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Gabaldon v. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 22, 2019

DANAN GABALDON, Plaintiff,
v.
BERNALILLO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's objections to the Magistrate Judge's “Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition” (“PFRD”), issued February 11, 2019. On reference by the undersigned (Doc. 24), United States Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Fouratt recommended that this Court: (1) grant summary judgment to Defendants; (2) dismiss Plaintiff's state law claim without prejudice; (3) deny Plaintiff's Motion to file Amended Complaint; and (4) deny Defendants' Motion to stay as moot. (Doc. 49) at 1. On February 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed his “Objections to Proposed Finding and Recommended Disposition Opposing Summary Judgment.” (Doc. 50). Defendants neither objected to the PFRD nor responded to Plaintiff's objections. Having reviewed de novo the portions of the PFRD to which Plaintiff objects, the Court now overrules the objections and adopts the PFRD. Therefore, and as explained below, the Court will grant summary judgment to Defendants, dismiss Plaintiff's state law claim without prejudice, deny Plaintiff's Motion to file Amended Pleading (Doc.43), and deny Defendants' Motion to Stay (Doc. 42) as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         Judge Fouratt detailed the factual background of this case in his PFRD. (Doc. 49) at 2-4.

         In sum, Plaintiff engaged in a high-speed chase with law enforcement on March 3, 2015. While in pursuit, one Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy fired shots at Plaintiff's vehicle. Police terminated the chase by deploying a pursuit intervention technique to force Plaintiff's vehicle into a spin and stall its engine. Once stopped, Plaintiff immediately exited the van and fled on foot. Deputies tackled the resisting Plaintiff and then utilized a softening blow as well as a lateral head displacement to gain his compliance. From these events, Plaintiff contends that the individual Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force to effectuate the arrest. Plaintiff further contends that the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office's failure to employ a policy requiring lapel cameras enabled the alleged constitutional violation.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS

         Plaintiff begins his challenge to Judge Fouratt's PFRD by requesting appointment of counsel for the fourth time in this litigation. (Doc. 50) at 1. While that is not a cognizable objection, this Court will address it nonetheless. Similarly, Plaintiff requests leave to supplement the record with additional evidence, thus allowing him a belated opportunity to attempt to create a fact dispute. Id. Again, this is not a cognizable objection, but the Court will address Plaintiff's request.

         Plaintiff does, however, advance three cognizable objections in his attack on Judge Fouratt's PFRD. First, he objects to Judge Fouratt's conclusion that no genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the individually named defendants used excessive force to effectuate his arrest. Id. Plaintiff contends that “officers ignored [his] surrender and blatantly lied falseifying [sic] facts and still continued to use excessive force while I got on knees and hands up.” Id. Second, Plaintiff challenges the PFRD's conclusion that the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office could not be held accountable under a theory of municipal liability. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that he demonstrated that the “officers committed an underlying constitutional violation; (2) [a] Municipal policy or customs exists and (3) there is a direct casual [sic] link between the policy and custom and the constitutional violations alleged.” Id. at 2. Lastly, Plaintiff objects to the PFRD's recommendation that his motion for leave to amend the complaint be denied. He contends for the first time that amendment would not be futile because “the claims against Deputy Hix would relate back.” Id. at 3.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Standard for Objections to a Magistrate Judge's Report

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (2012), a district judge may designate a magistrate judge to submit proposed findings of facts and recommendations for the disposition of any case pending before the Court. Where a party timely objects to the magistrate judge's proposed disposition, this Court conducts a de novo review of all portions of the recommendation which have been objected to and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations.” See Id. § 636(b)(1)(C). De novo review requires the district judge to consider relevant evidence of record and not merely to review the magistrate judge's recommendation. In re Griego, 64 F.3d 583-84 (10th Cir. 1995). “[A] party's objections to the magistrate judge's [PFRD] must be both timely and specific to preserve an issue for de novo review by the district court or for appellate review.” United States v. One Parcel of Real Prop., With Buildings, Appurtenances, Improvements, & Contents, 73 F.3d 1057, 1060 (10th Cir. 1996).

         B. Summary Judgment Standard in Pro Se Prisoner Cases

         Summary judgment will 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 movant must “cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

         The movant has the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). If this burden is met, the non-movant must come forward with specific facts, supported by admissible evidence, which demonstrate the presence of a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Although all facts are construed in favor of the non-movant, the non-movant still has a responsibility to “go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts so as to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [his] case in order to survive summary judgment.” Johnson v. Mullin, 422 F.3d 1184, 1187 (10th Cir. 2005) (alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Court liberally construes Plaintiff's filings because he appears pro se. Still, a pro se non-movant must “identify specific facts that show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Munoz v. St. Mary-Corwin Hosp., 221 F.3d 1160, 1164 (10th Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to establish an issue of ...


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