Johnson v. Dash et al
ORDER denying 166 Motion To Reinstate Claims Against Defendants Ahlin and DePriest. By Judge Robert E. Blackburn on 9/14/2015. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(mlace, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge Robert E. Blackburn
Civil Action No. 12-cv-02400-REB-KMT
JUSTIN DASH, individually and in his official capacity as case manager,
JAMES OLSON, individually and in his official capacity as committee chairperson,
CARMEN ESTRADA, individually and in her official capacity as committee chairperson,
KATHLEEN BOYD, individually and in her official capacity as nurse practitioner,
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REINSTATE CLAIMS
This matter is before me on the Motion To Reinstate Claims Against
Defendants Ahlin and DePriest [#166]1 filed May 14, 2015. The defendants filed a
response [#175], and the plaintiff filed a reply [#186]. I deny the motion.
As stated in the complaint [#93] the claim asserted against former defendants
Debra Ahlin and Daniel DePriest is a claim for “denial of due process.” Complaint [#93],
p. 4-A. This claim is based on hearings held concerning the administrative segregation
classification of Mr. Johnson. He alleges that on February 8, 2011, a classification
hearing was held to officially place Mr. Johnson in administrative segregation. Id., ¶ 4.
In reaching the decision to officially assign Mr. Johnson to administrative segregation,
“[#166]” is an example of the convention I use to identify the docket number assigned to a
specific paper by the court’s case management and electronic case filing system (CM/ECF). I use this
convention throughout this order.
Ms. Ahlin, a member of the Administrative Segregation Committee, allegedly relied on
evidence that was never provided to Mr. Johnson or submitted at the administrative
segregation hearing. Mr. Johnson challenged this error in an action in a case in state
court under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 106.5. In that proceeding, the Colorado
Department of Corrections sought and was granted a remand for a new administrative
segregation hearing. Response, Exhibit A-4, p. 2 (order of District Court, City & County
A second classification hearing was held on March 28, 2012. According to Mr.
Johnson, Mr. DePriest erred at this hearing when he relied on unspecified evidence to
conclude that Mr. Johnson had escaped from a “maximum custody facility” by
“breach[ing] a cell block and a security fence.” Complaint [#93], pp. 4-A - 4-B. Mr.
Johnson claims that by considering the unspecified evidence above, it raised the
“seriousness” of his prior escape from a county jail. He claim also that if he could have
known of the document relied upon by Mr. DePriest beforehand, and called its author as
a witness, he could have refuted the findings of Mr. DePriest.
Mr. Johnson raised the same factual contentions in his state court Rule 106.5
proceeding. Response, Exhibit A-4, pp. 3 - 8 (order of District Court, City & County of
Denver). In a motion to dismiss [#93], Ms. Ahlin and Mr. DePriest argued that the
claims against them in this case must be dismissed because a parallel state
proceeding, the Rule 106.5 proceeding, was pending. Under the doctrine established in
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), federal courts are to avoid interfering with
ongoing state proceedings if the state court provides an adequate forum to present any
federal constitutional challenges. That motion was granted. Order [#147], p. 5.
Ultimately, the Denver District Court denied relief to Mr. Johnson, the Colorado Court of
Appeals affirmed, and the Colorado Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari filed
by Mr. Johnson. Because the state court proceedings now are complete, Mr. Johnson
seeks reinstatement of his due process claim against Ms. Ahlin and Mr. DePriest.
In their response [#175], the defendants contend both collateral estoppel, or
issue preclusion, and res judicata, or claim preclusion, bar Mr. Johnson from pursuing
his due process claim against Ms. Ahlin and Mr. DePriest. The doctrine of res judicata,
or claim preclusion, will "prevent a party from re-litigating a legal claim that was or could
have been the subject of a previously issued final judgment." MACTEC, Inc. v.
Gorelick, 427 F.3d 821, 831 (10th Cir. 2005). Three elements are required to apply the
doctrine of claim preclusion: (1) a final judgment on the merits in an earlier action; (2)
the parties are identical or in privity in both cases; and (3) identity of the cause of action
in both suits. Id. (citing Wilkes v. Wyo. Dep't of Employment Div. of Labor
Standards, 314 F.3d 501, 504 (10th Cir. 2003)); Nwosun v. General Mills
Restaurants, Inc., 124 F.3d 1255, 1257 (10th Cir. 1997). "If these requirements are
met, [claim preclusion] is appropriate unless the party seeking to avoid preclusion did
not have a ‘full and fair opportunity' to litigate the claim in the prior suit." Id. (citing
Yapp v. Excel Corp., 186 F.3d 1222, 1226 n.4 (10th Cir. 1999)). “Under res judicata, a
final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from
relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action.” Allen v. McCurry,
449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980).
The doctrine of collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, mandates that the final
decision of a court on an issue actually litigated and determined is conclusive of that
issue in any subsequent suit. Collateral estoppel bars re-litigation of an issue when: (1)
the issue previously decided is identical with the one presented in the instant case; (2)
the merits of the prior action have been finally adjudicated; (3) the party against whom
the doctrine is invoked was a party or in privity with a party in the prior action; and (4) in
the prior action, the party against whom the doctrine is invoked has had a full and fair
opportunity to litigate the issue. Novitsky v. City of Aurora, 491 F.3d 1244, 1252 n. 2
(10th Cir. 2007) (citing Murdock v. Ute Indian Tribe, 975 F.2d 683, 687 (10th
Cir.1992)); Frandsen v. Westinghouse Corp., 46 F.3d 975, 978 (10th Cir. 1995). This
doctrine applies whether the original case was in federal or state court and whether the
claim is brought under federal or state law. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980).
In his Rule 106.5 proceeding, Mr. Johnson asserted his due process claim
challenging the procedures used in his administrative segregation hearings. To the
extent he did not assert some aspect of that claim, he certainly could – and should –
have asserted such a claim. Under Rule 106.5, a prison inmate can bring due process
challenges to the hearing procedure, challenges to the factual findings of a hearing
officer, and as-applied constitutional challenges to administrative regulations. Garcia v.
Harms, 2014 WL 5847610, at *3 (Colo. App. 2014) (unpublished, copy attached as
In the Rule 106.5 proceeding, the state district court noted that it did “not have
jurisdiction to address Appellant’s argument that the conditions of his administrative
segregation violate the 14th Amendment.” Response, Exhibit A-4, p. 4 (order of District
Court, City & County of Denver). However, both the state district court and the
Colorado Court of Appeals addressed certain aspects of the due process contentions of
Mr. Johnson concerning his administrative segregation hearings and Rule 106.5 gave
those courts jurisdiction over these issues. The state district court considered the basic
due process requirements for prison discipline and classification proceedings. Id. The
court concluded that Mr. Johnson was given sufficient information “to marshal facts in
his defense.” Id., p. 5.
The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected the contention of Mr.
Johnson that his inability to identify and call witnesses violated his due process rights.
Response, Exhibit A-5, p. 5 (order of the Colorado Court of Appeals). This issue arose
in the consideration of whether or not Mr. Johnson had shown prejudice as a result of
the alleged procedural improprieties in his administrative segregation hearings.
The due process claims raised by Mr. Johnson in this case either were or could
have been raised in his Rule 106.5 proceeding. The merits of these issues have been
finally adjudicated by the state court, and the parties to the two proceedings are in
privity. Mr. Johnson was a party to the state court action, and Mr. Johnson had a full
and fair opportunity to litigate these issues in state court. Re-litigation of these issues
now is precluded by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. Thus, there is
no valid basis to reinstate the due process claim against Ms. Ahlin and Mr. DePriest
because re-litigation of that claim now is barred.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion To Reinstate Claims Against
Defendants Ahlin and DePriest [#166] filed May 14, 2015, is denied.
Dated September 14, 2015, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
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