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Routt v. Howard

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

May 25, 2018

JOHN STEPHEN ROUTT, Plaintiff,
v.
LaTANYA HOWARD, JESSICA HARRIS, KATIE COLBERT, STEVE BROWN, and ERIC KITCH, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL, JUDGE

         Plaintiff John Routt, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on January 13, 2017, by filing a complaint against five defendants: LaTanya Howard, Jessica Harris, Katie Colbert, Steve Brown, and Eric Kitch (Doc. 1).[1] Routt alleges the defendants violated his civil rights while he was held as a pretrial detainee in the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, a facility that serves as the Tulsa County Jail (hereafter, “TCJ”). See Doc. 1. Before the Court are three motions: the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint (Doc. 45), Routt's motion to add a defendant (Doc. 47), and Routt's motion for production of evidence (Doc. 49). For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Routt's motion to add a defendant, grants the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint, and declares moot Routt's discovery motion.

         I. Procedural background

         Routt was booked into the Tulsa County Jail (TCJ) on August 15, 2016. Doc. 44-1 at 1.

         Routt alleges the defendants and other detention officers violated his civil rights on specific occasions in September, November, and December 2016 while he was being held as a pretrial detainee. Doc. 1. He identifies the following seven claims:

Count I: Denied right to be treated humanly [sic] in violation of the 8th & 14th Amendments
Count II: Was subjected to excessive use of force in violation of 8th & 14th Amendments
Count III: I have been arbitrarily and capriciously punished in violation of the 14th Amendment
Count IV: I have been blanket punished and punished for an item found in a common area contrary to the 8th and 14th Amendments
Count V: I have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments
Count VI: Have been subjected to discrimination based on my race contrary to the equal protection clause and the 14th Amendment
Count VII: The grievance process at the Tulsa County Jail is a[n] empty formality in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendment[s]

Doc. 1 at 3-7. Routt requests the following relief: $250, 000 in compensatory damages, $8 million in punitive damages, and an injunction “[t]o correct the violations and an order requir[ing] this order be posted in the living areas of the inmates.” Id. at 7.[2] As directed by the Court, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office submitted a Special Report (Doc. 44), pursuant to Martinez v. Aaron, 570 F.2d 317 (1978). See Docs. 12, 28.

         The defendants, collectively, move to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Doc. 45. They contend Routt fails to state any plausible § 1983 claims against any of them in either their individual or official capacities. Id. at 1, 5. Alternatively, the defendants assert they are each entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at 8.

         In response, Routt contends his allegations are sufficient to withstand the motion to dismiss and that the defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. Doc. 46 at 1-2, 9. He further contends that the defendants should be required to submit the video of the excessive-force incident he alleges occurred on November 20, 2016, before the Court considers the motion to dismiss. Id. at 2-3. Finally, in his response to the motion to dismiss, Routt requests dismissal of two defendants, Katie Colbert and Eric Kitch, and three claims, Counts I, VI, and VII. Id. at 3. On the same day he filed his response, Routt filed a separate motion to add Detention Officer Dustin Hansford as a defendant. Doc. 47.

         The defendants filed a reply to Routt's response to the motion to dismiss. Doc. 48. They object to Routt's request for discovery of the video before this Court rules on the motion to dismiss, pointing out that no scheduling order has been issued and no motion for summary judgment has been filed. Id. at 1-2. The defendants acknowledge Routt's request to dismiss certain defendants and claims, but they neither state nor suggest that they oppose those requests. Id. at 2. The reply does not mention Routt's separate motion to add Hansford as a defendant, see Id. at 1-2, and the defendants did not file a separate response to that motion.

         Routt also filed a separate motion seeking production of the November 16, 2016, video. Doc. 49. In response to that motion, the defendants reassert that Routt's discovery request is premature and “re-urge” their motion to dismiss. Doc. 50.

         II. Discussion

         A. Routt's requests and motion to amend complaint

         Through his requests to dismiss certain defendants and claims and his separate motion to add a defendant, Routt effectively seeks leave to amend his complaint. See Docs. 46, 47. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), a “court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Rule 15(a)'s purpose “is to provide litigants ‘the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on its merits rather than on procedural niceties.'” Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hardin v. Manitowoc-Forsythe Corp., 691 F.2d 449, 456 (10th Cir. 1982)). Thus, “[i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given.'” Id. (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         1. Requests to dismiss certain claims and defendants

         As further discussed below, the Court provided Routt with an opportunity to amend his complaint but Routt did not avail himself of that opportunity. See Docs. 6, 12. However, the Court finds no good reason to deny Routt's unopposed requests to dismiss Count I (inhumane treatment), Count VI (racial discrimination), and Count VII (illusory grievance process) or to deny his unopposed requests to dismiss defendants Colbert and Kitch. Accordingly, the Court dismisses the complaint without prejudice as to Counts I, VI, and VII and dismisses defendants Katie Colbert and Eric Kitch from this action.

         2. Motion to add new defendant

         The Court finds, however, that the record in this case justifies denial of Routt's unopposed motion to add Detention Officer Dustin Hansford as a defendant. “Rule 15(a) does not restrict a party's ability to amend its pleadings to a particular stage in the action.” Minter, 451 F.3d at 1205. “But ‘[i]t is well settled in [the Tenth] [C]ircuit that untimeliness alone is a sufficient reason to deny leave to amend, especially when the party filing the motion has no adequate explanation for the delay.'” Eckert v. Dougherty, 658 Fed.Appx. 401, 410 (10th Cir. 2016) (unpublished)[3] (quoting Frank v. U.S. West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365-66 (10th Cir. 1993)); see also State Distribs., Inc. v. Glenmore Distilleries Co., 738 F.2d 405, 416 (10th Cir. 1984) (“Where ...


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