Martinez v. Washington County Jail
ORDER ADOPTING 63 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS and granting 32 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Honorable Timothy L. Brooks on June 4, 2014. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
SERGIO ANDRADE MARTINEZ
Case No. 5:12-CV-05163
OFFICER FIELDS and
MAJOR RANDALL DENZER
Currently before the Court is the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 63) on
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 32) filed in this case on January 28,
2014, by the Honorable Erin L. Setser, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western
District of Arkansas. After careful review of the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff
Sergio Andrade Martinez's Objections (Doc. 66), Defendants Officer Fields and Major
Randall Denzer's Response to Plaintiff's Objections (Doc. 67), Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 32), Plaintiff's Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 44), Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 60), and a de novo review of the record, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's objections
offer neither law nor fact requiring departure from the Magistrate's findings. Accordingly,
the Report and Recommendation should be, and hereby is, APPROVED and ADOPTED
IN ITS ENTIRETY.
The Magistrate's recommendation that this Court grant Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint for violations arising under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1983 with prejudice, is consistent with the findings of the Court. On July 26, 2012,
Plaintiff brought suit against the "Washington County Jail," contending that while he was
on pretrial detention in the Washington County Detention Center ("WCDC"), he was
subjected to the use of excessive force. He later amended his Complaint to identify Officer
Fields as the individual who applied excessive force. Subsequently, the Magistrate directed
that Major Randall Denzer, Jail Administrator of WCDC, be substituted in place of
"Washington County Jail."
A hearing was held before the Magistrate on November 22, 2013, during which
Plaintiff was given the opportunity to make oral argument in response to the Motion for
According to Plaintiff, he speaks little or no English, and his
pleadings were prepared by someone else with the assistance of an interpreter. Plaintiff
alleges that while he was incarcerated, he was subjected to the use of excessive force in
violation of 28 U.S.C. § 1983 when Officer Fields subdued him and fractured Plaintiffs
collarbone in the process.
The Magistrate recommends that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment in
their favor because Plaintiff failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies; that
no reasonable juror could find that Officer Fields used excessive force during the incident;
that Officer Fields is entitled to qualified immunity; and there is no basis to support liability
against the WCDC by and through Major Denzer.
Plaintiff offers two objections to the Magistrate's recommendation.
contends that because the document used for making grievances was not provided to him
in Spanish and he was not informed of the grievance procedure, his failure to exhaust
administrative remedies should be excused . Second, because he sustained a broken
collarbone, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate's finding that no reasonable juror could find
that Officer Fields used excessive force.
Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation are addressed by the Court
I. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies.
Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate's determination that he failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies prior to filing suit, arguing that he was not informed of the
grievance procedure, that the multi-purpose document used for making grievances was not
provided in Spanish, and that he was "isolated from the general population" at the time
he should have filed a grievance. (Doc. 68, p.2).
Plaintiff's objection is without merit. Exhaustion of administrative remedies is
required before a prisoner can bring a civil rights claim. 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a); Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524-25 (2002).
Moreover, "failure to exhaust available
administrative remedies is an affirmative defense." Lenz v. Wade, 490 F.3d 991, 993 n.
2 (8th Cir. 2007). The rare exceptions occur when prison officials prevent exhaustion, such
as by failing to provide grievance forms or refusing to respond to a grievance. Lyon v.
Vande Krol, 305 F.3d 806, 808-09 (8th Cir. 2002). However, that was not the case here.
Plaintiff had access to the grievance forms, as he used two of them the day after the
incident in question.
Nor was language an impediment as Plaintiff wrote his initial
grievance in Spanish, and the WCDC personnel responded.
Even if Plaintiff was "isolated from the general population" in the period immediately
following the incident, that separation did not prevent him from submitting a grievance. The
incident occurred on April 3, 2012, and by May 11, 2012, Plaintiff was submitting forms
written in English-requesting pain medication, court documents, and a haircut, among
other things-indicating that he had access to at least one person who spoke both English
and Spanish to assist him.
Moreover, even if Plaintiff's exhaustion objection had merit, it would be moot. The
Magistrate conducted a thorough analysis of Plaintiff's claims in spite of his failure to
exhaust, and found that they had no substantive merit.
For these reasons, the Court will overrule this objection.
II. Use of Excessive Force.
Plaintiff also objects to the Magistrate's report that no reasonable juror could find
Officer Fields used excessive force. Plaintiff states that Officer Fields used sufficient force
to break his collarbone. He argues that "the language barrier" was a factor in the incident,
and that "it was human nature" for him to resist Officer Fields' "sudden physical attack."
(Doc. 66, p.2). When analyzing excessive force claims of pretrial detainees, courts apply
an "objective reasonableness" standard. Andrews v. Neer, 253 F.3d 1052, 1060 (8th Cir.
The injuries detainees suffer must be necessarily incident to administrative
interests in safety, security and efficiency. Constitutionally infirm practices
are those that are punitive in intent, those that are not rationally related to a
legitimate purpose or those that are rationally related but are excessive in
light of their purpose.
Johnson-EI v. Schoemeh/, 878 F.2d 1043, 1048-49 (8th Cir. 1989).
Whether there has been excessive force is determined under a totality of the
circumstances analysis. The Supreme Court has said that "[t]he 'reasonableness' of a
particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the
scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," and that the "calculus of
reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced
to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly
evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Graham
v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97 (1989); see also Brown v. City of Golden Valley, 574 F.3d
491, 496 (8th Cir. 2009).
While the issue comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment, there
is no genuine dispute about what occurred, as it was recorded on two video cameras. In
Scott v. Harris, the Supreme Court recognized that a video recording may so contradict the
evidence of one party or the other as to eliminate any genuine dispute about what
occurred. 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). In such circumstances, the Court must view the facts
in the light depicted by the video. Id. at 381.
On April 3, 2012, Plaintiff pushed the intercom button to obtain assistance and
alleges that he did not know that the button was for medical emergencies only. He
continued to push the button, although he was told in English not to push the button
repeatedly. The surveillance camera video, supplied by Defendants, shows Officer Fields
entering through the pod door and talking to Plaintiff, while gesturing at the button. Plaintiff
reaches up and pushes the button again . When Plaintiff begins to push the button yet
again, Officer Fields grabs Plaintiff's right arm. Plaintiff braces himself with his left arm
against the wall and then with his legs as Officer Fields attempts to pull him into the hall.
Plaintiff also grabs the door frame. Once in the hallway, Plaintiff is quickly taken to the
The second video, taken from the control area, shows Officer Fields' back as he
attempts to handcuff Plaintiff. Another officer, Deputy Sam Caudle, comes to assist and
it appears that Deputy Caudle is holding the Plaintiff down by applying his weight. Neither
officer is seen striking Plaintiff at any time during the video.
At the time Plaintiff created this disturbance in the doorway of the pod, there were
at least ten other unrestrained inmates inside the room. Only Officer Fields and Plaintiff
stood between them and the open door. The circumstances of the incident were
unquestionably "tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving," as there was no way of predicting
what the inmates in the pod might do, and it must be judged from the perspective of a
reasonable officer, not with the "20/20 vision of hindsight."
The video reveals that Officer Fields attempted to move Plaintiff into the hallway,
and Plaintiff vigorously resisted. Under these circumstances, the Court does not believe
any reasonable fact-finder could conclude that excessive force was used by Officer Fields
to compel Plaintiff to come out into the hallway.
Further, Plaintiffs "language barrier" argument is without merit. While Plaintiff may
not have understood the use of the intercom button nor understood what Officer Fields was
saying, he could not have failed to understand that Officer Fields required him to go from
the pod into the hallway.
Plaintiff's "human nature" argument is also unavailing. It was Plaintiff's resistance
to being removed from the pod that precipitated what he describes as a "sudden physical
attack." (Doc. 66, p.2). By bracing himself to prevent his removal from the pod, he created
the situation that required Officer Fields to use force, and cannot have been surprised that
his resistance was also met with force.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's second objection is without merit and will be
'. , . .. .
The Court, being well and sufficiently advised, finds that the Report and
Recommendation (Doc. 63) is proper and should be and hereby is ADOPTED IN ITS
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants' Motion of Summary Judgment
(Doc. 32) is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
Judgment will be entered contem
g'/tieOUSIY with this Order.
IT IS SO ORDERED this
Iiay of June, 201
S DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?