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Holguin v. Cascade County

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

February 12, 2019

ROBERT MATHEW HOLGUIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CASCADE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JOHN JOHNSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE.

         Pending are the following motions filed by Plaintiff Robert Holguin, a prisoner proceeding without counsel: motions to amend (Doc. 16, 18), motions to stay (Doc. 19, 38, 39), motion for protective order and reconsideration of the Court's denial of motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 28), and to motion to subpoena audio recordings (Doc. 40). In addition, Defendants filed two motions for summary judgment (Docs. 22, 30), a motion in limine (Doc. 33), and an objection to Mr. Holguin's documents 41, 42, and 43 (Doc. 44).

         I. Motion to Amend (Doc. 16)

         Mr. Holguin filed his Complaint on January 29, 2018. On February 27, 2018, the Court required Defendants Cascade County, Cascade County Sheriff's Office/Cascade County Adult Detention Center (CCDC), Sheriff Bob Edwards, Commander O'Fallen, and Officers Bennett, Light, Vanzout, Tibbetts, Gameon, and Walters to respond to Count I: overcrowding at CCDC from April 24, 2017 onward; Count II: excessive use of force (pepper spray) on September 4, 2017 and failure to properly decontaminate; Count IV: interference with legal mail from April 24, 2017 onward; and Count V: denial of hygiene items from April 24, 2017 onward (Counts I, II, IV, V). On June 6, 2018, Mr. Holguin filed his first motion to amend seeking to add three new claims against thirteen additional defendants.

         A. New Claims

         In Count VIII, Mr. Holguin seeks to hold Cascade County, Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Bob Edwards, Commander O'Fallon, and Detention Houseman liable because he alleges that on April 23, 2018, Detention Officer Housemann struck Mr. Holguin's hand and spilled his milk. (Doc. 16 at 3.)

         In Count IX, Mr. Holguin seeks to hold Cascade County, Judge Best, the Cascade County Attorney's Office, County Attorneys Joshua Racki and Stephanie Fuller, his conflict attorney Lawrence Lafountain, and Cascade County Sheriff Office employees Culver, Werner, Richard, Mott, Sutherland, Freeling, Wilson, and Kurtz liable because he claims that during a March 5, 2018 search his legal and other personal correspondence was seized allegedly at the direction of the Cascade County Attorney's Office during the course of his state criminal proceedings. (Doc. 16 at 4.) In that same count, he alleges that after he was moved to the hole on March 16, 2018, he was missing his new record sheet. (Doc. 16 at 5.)

         In Count X, Mr. Holguin seeks to hold Cascade County, Cascade County Sheriff's Office, and Officer Jerome liable because he claims that on May 22, 2018, Detention Officer Jerome gave some of his legal and personal mail that was seized on March 5, 2018 to another inmate. (Doc. 16 at 7.)

         B. New Defendants

         Mr. Holguin seeks to add the following new defendants: Public Defender Lawrence Lafountain, District Judge Elizabeth Best, Cascade County Attorney's Office, and Cascade County Sheriff Office employees Houseman, Jerome, Culver, Werner, Richard, Mott, Sutherland, Freeling, Wilson, and Kurtz. (Doc. 16 at 2, 4.)

         Mr. Holguin's attempt to name new defendants violates Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 20. Under Rule 20, a plaintiff may join any person as a defendant if: (1) any right to relief asserted against the defendant relates to or arises out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (2) there is at least one question of law or fact common to all the defendants. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1351 (9th Cir. 1997). Mr. Holguin's claims against Detention Officer Houseman, Detention Officer Jerome, Public Defender Lawrence Lafountain, District Judge Elizabeth Best, Cascade County Attorney's Office, and Cascade County Sheriff Office employees Culver, Werner, Richard, Mott, Sutherland, Freeling, Wilson, and Kurtz do not relate to or arise out the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences as Mr. Holguin's claims which have been served on Defendants.

         In addition, Mr. Lafountain cannot be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981), the United States Supreme Court held that public defenders do not act “under color of state law” when performing traditional lawyer duties. Miranda v. Clark County, 319 F.3d 465, 468 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Because a defendant must have acted under color of state law to be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a public defender is not a proper defendant in such action. Furthermore, Judge Best is entitled to judicial immunity and is not a proper defendant. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978) (absolute judicial immunity applies to judicial acts even when a judge's conduct “was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority . . . ”). The motion to amend to add these Defendants should be denied.

         C. Claims against Properly Joined Defendants

         Rule 20, however, allows a plaintiff to join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as he has against a properly joined defendant, irrespective of whether those additional claims also satisfy Rule 20. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a); Intercon Research Assoc., Ltd. v. Dresser Indus. Inc., 696 F.2d 53, 57 (7th Cir. 1982) (“[J]oinder of claims under Rule 18 becomes relevant only after the requirements of Rule 20 relating to joinder of parties has been met with respect to the party against whom the claim is sought to be asserted; the threshold question, then, is whether joinder of [a defendant] as a party was proper under Rule 20(a).”).

         As such, the Court will grant the motion to amend as it pertains to the current Defendants in this action. The Court, however, finds that Mr. Holguin's allegations are insufficient to state a claim against the current Defendants.

         In Count VIII, Mr. Holguin seeks to hold Cascade County, Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Bob Edwards, Commander O'Fallon, and Detention Houseman liable because he alleges that on April 23, 2018, Detention Officer Housemann struck Mr. Holguin's hand and spilled his milk (Doc. 16 at 3.) Mr. Holguin complains that Officer Houseman knocked his cup of milk out of his hand. Since Mr. Holguin was a pre-trial detainee at the time of this incident, his claims are governed by the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects pretrial detainees from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n. 10 (1989). “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, ” violates this standard. Id., 490 U.S. at 396-397 (citing Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2nd Cir. 1973)). The use of force must be “objectively unreasonable.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 397. Among the factors considered to determine whether force is excessive are: (1) the relationship between the need for the use of force and the amount of force used; (2) the extent of the plaintiff's injury; (3) any effort made to temper the amount of force; (4) the severity of the security problem at issue; (4) the threat reasonably perceived by the officer, and (5) whether the plaintiff was actively resisting. Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015).

         Even if Mr. Holguin could amend to add Officer Houseman, his claim does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Mr. Holguin does not allege any physical injury as a result of the incident or that Officer Houseman's actions were objectively unreasonable. Because Mr. Holguin failed to state an underlying constitutional violation, he cannot maintain a claim for municipal or supervisory liability. Neither a municipality nor a supervisor can be held liable under § 1983 where no injury or constitutional violation has occurred. City of Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986) (holding “[i]f a person has suffered no constitutional injury at the hands of the individual police officer, the fact that the departmental regulations might have authorized the use of constitutionally excessive force is quite beside the point.”); Grossman v. City of Portland, 33 F.3d 1200, 1203 (9th Cir.1994) (same).

         In addition, with regard to all three new claims, Mr. Holguin does not provide any allegations against the current Defendants Cascade County, Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Bob Edwards, or Commander O'Fallon. Both Sheriff Edwards and Commander O'Fallon are supervisory officials. A supervisor may only be liable under section 1983 upon a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Henry A. v. Willden, 678 F.3d 991, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2012). Mr. Holguin failed to allege any facts showing either of these prongs. First, there is no allegation that Sheriff Edwards or Commander O'Fallon were personally involved in the April 23, 2018 spilled milk incident, the March 5 or March 16, 2018 searches, or the May 22, 2018 incident when his documents were given to the wrong inmate. Secondly, there is no allegation of wrongful conduct by Sheriff Edwards or Commander O'Fallon or an explanation of the causal connection to these incidents. Id. There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village, 723 F.2d 675, 680-81 (9th Cir. 1984). That is, Sheriff Edwards and Commander O'Fallon cannot be held liable for the acts of their employees based merely on the fact that they are supervisors.

         Similarly, Cascade County, a municipal entity, cannot be held liable on a respondeat superior theory that it is responsible for the actions of its employees. Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (holding municipalities cannot be held liable under Section 1983 based upon respondeat superior theory). Local governments, such as Cascade County, are “persons” subject to liability under Section 1983 only where official policy or custom causes a constitutional tort. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690. To impose municipal liability under Section 1983 for a violation of constitutional rights, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the plaintiff possessed a constitutional right of which he or she was deprived; (2) that the municipality had a policy; (3) that this policy amounts to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the constitutional violation. See Plumeau v. School Dist. #40 County of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997). Mr. Holguin made no such allegations. These claims should be dismissed.

         II. Motion to Amend to Add Information (Doc. 18)

         Mr. Holguin's Motion to Amend to Add Information (Doc. 18) will be granted. The Court has reviewed the documents attached to this motion and considered those ...


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