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Smith v. Shartle

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 31, 2019

Sabrina Smith, et al., Plaintiffs,
John T. Shartle, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Raner C. Collins Senior United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Shartle and McCintock's (“Wardens”) Motion to Amend/Correct Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 49) and Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion to Reconsider Order on Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 57). The Court will grant Defendants' motion and deny Plaintiffs'.

         Procedural History

         On March 15, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint alleging that the Wardens failed to protect inmate Clinton Dewayne Smith under the Eighth Amendment, and unconstitutionally denied Plaintiffs' right to companionship and familial association under the Fifth Amendment. (Doc. 28.) Plaintiffs claim the Wardens did not prevent Smith from being housed with Romeo Giovanni, a violent gang member who threatened to kill any sex offender placed in his cell. Id. After the threat, Bureau of Prisons employees transferred Smith, a convicted sex offender, to Giovanni's cell; within twenty-four hours, Giovanni had murdered Smith. Id. at 4.

         The Wardens filed a Motion to Dismiss to which Plaintiffs responded on April 29, 2019, arguing that the motion should be denied because: (1) Plaintiffs' Bivens claims did not present a new context, (2) there were no “special factors” preventing the Court from recognizing the claim, and (3) the Wardens were not subject to qualified immunity. (Doc. 35.) Plaintiffs generally stated that the Wardens knew of the risk of violence against sex offenders and of Smith's assignment in the Special Housing Unit, and failed to take measures to prevent the housing of sex offenders with gang members. (Doc. 35 at 11.) Plaintiffs' response did not suggest that they had additional facts demonstrating the Wardens' personal knowledge of Smith's placement with Giovanni. The motion was fully briefed on May 15, 2019.

         On June 21, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 41-2.) Plaintiffs conceded that the additional information included in the Second Amended Complaint had been received two months prior, but that they had waited to ask for leave to amend because they anticipated further disclosure. (Doc. 41-3 at 7.) They suggested the additional facts asserted in the Second Amended Complaint would help resolve the pending Motion to Dismiss because the new facts showed that the Wardens knew about the risk of harm posed to Smith by placing him with a gang member. Id. at 8.

         On June 28, 2019, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend without prejudice, finding that because Plaintiffs would likely obtain the names of the John Doe employees (aside from the Wardens) through discovery, in the interests of judicial economy, the Court would wait to evaluate the John Doe claims until Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint with the named individuals. (Doc. 44 at 2.)

         The Court also granted the Wardens' Motion to Dismiss. Id. at 11. The Court found that Plaintiffs' suit asserted that the Wardens failed to formulate a policy for housing sex offenders. Id. at 3, 7. This argument, the Court stated, improperly extended the Bivens remedy to a new context. Id. at 3. In addition, the Court found that “special factors” weighed against expanding a Bivens remedy to this case. Id. at 6. Moreover, the Wardens enjoyed qualified immunity because (1) there was no clearly established law putting the Wardens on notice that failing to implement a policy was unlawful, and (2) the Wardens were not liable for the actions of their subordinates. Id. at 6. The Court noted that Plaintiffs had not alleged facts indicating that the Wardens knew that Giovanni and Smith were placed together, and even if they had, Giovanni was also a convicted sex offender “so it is questionable that the simple placement of the two together would cause the Wardens alarm absent the additional knowledge of Giovanni's threats.” Id. at 7.

         On July 12, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration, asking the Court to reconsider the Wardens' dismissal until further discovery was received and a Third Amended Complaint filed. (Doc. 47-1 at 10.) The Court denied the motion as moot, stating that the dismissal was without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). (Doc. 48.) The Wardens pointed out that dismissal by the Court is under Rule 41(b) and the dismissal is with prejudice. (Doc. 49 at 2.) With no opposition, the Court struck the Order that found Plaintiffs' motion moot, and permitted Plaintiffs to refile their Motion for Reconsideration. (Doc. 56.)

         Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel Disclosure from the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). (Doc. 55) The motion detailed alleged deficiencies in the production of information about employees involved in Smith's transfer. (Doc. 55.) Yet, it did not indicate that the DOJ was withholding information about the Wardens, only that of the unnamed John Does.

         Plaintiffs renewed Motion for Reconsideration, filed August 15, 2019, claimed that because the Court dismissed the Second Amended Complaint without consideration, it had not evaluated additional material facts which alleged that the Wardens had personal knowledge of the risks posed to Smith by placing him with Giovanni. (Doc. 57.) Plaintiffs again asked the Court to hold off on dismissing the claims until they received further discovery and filed a Third Amended Complaint. (Doc. 57-1 at 11.)

         • Standard of Review

         o Motion to Reconsider

         Motions for reconsideration should be granted only in rare circumstances. Defenders of Wildlife v. Browner, 909 F.Supp. 1342, 1351 (D. Ariz. 1995). Granting such a motion may occur when the Court “(1) is presented with newly discovered evidence, (2) committed clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust, or (3) if there is an intervening change in controlling law.” Sch. Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cty. v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993). A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000). Nor may a motion for reconsideration repeat any argument previously made in support of or in opposition to a motion. Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers Mech. Contractors, Inc., 215 F.R.D. 581, 586 (D. Ariz. 2003). A motion for reconsideration need not be granted if it asks the ...

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