United States District Court, E.D. Washington
RACHEL D. BENJAMIN, Plaintiff,
STEVENS COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Washington; PAT WALSH, an employee of the Stevens County Public Works Department; and NADINE BS, an employee of Stevens County District Court, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT are three motions for summary judgment filed by
Defendants. ECF Nos. 36, 39, & 44. Defendant Pat Walsh
moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff Rachel D.
Benjamin's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligent
infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. ECF No. 36.
Defendant Stevens County moves for summary judgment on Ms.
Benjamin's claims under section 1983. ECF No. 39.
Defendant Nadine Borders moves for summary judgment on all of
Ms. Benjamin's claims. ECF No. 44. Having reviewed the
briefing, the applicable law, and the record, the Court is
August 4, 2015, Rachel Benjamin was convicted of driving
under the influence of alcohol in Stevens County District
Court. ECF No. 41-1. She was sentenced to 81 days in jail.
Id. With the district court's permission, Ms.
Benjamin converted her jail sentence into a work crew
sentence. ECF No. 1 at 3. She completed 45 of her 81 assigned
days of work crew from April to August of 2017. ECF No. 41-2
Pat Walsh worked as a work crew supervisor for Stevens County
in 2017. ECF No. 47 at 5. He would drive the work crew van to
the job sites and manage the work crew workers, such as Ms.
Benjamin. Id. Mr. Walsh was a seasonal employee of
Stevens County's public works department. ECF No. 45-1 at
Benjamin alleges that Mr. Walsh shared vulgar and repulsive
stories with her and the other members of the work crew
throughout the summer of 2017. Ms. Benjamin testified that
Mr. Walsh told them a variety of stories including about: a
girl whose vagina was so smelly that he needed to spray air
freshener in the work crew van; a girl who previously worked
in the work crew who wore a see-through shirt so everyone
would stare at her nipples; an employee of Stevens County who
liked to sleep around with younger men; his time in the Navy
when he would have threesomes; women constantly making sexual
advances on him when he went out shopping with his wife; a
man so big in Hawaii that he could hold a woman in one hand
and have sex with her and hold his beer in the other; and
other repulsive comments regarding masturbation, sex, and
other people's wives, daughters, and girlfriends. ECF No.
41-3 at 5-9; ECF No. 47 at 18-20. She stated that Mr. Walsh
also would comment about the size of her breasts. ECF No. 47
at 19. Ms. Benjamin claims that Mr. Walsh “singled her
out” by having her sit in the front seat of the van
with him after Ms. Benjamin became carsick, and telling
others that the front seat was reserved for Ms. Benjamin.
Id. at 5.
Benjamin testified that Mr. Walsh's comments, stories,
and behavior made her feel uncomfortable and sexually
harassed. ECF No. 47 at 18. Ms. Benjamin testified that Mr.
Walsh also touched her without her consent, including
brushing dirt and dust off her thigh, putting his hand on her
back while they were speaking, and grabbing her by the arm to
recreate events in a story that Mr. Walsh told. ECF No. 38-3
at 22-23. She does not allege that Mr. Walsh made any sexual
advances toward her. However, she stated that Mr. Walsh would
say that because he was the supervisor for work crew, if Mr.
Walsh did not like somebody, he could report them to the
district court, have their work crew status revoked, and have
them sent to jail. Id. at 18-19.
the end of the 2017 work crew season, Ms. Benjamin reported
Mr. Walsh's conduct to Defendant Nadine Borders. ECF No.
41-3 at 10. Ms. Borders is the court administrator for
Stevens County District Court. ECF No. 45-1 at 2. She serves
as the liaison between the district court and the work crew
supervisor regarding people who are sentenced to work crew,
like Ms. Benjamin. Id. at 3. Even though she
coordinates the work crew program for the district court, Ms.
Borders does not have the authority to discipline or fire
work crew supervisors. Id. at 4-5.
Ms. Borders heard from Ms. Benjamin what Mr. Walsh had been
saying to the work crew group, including comments about Ms.
Borders and her family, Ms. Borders told Ms. Benjamin that
she was upset. ECF No. 41-3 at 11. Ms. Benjamin alleges that
Ms. Borders told her that multiple people previously had
complained about similar conduct by Mr. Walsh. ECF No. 47 at
14. Ms. Borders reported Mr. Walsh's conduct to his
direct supervisor in public works, Kevin Dionas. ECF No. 45-1
at 4. Mr. Dionas assigned an additional supervisor to work
with Mr. Walsh and monitor his behavior. ECF No. 41-3 at 13;
ECF No. 45-1 at 5. Ms. Borders also set up a meeting between
herself, Mr. Walsh, and the pastor of their church to discuss
the comments that Mr. Walsh made about Ms. Borders and her
family. ECF No. 45-1 at 5-6. After this meeting with their
pastor, Ms. Borders called Mr. Dionas and told him that she
thought Mr. Walsh's conduct should be taken very
seriously. Id. at 8.
Borders later received a phone call from Jason Hart, the
public works supervisor for Stevens County, who told her that
an employee filed a formal complaint against Mr. Walsh for
conduct similar to the conduct reported by Ms. Benjamin. ECF
No. 45-1 at 9. The employee reported that she had been
informed that Mr. Walsh was saying vulgar things about the
employee and the employee's daughter. ECF No. 41-5.
Shortly after the employee filed the formal complaint against
Mr. Walsh, Mr. Hart terminated Mr. Walsh's employment
with Stevens County. ECF No. 41-8.
Benjamin filed a complaint against Stevens County, Mr. Walsh,
Ms. Borders, and Stevens County District Court Judge Gina
Tveit, alleging that they were liable to Ms. Benjamin for
violations of her Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligent and
intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrage, and
negligence, all based on Mr. Walsh's behavior and
comments. ECF No. 1. The Court previously granted Judge
Tveit's motion to dismiss Ms. Benjamin's claims
against her because the claims were barred by judicial
immunity or, alternatively, that Ms. Borders's complaint
failed to state a claim against Judge Tveit. Benjamin v.
Stevens Cty., No. 2:18-CV-204-RMP, 2018 WL 4935448 (E.D.
Wash. Oct. 11, 2018).
remaining Defendants all moved for summary judgment in
separate motions. ECF Nos. 36, 39, & 44. Mr. Walsh moves
for partial summary judgment on Ms. Benjamin's section
1983 claims, negligent infliction of emotional distress
claim, and negligence claim. ECF No. 36. Stevens County moves
for partial summary judgment on Ms. Benjamin's section
1983 claims. ECF No. 39. Ms. Borders moves for complete
summary judgment. ECF No. 44.
may grant summary judgment where “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact” of a party's prima
facie case, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-33 (1986). A genuine issue
of material fact exists if sufficient evidence supports the
claimed factual dispute, requiring “a jury or judge to
resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at
trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec.
Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
1987). A key purpose of summary judgment “is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact, or in the alternative, the
moving party may discharge this burden by showing that there
is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's prima facie case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at
325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to set
forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.
See Id. at 324. The nonmoving party “may not
rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading,
but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided . .
. must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 322 n.3
(internal quotations omitted).
Court will not infer evidence that does not exist in the
record. See Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n,
497 U.S. 871, 888-89 (1990). However, the Court will
“view the evidence in the light most favorable”
to the nonmoving party. Newmaker v. City of Fortuna,
842 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2016). “The evidence of
the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable
inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
response to all three motions, Ms. Benjamin abandoned her
claims based on the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment,
the Fourteenth Amendment, and negligent infliction of
emotional distress. ECF No. 46 at 14; ECF No. 49 at 15; ECF
No. 52 at 14. The Court dismisses these claims with
Borders argues that she is entitled to absolute
quasi-judicial immunity on all of Ms. Benjamin's claims.
ECF No. 44 at 12. Mr. Walsh argues that he is entitled to
quasi-judicial immunity on Ms. Benjamin's section 1983
claim. ECF No. 36 at 25.
immunity completely shields a judicial officer from civil
liability if the judicial officer acts within the scope of
the officer's judicial authority. Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978). Judicial immunity
applies to judicial acts, not people. Forrester v.
White, 484 U.S. 219, 227 (1988). For this reason,
judicial immunity “is not reserved solely for judges,
but extends to nonjudicial officers for ‘all claims
relating to the exercise of judicial functions'” in
the form of quasi-judicial immunity. In re Castillo,
297 F.3d 940, 947 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Burns v.
Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 499 (1991)). Quasi-judicial immunity
is appropriate for non-judges when those people
“exercise a discretionary judgment as a part of their
function.” Antoine v. Byers & Anderson,
Inc., 508 U.S. 429, 436 (1993) (internal quotations
omitted). Additionally, non-judges who simply enforce
facially valid court orders are absolutely immune from
liability. Engebretson v. Mahoney, 724 F.3d 1034,
1039 (9th Cir. 2013).
people “who perform functions closely associated with
the judicial process” have been afforded quasi-judicial
immunity. Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 200
(1985). Prior examples of non-judges receiving quasi-judicial
immunity include prosecutors who prosecute a case,
administrative law judges and agency hearing officers
performing adjudicative functions, agency officials
performing functions analogous to a prosecutor presenting
evidence in an administrative adjudication, and individuals
vital to the judicial process including grand jurors, petit
jurors, advocates, and witnesses. Castillo, 297 F.3d
at 948. The person asserting judicial immunity has the burden
of proving that judicial immunity applies. Id. at
Borders claims that she is entitled to quasi-judicial
immunity because the actions supporting Ms. Benjamin's
claims against Ms. Borders were all in her role as the
Stevens County District Court Administrator. ECF No. 44 at
12. She argues that “the sentencing of offenders is an
integral part of the judicial process.” Id.
Similarly, Mr. Walsh argues that Ms. Benjamin's section
1983 claims against him are barred by quasi-judicial immunity
because, as work crew supervisor, Mr. ...