintained with deliberate indifference to an almost
inevitable constitutional injury.” Id. The
Tenth Circuit has distilled these requirements into three
specific elements: “(1) official policy or custom[;]
(2) causation[;] and (3) state of mind.” Id.
official policy or custom may take different forms. See
Cacioppo v. Town of Vail, Colo., 528 Fed.Appx. 929,
931-32 (10th Cir. 2013) (unpublished). Specifically,
“[a] challenged practice may be deemed an official
policy or custom for § 1983 municipal- liability
purposes if it is a formally promulgated policy, a
well-settled custom or practice, a final decision by a
municipal policymaker, or deliberately indifferent training
or supervision.” Schneider, 717 F.3d at 770. Proving an
unlawful custom demands evidence of “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.”
City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 127
(1988) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398
U.S. 144, 167-68 (1970)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
For liability to attach, the plaintiff must demonstrate a
“direct causal link between the custom or policy and
the violation alleged.” Hollingsworth v. Hill,
110 F.3d 733, 742 (10th Cir. 1997) (internal citations
on the facts presented by the movants and other facts gleaned
from the record, the Court finds the following facts to be
undisputed for the purposes of Defendants' Motion:
1. On May 3, 2016, A.L., a fourteen-year-old juvenile, was
arrested and booked into DACDC. Doc. 47-1 at 1.
2. When A.L. was escorted to his cell, three other detainees
in the pod, Joaquin Solis, Jesus Vasquez, and Adan Herrera,
shouted threats at A.L., including that they planned to
“fuck [A.L.] up.” Doc. 47-2 at 1.
3. DACDC officer James Espana documented the threats against
A.L. in an incident report. Doc. 47-2.
4. Defendants Luna, Casado, and Platero, guards within the
pod, were made aware of these threats. Doc. 47-3 at 1; doc.
47-4 at 2; doc. 47-5 at 1. In addition, Defendant Luna noted
that Solis, Vasquez and Herrera had histories of assault at
DACDC. Id. In fact, DACDC reported an assault
involving Herrera and Vasquez as recently as April 30, 2016.
Doc. 52-1, Attachment 5. Further, five previous
“affrays” had been reported involving Solis,
Herrera or Vasquez. Id., Attachment 6. In addition,
Luna recorded on April 25, 2016, that “it is not safe
to take [Herrera] out of his cell.” Id. A
DACDC psychiatrist on April 29, 2016, also found that
Herrera, who had been incarcerated ten times, is prone to
anger and “risk taking activity, ” and suffers
from auditory hallucinations. Id.
5. DACDC placed Solis, Vasquez and Herrera on
pre-disciplinary status, meaning they were only allowed out
of their cells to shower, use the phone, use the inmate
kiosk, and participate in a one-hour recreation period. Doc.
47-3 at 1. Further, DACDC did not permit the three detainees
to leave their cells during the same period as each other or
A.L. Doc. 47-4 at 2.
6. On the morning of May 4, 2016, Sergeant Luna was on duty
as the supervisor. Id. Officer Casado and Cadet
Platero joined Defendant Luna on the shift. Prior to 9:00
a.m. Herrera showered in the shower room. Id.
Simultaneously, the Individual Defendants watched television
in the middle of the juvenile pod's dayroom, a
first-floor rectangular common room filled with circular
tables and surrounded ...