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Lee v. Wessels

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 15, 2019

JOHN LEE, Plaintiff,
SUE WESSELS, Defendant.


          Ronald E Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Pending are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 21), Defendant's[1] Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 23), Defendant's Motion to Seal (Dkt. 25) and Defendant's Amended Motion to Seal (Dkt. 27). Having carefully considered the record and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order.


         Plaintiff John Lee (“Lee”) is an inmate in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (“IDOC”). While he was incarcerated at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution (“IMSI”) in July 2016, he was prescribed Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication, to treat his diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. Patchett Decl. ¶ 5 (Dkt. 24). After he refused treatment, a three-person Involuntary Medication Hearing Committee (otherwise known as a Harper[2] panel) was convened on August 16, 2016. Patchett Decl. ¶ 7 and Ex. B at 7 (Dkt. 24). The Harper panel was comprised of IDOC deputy warden Sue Wessels, defendant here, as well as two private medical doctors who are not IDOC employees. Patchett Decl. Ex. D at 13-19 (Dkt. 24). After the panel authorized forcibly medicating Mr. Lee, he appealed the decision to IMSI Warden Al Ramirez on August 17, 2016, and the warden upheld the decision on August 19, 2016. Patchett Decl. ¶ 9 and Ex. F at 21 (Dkt. 24). Subsequently, Mr. Lee's treating physician Dr. Scott Eliason prescribed him Haldol, a different antipsychotic medication, in lieu of Risperdal. Patchett Decl. ¶ 10 (Dkt. 24). When Mr. Lee refused to take the medication, he was forcibly medicated on August 23, 2016. Patchett Decl. ¶ 11 and Ex. G at 23 (Dkt. 24). Mr. Lee has since complied with taking his prescribed medication. Patchett Decl. ¶ 12 (Dkt. 24).

         In October 2016, Mr. Lee sued, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the members of the Harper panel in case 1:16-cv-00443-CWD, seeking an injunction preventing IDOC from forcibly medicating him in the future.[3] In February 2017, after Mr. Lee did not timely file an amended complaint after notice of deficiencies in his claim, that case was dismissed.

         Mr. Lee filed this lawsuit in May 2017, bringing the same claims against the same defendants but in a complaint that was more detailed than in his prior case. Among other things, he claims that the medication interferes with the practice of his religion (Buddhism), because he “need[s] a clear mind and need[s] to be in control of [his] thoughts to meditate, [and] any outside interference effects [sic] [his] ability to achieve spiritual enlightenment.” Prisoner Compl. 4 (Dkt. 3). He avers that meditation is “the only way” he can achieve spiritual enlightenment. He contends that there are less restrictive alternatives that the prison could use to further its interest in safety, such as “administrative segregation, higher security measures, a single cell, single or double escort when outside of cell[, ] etc.” Id.

         Mr. Lee also claims that he is inhibited from pursuing his cultural beliefs, such as martial arts, because of the medication. Id. at 5. Mr. Lee contends that the medication causes tremors, stiffness, and muscle spasms which make it difficult for him to practice his desired martial arts. Finally, Plaintiff claims that the medication inhibits his ability to adequately pursue his appeal in his ongoing state criminal case. Id. at 5-6.

         This Court issued an Initial Review Order on August 28, 2017, holding that Mr. Lee may proceed on his claims for injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq. (Dkt. 11.) Mr. Lee's other claims were dismissed. However, Mr. Lee did not timely serve defendants Dr. Stoddart and Dr. Davis-Johnson; hence, his RLUIPA claims against them were dismissed. (Dkt. 20.) Only Mr. Lee's RLUIPA claim against Defendant Wessels remains pending.

         On May 10, 2018, Mr. Lee moved for summary judgment (Dkt. 21). On June 5, 2018, Ms. Wessels moved for summary judgment (Dkt. 23). On June 6, 2018, Ms. Wessels moved to seal certain documents filed in conjunction with her motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 25.) She amended her motion to seal (Dkt. 27) the same day by filing a new motion.


         1. Standing Requirements

         Only certain disputes are “appropriately resolved through the judicial process” in federal courts. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). Article III of the United States Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to “Cases” and “Controversies.” Id. Under this “case” or “controversy” requirement, a party invoking federal jurisdiction must demonstrate that he has “suffered or [is] imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized ‘injury in fact' that is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Id.

         It must be “likely” as opposed to merely “speculative” that the alleged injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Id. at 561. Where none of the relief requested, including injunctive relief, would likely remedy the alleged injury in fact, the plaintiff lacks standing and his claim is subject to dismissal. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 109 (1998). A lack of redressability may be evident in various ways, including when “the wrong parties are before the court.” Gonzales v. Gorsuch, 688 F.2d 1263, 1267 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Am. Dev. Corp. v. Strack, 81 F.3d 167 at *3 (9th Cir. 1996) (unpublished) (applying Gonzales and holding that “[n]either Strack nor Republic are proper defendants because the controversy regarding the appointment of the receiver and the proper scope of the receiver's authority is between the FDIC and ADC.”). It is the plaintiff's burden to show that the alleged harm would be redressed by the remedy sought. See Bowker v. Morton, 541 F.2d 1347, 1350 (9th Cir. 1976).

         Other courts have dismissed RLUIPA claims for lack of redressability. In Jones v. Williams, 791 F.3d 1023 (9th Cir. 2015), the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's RLUIPA claims for injunctive relief was upheld, in part because “any injunctive relief ordered in Jones' favor would have no practical impact on [his] rights and would not redress in any way the injury he originally asserted.” Id. at 1031. (Alteration in original; internal citation and quotation marks omitted.)

         Federal courts must examine jurisdictional issues such as standing, including redressability, even if the issue is not raised by any party. U.S. v. Hays, 515 U.S. 737, 742 (1995).

         2. Motion to Seal Standard.

         To seal documents related to a dispositive motion, the moving party must show “compelling reasons” to seal. Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1098 (9th Cir. 2016). This standard is met when a court finds “a compelling reason and articulates the factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis or conjecture. The court must then conscientiously balance the competing interests of the public and the ...

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