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Edmo v. Idaho Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Idaho

June 7, 2018

ADREE EDMO (MASON EDMO), Plaintiff,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Court Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Defendants' First Motion for Dispositive Relief (Dkt. 39). The Court held a hearing on April 4, 2018, and the Court now issues the following Memorandum Decision and Order.

         BACKGROUND

         Edmo is a male-to-female transgender prisoner, in the custody of the Idaho Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). Edmo's medical records indicate diagnoses of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Gender Dysphoria (GD). Edmo remains anatomically male but identifies as female. As a result of IDOC's policy to assign an inmate's facility in accordance with the inmate's primary sexual characteristics, Edmo is currently incarcerated in a men's prison at Idaho State Correctional Institution (“ISCI”). According to Edmo, common treatments of GID/GD are the “real-life” experience of living full-time within the desired gender, hormonal therapy, and sex reassignment surgeries. After being diagnosed with GID/GD, Edmo requested treatment including access to feminizing hormones, evaluation for sex affirming surgery, and the ability to live as a woman while incarcerated. Edmo alleges that Defendants denied certain necessary medical treatment resulting in Edmo's suffering harm, including two attempted self-castrations.

         Edmo filed a complaint alleging that Defendants' actions violated the following: (1) the Eighth Amendment by failing to protect her from harm and it's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment; the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection; (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by discriminating in provision of medical treatment and participation in programs and services; (3) the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by discriminating based on sex, sex stereotyping, and/or gender identity; and (4) Idaho tort law by negligently failing to provide treatment. Amended Complaint, Dkt. 36.

         Defendants now seek summary judgment on all claims for which administrative remedies were not exhausted, and dismissal under FRCP 12(b)(6) of statutorily time-barred claims, ADA claims, ACA claims, and state negligence claims.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         1. Motion for Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any 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 “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” 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). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact “that may affect the outcome of the case.” Id. at 248.

         The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

         This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show “by her [ ] affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         2. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         Providing too much in the complaint may also be fatal to a plaintiff. Dismissal may be appropriate when the plaintiff has included sufficient allegations disclosing some absolute defense or bar to recovery, such as a statute of limitations. See Weisbuch v. County of L.A., 119 F.3d 778, 783, n. 1 (9th Cir. 1997) (stating that “[i]f the pleadings establish facts compelling a decision one way, that is as good as if depositions and other . . . evidence on summary judgment establishes the identical facts”).

         A dismissal without leave to amend is improper unless it is beyond doubt that the complaint “could not be saved by any amendment.” Harris v. Amgen, Inc., 573 F.3d 728, 737 (9th Cir. 2009). The Ninth Circuit has held that “in dismissals for failure to state a claim, a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. Northern California Collection Service, Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). The issue is not whether plaintiff will prevail but whether he “is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Diaz v. Int'l Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13, 474 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007)(citations omitted).

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider matters that are subject to judicial notice. Mullis v. United States Bank, 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987). The Court may take judicial notice “of the records of state agencies and other undisputed matters of public record” without transforming the motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment. Disabled Rights Action Comm. v. Las Vegas Events, Inc., 375 F.3d 861, 866, n.1 (9th Cir. 2004). The Court may also examine documents referred to in the complaint, although not attached thereto, without transforming the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005).

         DISCUSSION

         1. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Inmates must exhaust their available administrative remedies before bringing civil rights actions based on prison conditions. The federal Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires exhaustion of administrative remedies for all federal claims brought by state prisoners who challenge the conditions of their confinement in a federal complaint. “No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other federal law, until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). This requirement gives prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007).

         Exhaustion must be proper; meaning “a prisoner must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006). “The level of detail necessary in a grievance to comply with the grievance procedures will vary from system to system and claim to claim, but it is the prison's requirements, and not the PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.” Jones, 549 U.S. at 204.

         Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense that, in rare situations, may be asserted in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. April 3, 2014) (en banc) (“In a few cases, a prisoner's failure to exhaust may be clear from the face of the complaint.”). If, however, the material facts underlying the exhaustion issue are genuinely disputed, the Court may decide the issue on a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. Id.

         The defendant bears the ultimate burden of proving failure to exhaust. See Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 936 (9th Cir. 2005). If the defendant initially shows that (1) an available administrative remedy existed and (2) the prisoner failed to exhaust that remedy, then the burden of production shifts to the plaintiff to bring forth evidence “showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1170-71.

         Rule 56 prohibits the courts from resolving genuine disputes as to material facts on summary judgment. If a genuine dispute exists as to material facts relating to an exhaustion defense, the motion should be denied, and the “disputed factual questions relevant to exhaustion should be decided by the judge, in the same manner a judge rather than a jury decides disputed factual questions relevant to jurisdiction and venue.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1170-71. See Lake v. Lake, 817 F.2d 1416, 1420 (9th Cir. 1987) (the court has the discretion to take evidence at a preliminary hearing to resolve ...


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