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Campbell v. Blalock

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 22, 2019

JIM CAMPBELL and JENNIFER CAMPBELL, as the next friends and parents of MASON CAMPBELL, a child, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRIAN BLALOCK, [*] MONIQUE JACOBSON, and NEW MEXICO CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES DEPARTMENT, an Agency/Department of the State of New Mexico, Defendants.

          Gary Mitchell, Mitchell Law Office, Ruidoso, New Mexico, for Plaintiffs.

          Bryan Evans, Carla Neusch Williams, Quincy J. Perales, and K. Renee Gantert, Atwood Malone Turner & Sabin P.A., Roswell, New Mexico, for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Paul Kelly, Jr. United States Circuit Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the court on Defendants Brian Blalock, Monique Jacobson, and New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department's (CYFD) Corrected Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 44). Upon consideration thereof, the court finds that Defendants' motion for summary judgment is well taken and should be granted.[1]

         Background

         In this civil rights action removed to federal court, Plaintiffs Jim and Jennifer Campbell, the parents of minor Mason Campbell, [2] seek compensatory and punitive damages arising from the CYFD's alleged violations of Mason's constitutional and statutory rights.

         On January 14, 2014, Mason entered the gym at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico. Pretrial Order at 28 (ECF No. 65). Using a modified, pump-action shotgun, he opened fire into a crowd of students waiting for school to begin. Id. He injured three people, two seriously. Id. Mason later pled no contest to three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon on school premises. Id.

         On July 2, 2014, a state children's court judge ordered that Mason be placed in the custody of CYFD until he reached the age of 21, with the possibility of earlier discharge. Id. The judge ordered that CYFD “shall determine the appropriate placement, supervision and rehabilitation program for [Mason].” Id. The judge also recommended a course of psychological treatment and rehabilitation. Id. Now 18 years old, Mason has been in CYFD custody since age 13. Compl. at 2, 7 (ECF No. 1-1).

         The Campbells sued CYFD and its then-cabinet secretary, Monique Jacobson, alleging the agency had been deficient in its treatment of Mason during his time in state custody. See generally Compl. First, they alleged Mason's conditions of confinement violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of substantive due process. Pls.' Resp. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 21-22 (ECF No. 57). This claim includes CYFD's alleged failure: (1) to provide Mason with psychiatric care recommended by the sentencing judge and Mason's doctors; (2) to timely provide Mason with appropriate medical care (including eye exams, prescription eyeglasses, treatment for his scoliosis, and treatment for his heart condition); (3) to provide Mason with various educational opportunities; (4) to provide Mason with sufficient opportunities to make personal phone calls to his parents; (5) to provide Mason with a mattress appropriate for his scoliosis, aggravating chronic back pain, or to allow him to attend physical therapy; and (6) to provide Mason with adequate food (he consumes only a gluten-free diet). Compl. at 9-16. Second, they claim that CYFD violated Mason's equal protection and procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by refusing to release him from custody for political reasons when a similarly situated minor would have been released. Id. at 13-15. Finally, they claim that CYFD failed to comply, out of negligence or gross negligence, with multiple statutory duties imposed on it by New Mexico state law. Id. at 2-7, 15-17. Their complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 17-18. The pretrial order indicates that they also seek attorneys' fees. Pretrial Order at 3.

         The case was removed to this court on December 11, 2017. Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1). Defendant Monique Jacobson filed a Motion to Dismiss on December 18, 2017. Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 6). Defendants collectively filed a Corrected Motion for Summary Judgment on December 21, 2018. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 44).[3]

         Discussion

          Summary judgment is appropriate when 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 court views the factual record and reasonable inferences that may be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Birch v. Polaris Indus., Inc., 812 F.3d 1238, 1251 (10th Cir. 2015).

         A. Claims Against CYFD Cabinet Secretary

         Plaintiffs sued Ms. Jacobson under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a cause of action where a state official has violated a plaintiff's federal rights while acting under color of state law. The legal analysis for a § 1983 suit requires consideration of how the plaintiff has chosen to sue the state officer: Was the state official sued in her “personal capacity” (also known as her “individual capacity”), or was she sued in her “official capacity, ” or both? In this case, the complaint and briefing are not clear on this issue.[4] Accordingly, given the lack of clarity and ...


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