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Meredith v. ADA County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 25, 2014

JEREMY STEVEN MEREDITH, Plaintiff,
v.
ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, DEPUTY SHERIFF CULBERTSON, DEPUTY SHERIFF ROE, DEPUTY SHERIFF ARNOLD, DEPUTY SHERIFF MERCADO, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), is proceeding pro se in this civil rights action. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by their deliberate indifference to his risk of self harm and his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force against him.

Having carefully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral arguments. Therefore, the Court will decide the matter on the written motions, briefs and record. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action on March 13, 2013, alleging that Defendants tortured him and that Ada County Sheriff's Office does not know how to deal with mentally ill inmates whose behavioral problems are "merely... symptom[s] of [their] mental illness." (Compl. at p. 2 (Dkt. 3.)) The Court reviewed the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1915 and 1915A and allowed Plaintiff to proceed on the following claims: (1) Fourteenth Amendment claims that Defendants Roe and Culbertson were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's risk of self harm; (2) Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims that Defendant Culbertson broke Plaintiff's hand; and (3) Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims that Defendant Arnold sprayed Plaintiff twice with mace. (Dkt. 5.)

Currently pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider (Dkt. 14) and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 15).

DISCUSSION

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of the Court's finding in its Initial Review Order that Plaintiff had not stated a claim against the Ada County Sheriff's Office because he had not alleged facts from "which a factfinder could reasonably conclude that staff at the Ada County Jail were following an Ada County policy, custom, or practice when they allegedly broke Plaintiff's hand, sprayed him with mace, or watched him try to harm himself." (Dkt. 5, p. 11.)

In his motion, Plaintiff contends that the "issue of medications being denied that were essential to my mental health... was due to policy... [and] was the key reason that led to the horrific event." (Dkt. 14, p. 2.) He clarifies that "ineffective training... is not an issue worth arguing since it is not the key reason for the events that took place." ( Id. )

The essence of Plaintiff's argument is that the alleged "policy" of Ada County to remove and change Plaintiff's mental health medication led to his "bad behavior" that resulted in the alleged actions taken against him by Defendants ( e.g., use of mace, etc.) and violated his constitutional rights.

The Court has not yet issued a final order in this case so reconsideration under Rules 59(e) or 60(b) is not appropriate. However, "[a]s long as a district court has jurisdiction over the case, then it possesses the inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient." City of Los Angeles, Harbor Division v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal citation omitted). On reconsideration, the courts may correct "simple mistakes, " as well as alter "decisions based on shifting precedent, rather than waiting for the time-consuming, costly process of appeal." U.S. v. Martin, 226 F.3d 1042, 1049 (9th Cir. 2000). However, while a court "has the power to revisit prior decisions of its own... as a rule courts should be loathe to do so in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.'" Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 817 (1988) (citation omitted).

To state a claim against a local governmental entity, the plaintiff must allege that the entity had a policy, custom or practice that was the moving force behind the constitutional injury. Mabe v. San Bernardino Cnty., 237 F.3d 1101, 1110-11 (9th Cir. 2001). An unwritten policy or custom must be so "persistent and widespread" that it constitutes a "permanent and well-settled" practice. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-68 (1970.)) "Liability for improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents; it must be founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and consistency that the conduct has become a traditional method of carrying out policy." Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996).

To support his motion for reconsideration, Plaintiff states, "[E]vidence will show that removing me from medications they don't provide according to their policy has been the key reason for my mental health coming across as bad behavior and has led to numerous incidents of not only me being targeted and tortured but uncountable others like me that I have witnessed." (Dkt. 14, p. 2)(spelling corrected.) Plaintiff also states: "Throughout the past few years I've been in and out of Ada County jail I've experienced the same repeated problem of being put on medications and taken off medications or being switched to other medications I'm not used to taking... I'm not the only one I see it all the time." (Dkt. 14-1, pp. 1-2.)

The Court finds that Plaintiff has not set forth any allegations that alters its earlier decision that he has not stated a policy-based claim against Ada County. When asserting an "unofficial" policy, it must be so "persistent and widespread" that it constitutes a "permanent and well-settled" practice. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Plaintiff has failed to provide any factual allegations that there was a policy of changing medications, or not providing medications, that was the "moving force" behind the violation of the constitutional rights that he has alleged. See Mabe, 237 F.3d at 1111.

Because Plaintiff has not made any allegations that indicate a manifest injustice that would warrant reconsideration of the Court's prior order, his motion to reconsider is denied.

2. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies[1]

A. Standards of Law

1. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to a particular claim or defense, "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). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is not "a disfavored procedural shortcut, " but is instead the "principal tool[] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327.

"[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment...." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). Rather, there must be a genuine dispute as to a material fact in order for a case to survive summary judgment. Material facts are those "that might affect the outcome of the suit." Id. at 248. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if that party shows that each material fact cannot be disputed. To show that the material facts are not in dispute, a party may cite to particular parts of materials in the record, or show that the adverse party is unable to produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). The Court must consider "the cited materials, " but it may also consider "other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable facts." So. Ca. Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003).

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, then the burden shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine dispute as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient. Rather, "there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

Material used to support or dispute a fact must be "presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2).[2] Affidavits or declarations submitted in support of or in opposition to a motion "must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

If a party "fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact, " the Court may consider that fact to be undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The Court may grant summary judgment for the moving party "if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts ...


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