Hunnicutt v. Smith, Civ. 18-619 JCH/GBW

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
PartiesCARNELL HUNNICUTT SR., Plaintiff, v. RAYMOND SMITH, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date28 October 2021
Docket NumberCiv. 18-619 JCH/GBW

CARNELL HUNNICUTT SR., Plaintiff,
v.

RAYMOND SMITH, et al., Defendants.

Civ. No. 18-619 JCH/GBW

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 28, 2021


ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

This matter is before the Court on the following:

1. Plaintiff's objections to the Magistrate Judge's order denying appointment of counsel (Doc. 72)
2. The Magistrate Judge's PRFD (Doc. 77) (“PFRD No 1”), recommending that the Court do the following: (i) convert Defendant Mindy Lewis-Ortega's and the GEO Defendants'[1] motions for summary judgment (Doc. 32 Doc. 36) into motions to dismiss and deny them; (ii) deny as moot the GEO Defendants' Motion to Strike (Doc. 56) and Plaintiff's motions to deny or stay the summary judgment motions pending discovery (Doc. 38; Doc. 46) and for leave to file surreply (Doc. 59); (iii) grant Defendant Franco's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 53) and dismiss with prejudice all Plaintiff's claims against him; (iv) construe Jason Helmstetler's Motion for Joinder (Doc. 34) as a motion to intervene and deny it; (v) deny Plaintiff's Motion in Support of Joinder (Doc. 47) and his Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 60); (vi) rescreen Plaintiff's
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Amended Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and dismiss with prejudice all claims against Defendants Lewis-Ortega, Valeriano, and the GEO Group and Plaintiff's First Amendment and official capacity claims against Defendants Vasquez, Solomon, and Smith; and (vii) order Defendants Vasquez, Solomon, and Smith to prepare a Martinez report on the Eighth Amendment and negligence claims against them;
3. Plaintiff's and the GEO Defendants' objections to parts of PFRD No. 1 (Doc. 82; Doc. 83) and their associated briefing (Doc. 84; Doc. 85; Doc. 86; Doc. 87); and
4. The Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (Doc. 79) (“PFRD No. 2”), recommending that the Court construe Edward Morris Garcia's Motion for Joinder (Doc. 78) as a motion to intervene and deny it.

Having conducted an independent, de novo review of the GEO Defendants' and Defendant Lewis-Ortega's motions for summary judgment and Defendant Franco's Motion to Dismiss, their attendant briefing (Doc. 44; Doc. 49; Doc. 57; Doc. 61);[2] the portions of the Magistrate Judge's PFRD No. 1 recommending dispositions for these motions and Plaintiff's motions to deny or stay the motions for summary judgment, the rescreening of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to § 1915A, and the dismissal of some of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to that statute; and Plaintiff's and the GEO Defendants' objections to these recommendations, the Court OVERRULES the parties' objections and ADOPTS the recommendations in PFRD No. 1 for the GEO Defendants' and Defendant Lewis-Ortega's motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff's motions to deny or stay these motions for summary judgment, Defendant Franco's Motion to Dismiss, and the rescreening of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to § 1915A. The Court, therefore, CONVERTS the

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GEO Defendants' and Defendant Lewis-Ortega's motions for summary judgment into motions to dismiss and DENIES them, DENIES AS MOOT Plaintiff's motions to deny or stay these motions for summary judgment, GRANTS Defendant Franco's Motion to Dismiss, and DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Franco, Lewis-Ortega, Valeriano, and the GEO Group as well as Plaintiff's First Amendment and official capacity claims against Defendants Vasquez, Solomon, and Smith.

Having reviewed, for clear error and mistakes in law, the Magistrate Judge's order denying the appointment of counsel, his PFRD No. 2 recommending that the Court convert Mr. Garcia's Motion for Joinder into a motion to intervene and deny it, and the remainder of the Magistrate Judge's recommendations in PFRD No. 1, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's objections to the order denying appointment of counsel and ADOPTS the recommendations in PFRD No. 2 and the remaining recommendations in PFRD No. 1. The Court, therefore, DENIES Mr. Garcia's and Mr. Helmstetler's converted motions to intervene and Plaintiff's motions for joinder and for sanctions, and DENIES AS MOOT the GEO Defendants' Motion to Strike and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Surreply.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from Plaintiff's alleged exposure to clouds of carcinogenic crystalline silica dust at the Lea County Correctional Facility (“LCCF”) while, as a member of a cleaning crew, he removed paint containing this substance from the facility's doors, showers, and other surfaces for approximately nineteen months without adequate protective equipment. See generally Doc. 22. After Defendant Lewis-Ortega removed Plaintiff's original complaint to this Court, Doc. 1, the Court dismissed it without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, Doc. 21 at 9. After Plaintiff did so within the allotted time,

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see Doc. 22, the Court found that his Amended Complaint survived preliminary screening under § 1915A, see Doc. 26, directed Defendants to answer, see id., and referred the case to the Magistrate Judge to conduct hearings and perform legal analysis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (b)(3) and Virginia Beach Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Wood, 901 F.2d 849 (10th Cir. 1990), see Doc. 27.

A flurry of motions ensued. Defendant Lewis-Ortega and the GEO Defendants filed motions for summary judgment, Doc. 32; Doc. 36, which Plaintiff moved the Court to deny or stay pending discovery, Doc. 38; Doc. 46. After Defendants filed their replies, Doc. 44; Doc. 49, Plaintiff filed two surreplies to the GEO Defendants' motion, Doc. 54; Doc. 63. The GEO Defendants then moved the Court to strike the first surreply, Doc. 56, at which point Plaintiff moved the Court for leave to file it, Doc. 59, and for sanctions against GEO Defendants, Doc. 60. In the interim, Jason Helmstetler moved the Court for joinder, Doc. 34, which Plaintiff supported via motion, Doc. 47. Plaintiff also moved the Court to appoint counsel, Doc. 40, and Defendant Franco moved the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against him for failure to state a claim, Doc. 53.

On March 28, 2021, the Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel. Doc. 62. On April 16, 2021, the Court received Plaintiff's timely objections to the Magistrate Judge's decision. Doc. 72.

On August 16, 2021, the Magistrate Judge entered PFRD No. 1 recommending that the Court (i) convert Defendant Mindy Lewis-Ortega's and the GEO Defendants' motions for summary judgment into motions to dismiss and deny them; (ii) deny as moot the GEO Defendants' Motion to Strike, Plaintiff's motions to deny or stay the summary judgment motions, and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Surreply; (iii) grant Defendant Franco's Motion to Dismiss

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(Doc. 53) and dismiss with prejudice all Plaintiff's claims against him; (iv) construe Mr. Helmstetler's Motion for Joinder as a motion to intervene and deny it; and (v) deny Plaintiff's Motion in Support of Joinder and his Motion for Sanctions. Doc. 77 at 57. The Magistrate Judge also recommended that the Court revisit its Memorandum Opinion and Order finding that all the claims in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint survive § 1915A screening; dismiss with prejudice all claims against Defendants Lewis-Ortega, Valeriano, and the GEO Group and the First Amendment and official capacity claims against Defendants Vasquez, Solomon, and Smith; and order Defendants Vasquez, Solomon, and Smith to prepare a Martinez report on the Eighth Amendment and negligence claims that remain against them in their individual capacities. Id. at 57-58. Three days later, the Clerk of the Court mailed Mr. Helmstetler a copy of this PFRD, which advised him that he had fourteen days to file objections. Plaintiff and the GEO Defendants filed timely objections to PFRD No. 1. See Doc. 81; Doc. 82; Doc 83. On September 6, 2021, the deadline for Mr. Helmstetler to file objections passed without him doing so.

Meanwhile, Edward Morris Garcia filed a Motion for Joinder. Doc. 78. On August 18, 2021, the Magistrate Judge entered PFRD No. 2, recommending that the Court construe Mr. Garcia's Motion as a motion to intervene and deny it and ordering Mr. Garcia to file objections within fourteen days. Doc. 79. The following day, the Clerk's office mailed Mr. Garcia a copy of this PFRD. On September 6, 2021, the deadline for Mr. Garcia to file objections passed without him doing so.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The pending motions, PFRDs, and objections implicate both 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) since they entail dispositive motions and non-dispositive pretrial matters. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) allows the Court to “designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial

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matter pending before the court, ” except a motion for summary judgment, a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and six other types of dispositive motions that are inapplicable here. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). If a party objects to the magistrate judge's order on these matters within fourteen days, the Court must review the order under a “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard of review. Id; Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a).

The “clearly erroneous” standard requires affirmance unless the Court “is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Indus., 847 F.2d 1458, 1464 (10th Cir. 1988) (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). Review pursuant to a “contrary to law” standard is plenary; however, “it is extremely difficult to justify alteration of the magistrate judge's nondispositive actions by the district judge.” 12 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3069 (3d ed. 2020).

As for dispositive motions, the remainder of 28 U.S.C. §...

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