Crane v. Utah Dep't of Corrs., 20-4032

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMcHUGH, Circuit Judge.
PartiesJANET CRANE, as Administrator of Brock Tucker's Estate, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; ALFRED BIGELOW, Warden of the Central Utah Correctional Facility; RICHARD GARDEN, Director of the Clinical Services Bureau for the Utah Department of Corrections; DON TAYLOR, Inmate Disciplinary Officer at the Central Utah Correctional Facility; FNU COX, Correctional Officer at Central Utah Correctional Facility; BRENT PLATT, Director of Utah Division of Child and Family Services; UNIVERSAL HEALTH SERVICES INC., a Private for-Profit Corporation; SUSAN BURKE, Defendants - Appellees, and FUTURES THROUGH CHOICES, a private corporation; JEREMY COTTLE, CEO and Managing Director of Provo Canyon School, Defendants. PROFESSORS AND PRACTITIONERS OF PSYCHIATRY AND PSYCHOLOGY; MARTIN F. HORN; STEVE J. MARTIN; RICHARD MORGAN; DAN PACHOLKE; ELDON VAIL; BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL'S DISABILITY AND CIVIL RIGHTS CLINIC; CIVIL RIGHTS EDUCATION AND ENFORCEMENT CENTER; COLORADO CROSS-DISABILITY COALITION; DISABILITY LAW COLORADO; DISABILITY RIGHTS ADVOCATES; DISABILITY RIGHTS NEW YORK; HIGHLANDS LAW FIRM; KILLMER, LANE & NEWMAN, LLP; LAW OFFICE OF SARAH MORRIS, LLC, Amici Curiae.
Decision Date21 October 2021
Docket Number20-4032

JANET CRANE, as Administrator of Brock Tucker's Estate, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.

UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; ALFRED BIGELOW, Warden of the Central Utah Correctional Facility; RICHARD GARDEN, Director of the Clinical Services Bureau for the Utah Department of Corrections; DON TAYLOR, Inmate Disciplinary Officer at the Central Utah Correctional Facility; FNU COX, Correctional Officer at Central Utah Correctional Facility; BRENT PLATT, Director of Utah Division of Child and Family Services; UNIVERSAL HEALTH SERVICES INC., a Private for-Profit Corporation; SUSAN BURKE, Defendants - Appellees,

and FUTURES THROUGH CHOICES, a private corporation; JEREMY COTTLE, CEO and Managing Director of Provo Canyon School, Defendants. PROFESSORS AND PRACTITIONERS OF PSYCHIATRY AND PSYCHOLOGY; MARTIN F. HORN; STEVE J. MARTIN; RICHARD MORGAN; DAN PACHOLKE; ELDON VAIL; BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL'S DISABILITY AND CIVIL RIGHTS CLINIC; CIVIL RIGHTS EDUCATION AND ENFORCEMENT CENTER; COLORADO CROSS-DISABILITY COALITION; DISABILITY LAW COLORADO; DISABILITY RIGHTS ADVOCATES; DISABILITY RIGHTS NEW YORK; HIGHLANDS LAW FIRM; KILLMER, LANE & NEWMAN, LLP; LAW OFFICE OF SARAH MORRIS, LLC, Amici Curiae.

No. 20-4032

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

October 21, 2021


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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah (D.C. No. 2:16-CV-01103-DN)

Samuel Weiss, Rights Behind Bars, Washington, DC (Randall W. Richards, Richards & Brown PC, Clearfield, Utah, with him on the briefs), argued for Plaintiff - Appellant.

Joshua D. Davidson, Assistant Utah Solicitor General, Utah Attorney General's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah, argued for Defendants - Appellees.

Before HOLMES, BACHARACH, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.

McHUGH, Circuit Judge.

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This is an appeal from the dismissal of a suit brought by the estate of a mentally ill and intellectually disabled prisoner who committed suicide while in Utah Department of Corrections ("UDC") custody. Brock Tucker was seventeen when he was imprisoned at the Central Utah Correctional Facility ("CUCF"). His incarceration followed a childhood marred by abuse and tragedy, including a near fatal accident that caused severe brain damage and impulse control disorders. At CUCF, Mr. Tucker endured long periods of punitive isolation. CUCF officials rarely let Mr. Tucker out of his cell, and he was often denied recreation, exercise equipment, media, commissary, visitation, and library privileges. Mr. Tucker hanged himself approximately two years after his arrival at CUCF.

Plaintiff-appellant Janet Crane is Mr. Tucker's grandmother and the administrator of his estate. She sued on his estate's behalf, and she continues to pursue three types of claims on appeal: (1) Eighth Amendment claims against four prison officials (the "CUCF Defendants"); (2) statutory claims for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act against UDC; and (3) a claim under the Unnecessary Rigor Clause of the Utah Constitution against both the CUCF Defendants and UDC. The CUCF Defendants are: (1) Alfred Bigelow, the warden of CUCF from approximately 2007 to July 2010 and April 2014 to February 2017; (2) Richard Garden, the Director of the Clinical Services Bureau for UDC during the relevant time period; (3) Don Taylor, an inmate disciplinary officer at CUCF; and (4) Officer Cox, a correctional officer at CUCF.[1]

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The Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court granted the motion, holding the CUCF Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the federal constitutional claims and the federal statutory claims did not survive Mr. Tucker's death. As a result, the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state constitutional claim.

Ms. Crane timely appealed. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History[2]

Brock Tucker lived a difficult life. His parents were heavy drug abusers, and they separated shortly after his birth. Mr. Tucker's mother, father, grandmother, and Utah's Division of Child and Family Services ("DCFS") all had custody of Mr. Tucker at various points in time. He spent years rotating in and out of juvenile facilities and programs, during which he experienced severe abuse by staff. The Amended Complaint

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details the abuse Mr. Tucker suffered and the toll it took on his mental health, including numerous instances of self-mutilation and suicidal ideation. See App. at 25-27.[3]

Mr. Tucker's mental health was already fragile prior to the abuse. He nearly drowned as a child, and the incident damaged his brain and stunted his cognitive development. When Mr. Tucker began having behavioral issues at age eleven, Ms. Crane took him to see Dr. David Nilsson, a certified clinical neuropsychologist who specialized in treating neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral disorders resulting from brain injuries. Dr. Nilsson diagnosed Mr. Tucker with brain damage, an IQ of 70, and an impulse control disorder that left Mr. Tucker "unduly impressionable and overly influenced by his surroundings and other people." Id. at 25.

The Amended Complaint alleges Mr. Tucker was "fully beaten down from repeated mental and physical abuse" and took solace in gang activity. Id. at 28. In March 2012, Mr. Tucker was charged with automobile theft and related offenses. In August 2012, he was sentenced to imprisonment for 2 to 5 years. UDC transferred Mr. Tucker to CUCF shortly after his sentencing.

Once there, inmate disciplinary officers-including Defendant Taylor-punished Mr. Tucker for various non-violent infractions. This punishment included "punitive isolation" that kept Mr. Tucker isolated in his cell except for, at most, one hour every other day to shower. Id. Mr. Tucker was denied access to recreation, exercise equipment,

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the library, visitation, phone calls, and the commissary. Between February 2013-2014, Mr. Tucker spent more than 154 days in punitive isolation. CUCF staff also changed Mr. Tucker's inmate classification code on June 9, 2014, resulting in his placement in maximum security housing and his confinement to a cell for 21 hours per day, with reduced visitation time and reduced privileges.

In June 2014, UDC physician Bruce Burnham diagnosed Mr. Tucker with unspecified psychosis and major depressive disorder, along with moderate back pain and hepatitis C. Dr. Burnham prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications, and, in July 2014, he ordered Mr. Tucker to outpatient mental health treatment. Mr. Tucker also met with social worker Brian Droubay on September 12, 2014. At this meeting, Mr. Tucker complained about mistreatment by CUCF staff.

On September 19, 2014, Defendant Taylor sentenced Mr. Tucker to two consecutive 20-day periods of punitive isolation for having a new tattoo, making verbal threats to staff, and opening another inmate's door and discharging a liquid from a container at the inmate. Defendant Taylor levied this punishment without consulting mental health staff, in apparent violation of CUCF Policy FD18/12.03. This policy provides "[w]hen disciplinary action is being considered for an offender in outpatient treatment, the psychiatrist mental health staff shall provide information to the discipline hearing officer stating whether or not the behavior was due to mental illness." Id. at 33. Three days later, Mr. Tucker received two new disciplinary notices, meaning his time in punitive isolation would likely be extended. The record does not identify who sentenced Mr. Tucker to these additional punitive isolation terms.

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On October 2, 2014, Defendant Cox argued with Mr. Tucker through his cell door. Defendant Cox refused to allow Mr. Tucker to leave his isolation cell for exercise that day, and Defendant Cox was seen entering Mr. Tucker's cell by himself, in violation of prison policy. Shortly afterward, Mr. Tucker placed a towel over his cell door window, which the Amended Complaint characterizes as "a clear indication that [Mr. Tucker] was going to harm himself." Id. at 34. His isolation cell had a top bunk bed, sheets, and towels, "thereby giving [Mr. Tucker] the means to commit suicide." Id. Later that evening, an officer distributing medication discovered Mr. Tucker dead, hanging from the top of his bunk bed in his isolation cell.

B. Procedural History

Ms. Crane filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Utah state court. Defendants removed the suit to federal court in October 2016. Thereafter, Ms. Crane filed a six-count amended complaint, asserting: (1) an Eighth Amendment claim against the CUCF Defendants collectively, alleging cruel and unusual punishment based on Mr. Tucker's conditions of confinement and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs; (2) an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Taylor, based on his choice to discipline Mr. Tucker with punitive isolation in September 2014; (3) an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Cox, based on the events of October 2, 2014; (4) a Fourteenth Amendment claim against five "DCFS Defendants," based on the abuse Mr. Tucker suffered at various facilities overseen by those parties; (5) a claim for ADA and

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Rehabilitation Act violations against UDC;[4] and (6) a claim for violation of article I, section 9, of the Utah Constitution ("Unnecessary Rigor") against all Defendants. Ms. Crane sued the CUCF Defendants in their individual capacities.

In September 2017, the district court dismissed two DCFS Defendants after determining the allegations against them were "conclusory statements devoid of supporting factual allegations." Crane v. Utah Dep't of Corr., No. 2:16-CV-1103 DN, 2017 WL 4326490, at *3 (D. Utah Sept. 28, 2017). The remaining Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing Ms. Crane failed to state a plausible claim and the CUCF Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.

In February 2020, the...

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