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Bettys v. Quigley

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 4, 2017

JOHN E. BETTYS, Plaintiff,
KEVIN QUIGLEY, et al., Defendants.


          ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Richard Creatura. Dkt. 90. The Report and Recommendation makes recommendations about an underlying Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 85) filed by Defendants. The Court has considered the Report and Recommendation, objections and responses thereto (Dkt. 92-95), the underlying motion and responsive briefing thereto (Dkts. 85, 87, 88), the Complaint (Dkt. 82), and the remainder of the file herein.

         For all claims alleged, at least one party objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, so the Court will herein examine the sufficiency of the Complaint as a whole. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         In summary, the Court concurs with and should adopt the following conclusion made by the Magistrate Judge:

[P[laintiff properly has raised a claim regarding conditions of confinement under the Fourteenth Amendment. . .
However, defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's Double Jeopardy claim and his Bounds claim, as well as his claims under 42 U.S.C. §§1985 and 1986 should be granted.”

Dkt. 90 at 29, 30.

         (1) Standard on Motion to Dismiss.

         The underlying motion (Dkt. 85) urges dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “A complaint should not be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Material allegations are taken as admitted and the complaint is construed in the plaintiff's favor. Keniston v. Roberts, 717 F.2d 1295 (9th Cir. 1983). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)(internal citations omitted).

         Because the plaintiff in this case proceeds pro se, the Complaint should be liberally construed. “This court recognizes that it has a duty to ensure that pro se litigants do not lose their right to a hearing on the merits . . . due to ignorance of technical procedural requirements.” Balistreri, 901 F.2d at 699.

         (2) Conditions of confinement claim(s) Dkt. 82 (¶¶4.1, 4.2, 4.4-4.7, 4.13-4.20)

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a complaint must allege that (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and that (2) the conduct deprived a person of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds. Only the second element is contested by Defendants.

         In the context of civil detention, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees “greater liberty protections [for civil detainees] than individuals detained under criminal process.” Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 932 (9th Cir. 2004), citing Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 321-24. “At a bare minimum, [ ] an individual detained under civil process . . . cannot be subjected to conditions that amount to punishment.” Id. Punishment is presumed when confinement conditions are “identical to, similar to, or more restrictive than, those in which [ ] criminal counterparts are held.” Id., citing Sharp v. Weston, 323 F.3d 1166, 1172-73 (9th Cir. 2000). Stated differently, “[b]ecause the purpose of confinement is not punitive, the state must also provide the civilly-committed with ‘more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish.'” Sharp, 233 F.3d at 1172, quoting Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 322.

         Applied here, and construing the Complaint liberally, Plaintiff has alleged at least one cognizable conditions of confinement claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. It is alleged that Plaintiff is civilly detained and receives significantly less treatment in the Sexual Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), eight to fifteen hours, than criminal counterparts serving sentences with the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC), twenty-nine or more hours. Dkt. 82 at ¶4.2. It is further alleged that specific defendants “act[ed] with deliberate indifference and negligence . . . by their failure to act in creating or applying policies” that resulted in this deprivation. Id. Based on the alleged deficient mental health treatment, Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for relief.

         Defendants take issue with the Report and Recommendation's reliance on Jones for the so-called “comparison test, ” which Defendants opine problematically compares a civil pretrial detainee to a person incarcerated in a long-term correctional institution. Dkt. 93 at 11. Although Jones did not compare specifically-named institutions, that court's discussion of the law explicitly suggests that comparison may be a means of parsing out whether a civilly detained person is being subjected to punishment. See, e.g., Jones, at 932 (“[civil detention that is] identical to, similar to, more restrictive than . . . criminal counterparts” and “it is also relevant to compare confinement conditions. . .”). Defendants also make the argument, without citation to authority, that Plaintiff is entitled to less treatment as a detainee whose civil commitment proceedings are pretrial status, as compared to civilly-committed detainees. Dkt. 7, 8. However, the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff is civilly committed and does not allege that civil commitment proceedings are at the pre-trial stage. See generally, Dkt. 82. Further, the Jones court rejected this argument: “It is [ ] relevant to compare confinement conditions of civil detainees pre-adjudication to conditions post-commitment” because “purgatory cannot be worse than hell.” Jones, 393 F.3d at 932-33.

         Beyond the allegedly deficient mental health treatment (see Dkt. 82 at ¶4.2), the Complaint alleges a multiplicity of deficient conditions of confinement. Id. at ¶¶4.1-4.20. Each of these conditions is alleged as a discrete claim. See id. Defendants argue that these ancillary conditions claims cannot, in isolation or aggregated, meet the constitutional definition of “punishment.” Dkt. 93 at 2. The sufficiency of each specific condition need not be addressed now, because the pleadings sufficiently allege a conditions of confinement claim based solely on the mental health treatment allegations. To the extent these other conditions ...

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