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Burchett v. Bromps

November 20, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justin L. Quackenbush Senior United States District Judge


BEFORE THE COURT is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Ct. Rec. 48), to which the pro se Plaintiff has responded in opposition (Ct. 60). The motion was heard without oral argument on November 20, 2008.

I. Statement of Facts

A. Procedural History

The Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, is in the custody of the state of Washington on various sexual offender charges and violations. He filed his Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on October 29, 2007. Ct. Rec. 1. Jurisdiction before this court is proper as a federal question is presented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Defendants filed their answer, with jury demand, on March 12, 2008. Ct. Rec. 23. The Plaintiff filed a Motion to Withdraw Complaint (Ct. Rec. 41), but the court denied the motion as moot in light of later filings by the Plaintiff (Ct. Rec. 58).

B. Factual Background

At the time of the filing of his complaint, the Plaintiff, Donald Cole Burchett ("Burchett"), was incarcerated at the Spokane County Jail, awaiting trial on the charge of failing to register as a sex offender. Mr. Burchett has been previously convicted of and sentenced to 70 months incarceration for Second Degree Assault with sexual motivation and Second Degree Kidnaping, based upon the sexual assault of two prepubescent children. The crimes for which he was convicted took place at a church, though Mr. Burchett denies this, along with his actual guilt. However, the sexual assault conviction is a matter of record.

Mr. Burchett was released on community supervision from his 70 month sentence on May 26, 2006. Conditions of his release, of which he was aware, provided that Mr. Burchett could not initiate or prolong physical contact with any children, enter any places where minors congregate without permission, or have any contact with the victims or any other minor-age children. Upon release, Mr. Burchett was placed on community placement/custody under the supervision of Community Corrections Officer Bob Bromps ("Bromps"). Defendant Todd Wiggs ("Wiggs") is Mr. Bromps' supervisor.

Mr. Burchett began attending church after he was released, first at Spokane Valley Open Bible Church, later at South Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church. There were children present at both of these churches. Mr. Burchett did not ask Mr. Bromps for permission to attend either church, nor did he inform leaders at either church that he was a convicted sex offender. Pastor John Solomon of the Seventh Day Adventist Church contacted Mr. Bromps on January 17, 2007, and informed him that Mr. Burchett had been harassing a female member of the congregation, had failed to disclose his sex offender status, and had lied to various church leaders. The next day, Mr. Bromps met with Mr. Burchett, and Mr. Burchett signed a stipulated Agreement in which he admitted to violating the conditions of his release by "frequenting a place where minors are known to congregate." Two specific restrictions were imposed on Mr. Burchett. First, he could not contact Associate Pastor Carol Corbin without her explicit permission as provided to Mr. Bromps; and second, that he could not go within three city blocks of a church without the permission of Mr. Bromps. Mr. Wiggs was not present for the signing of this stipulated Agreement on January 18,2007.

On February 21, 2007, Mr. Bromps was called by a detective with the Spokane County Sheriff's office. The detective informed Mr. Bromps of a phone call he had received from Pastor Dale Miller of Spokane Valley Open Bible Church. Pastor Miller stated that he had seen Mr. Burchett on the news the night before in a piece identifying him as a Level III sex offender. Pastor Miller recognized Mr. Burchett from recent church services. Mr. Burchett had attended services several times since his last meeting with Mr. Bromps and his signing of the Agreement. Burchett had also allegedly told several members of the church that he had just had knee surgery and that his brother was a recent casualty of war in order to curry favor and cause monetary charitable giving from the congregation. These representations by Burchett, if made, were clear falsehoods. Mr. Bromps gave Mr. Burchett a verbal reprimand the next day, February 22, 2008. Mr. Bromps received further information that Mr. Burchett continued to attend church services. Though no date is specified, Mr. Burchett alleges that Mr. Bromps withheld permission for him to attend church with a friend for no reason, and that Mr. Bromps would only allow him to attend an Assembly of God church. It is this alleged action by Bromps and the Agreement signed by Burchett that is the basis for this action.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there "is no genuine issue as to any material fact and...the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when there is "sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The non-movant must, however, do more than show that there is some abstract doubt as to the material facts. He must present significant probative evidence in support of his opposition to the motion for summary judgment in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

III. Discussion

The Defendants argue that summary judgment on the Plaintiff's ยง 1983 civil rights complaint is appropriate on four grounds: the Plaintiff's constitutional right to freely exercise his religion was not infringed; the Defendants are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity; Defendant Wiggs ...

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