Naranjo v. United States Department of Justice et al
ORDER granting 26 Motion to Dismiss and 27 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by Judge Christine M. Arguello on 11/29/13. This case is dismissed.(dkals, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
Judge Christine M. Arguello
Civil Action No. 12-cv-03128-CMA-KMT
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS,
JOHN DOE #1,
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR
This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 26)
and for Partial Summary Judgment for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
(Doc. # 27). For the following reasons, the Defendants’ Motions are granted and this
case is dismissed.
The Court only briefly recites the facts giving rise to this case because it
dismisses the action without reaching the merits. Plaintiff Sammy Naranjo, a prisoner
proceeding pro se, advances two broad claims against Defendants, all institutions and
personnel affiliated with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). First, Mr. Naranjo
alleges that Defendants violated his Fifth Amendment right to procedural due process
by identifying him as a member of a gang, the Mexican Mafia, without according him
adequate process to contest this identification or a mechanism to suf f icie n t ly
interrogate the basis for their determination. Second, Mr. Naranjo advances myriad
arguments regarding his treatment by prison personnel in December 2010. He alleges
this conduct violates his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Further, he alleges that
both constitutional causes of action arise under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents
of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
After Mr. Naranjo filed his complaint, the government filed motions to dismiss
and for summary judgment. Mr. Naranjo initially requested and was granted an
extension of time to respond to the government’s motions. (Doc. ## 30, 31). But he
never filed any response, so the Court is deprived of the benefit of adversarial briefing
on the questions raised by the government.
The failure to respond also has implications for how this Court construes Mr.
Naranjo’s claims. Although the Court must construe pro se pleadings liberally, a pro
se litigant must still comply with procedural rules. See Ogden v. San Juan Cty., 32
F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). Consequently, a pro se plaintiff who fails to respond
to a defendant’s motion within the time specified effectively “waive[s] the right to file
a response and confesses all facts asserted and properly supported in [a] motion.”
Murray v. City of Tahlequah, Okla., 312 F.3d 1196, 1199 (10th Cir. 2002).
At the same time, the failure to respond is usually insufficient reason for the
Court to grant the government’s motions. See Issa v. Comp USA, 354 F.3d 1174,
1177 (10th Cir. 2003). Absent an explicit finding that the failure to respond merits
dismissal as a sanction, the Court must review the plaintiff’s allegations and
determine whether they survive the motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. See,
e.g., Reed v. Bennett, 312 F.3d 1190, 1195 (10th Cir. 2002) (describing inquiry for
determining whether dismissal is appropriate sanction).
The Court declines to use dismissal as a sanction and engages in the
appropriate analysis of the government’s motions. It concludes that both of Mr.
Naranjo’s claims fail because of the manner in which Mr. Naranjo has proceeded with
this and prior litigation. As explained below, Mr. Naranjo’s first claim is precluded
under principles of res judicata and his second claim is barred because of Mr.
Naranjo’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS CLAIM
First, the government asserts that Mr. Naranjo cannot state a procedural due
process claim upon which relief can be granted. In part, the government argues that
Mr. Naranjo cannot state such a claim because another court has already decided the
scope of Mr. Naranjo’s procedural due process rights and the doctrine of res judicata
precludes him from revisiting that issue here.
1. Standard of Review
Under the doctrine of 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 the prior action. Application of the doctrine relieves parties of the cost
and vexation of multiple lawsuits, conserves judicial resources, prevents inconsistent
decisions, and encourages reliance on adjudication.” Parkins v. Patterson, 215 F.3d
1337 (10th Cir. 2000) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
The government advances this res judicata argument as part of its motion to
dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), relying in part on a judicial
decision from a different federal district court.
In considering the government’s motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all
“well-pleaded allegations” in Mr. Naranjo’s complaint as true and “construe them in
the light most favorable to” him. Alvorado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 f.3D 1210, 1215
(10th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted). On its review of the
complaint, this Court must determine whether Mr. Naranjo has stated a plausible
claim for relief, and if he has not, this Court must dismiss the claim. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
Normally, “[w]hen a party moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) and the district
court relies upon material from outside the complaint, the court converts the motion to
dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.” Burnham v. Humphrey Hospitality Reit
Trust, Inc., 403 F.3d 709, 713 (10th Cir. 2005). Nevertheless, there is ample authority
to consider a res judicata claim at the motion to dismiss stage, provided there are no
disputed questions of material fact and all the documents necessary for the court’s
ruling can be judicially noticed. See Andrew Robinson Int'l, Inc. v. Hartford Fire Ins.
Co., 547 F.3d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 2008); 18 Charles Alan Wright, et al., Fed. Prac. & Proc.
Juris. § 4405 (2d ed. Apr. 2013).
Here, the Court considers the government’s motion not as one for summary
judgment but as a motion to dismiss because, as is detailed below, the only record
outside of the complaint that this Court relies upon is a publicly available and judicially
noticeable decision. See St. Louis Baptist Temple, Inc. v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.,
605 F.2d 1169, 1172 (10th Cir.1979) (noting that “the doctrine of judicial notice has
been utilized, [s]ua sponte, when the defending party's motion . . . is predicated on
affirmative defenses such as Res judicata”).
The Supreme Court has characterized res judicata as creating two distinct
barriers to repeat litigation. For the Court, the broad doctrine is referred to as res
judicata. The two distinct barriers are claim preclusion and the second issue
preclusion or collateral estoppel. See Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 n.5
(discussing the development of this terminology). The government argues that both
issue and claim preclusion apply here. The Court agrees with the government that
issue preclusion (or collateral estoppel) does apply; it therefore declines to reach the
question of whether claim preclusion also applies.
“Under collateral estoppel, once a court has decided an issue of fact or law
necessary to its judgment, that decision may preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit
on a different cause of action involving a party to the first case.” Drexler v. Kozloff,
210 F.3d 389 (10th Cir. 2000) (quoting Allen, 449 U.S. at 95) (emphasis supplied by
Drexler court). This same principle applies to prior adjudications of constitutional
issues as between different federal courts. See Allen, 449 U.S. 90 (so holding in the
context of a Fourth Amendment issue); 18B Charles Alan Wright, et al., Fed. Prac. &
Proc. Juris. § 4466 (2d ed. Apr. 2013) (explaining that doctrine of res judicata applies
as between federal courts). “Furthermore, once an issue is raised and determined, it
is the entire issue that is precluded, not just the particular arguments raised in support
of it in the first case.” Yamaha Corp. of Am. v. United States, 961 F.2d 245, 254
(D.C. Cir. 1992).
For collateral estoppel to apply: (1) the prior suit must have ended with a
judgment on the merits; (2) the parties must be identical or in privity; (3) the suit
must be based on the same cause of action; and (4) the plaintiff must have had a full
and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior suit.
See Nwosun v. Gen. Mills
Restaurants, Inc., 124 F.3d 1255, 1257 (10th Cir. 1997).
Collateral estoppel is implicated here because Mr. Naranjo litigated a claim
similar to the instant one in Naranjo v. Martinez, No. 4:CV-08-1755, 2009 WL
4268598 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 24, 2009) (Naranjo I). In that case, Mr. Naranjo brought an
action against the BOP and the warden of the BOP facility where he was detained.
Similar to this case, Mr. Naranjo alleged that these defendants violated his rights to
procedural due process when they classified him as a gang member. The
government moved to dismiss this claim, arguing in part that such a classification
was not accorded any procedural due process protections.
The Naranjo I court agreed with the government, reasoning that Mr. Naranjo
“does not enjoy a constitutional right to a classification, placement, or custody level
within the BOP.” Naranjo I, 2009 WL 4268598, at *2. The Court therefore granted
the government’s motion to dismiss Mr. Naranjo’s due process claim.
The Naranjo I court’s ruling on this issue was necessary to a judgment on the
merits of his constitutional claim, which was rooted in the same type of constitutional
cause of action as the one advanced in this case.
Naranjo I was also a suit against
parties—officials working for and entities that are part of the federal government—
who are in privity with the defendants in the instant action.
Further, Mr. Naranjo had
the full and fair opportunity to litigate this claim in the Naranjo I court. Cf. Tabman v.
U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 722 F. Supp. 2d 113, 116 (D.D.C. 2010).
The Naranjo I court’s ruling, which decided the scope of Mr. Naranjo’s
procedural due process rights, estops Mr. Naranjo from advancing a theory that
would require this Court to interpret the issue in a different way. Further, it does not
matter that Mr. Naranjo raises new arguments in this case that he did not advance in
Naranjo I. This Court must give effect to the issue decided regardless of the new
arguments advanced by the estopped party. Cf. Yamaha Corp. of Am., 961 F.2d at
Therefore, in this case, the doctrine of res judicata precludes Mr. Naranjo from
stating a procedural due process claim upon which relief can be granted. Therefore,
this claim is necessarily dismissed with prejudice. 1
EIGHTH AMENDMENT CLAIM
The government also argues that Mr. Naranjo’s Eighth Amendment claim fails.
It advances this argument under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, alleging that
there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Mr. Naranjo has exhausted
his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
The PLRA requires that before Mr. Naranjo may sue prison officials, he must
exhaust “such administrative remedies as are available.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
To be clear, this ruling should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Naranjo I
court’s resolution of Mr. Naranjo’s constitutional claim. Contrary to what the Naranjo I court
implies, there is significant authority suggesting that procedural due process concerns are
implicated when a prison decides to classify a prisoner as a member of a particular group
and then this classification triggers a change in the prisoner’s custody level. See, e.g.,
Welch v. Bartlett, 196 F.3d 389, 393 (2d Cir. 1999) (suggesting that under certain
circumstances, a change in custody level that causes a “significant hardship” not endured by
general population prisoners could implicate a liberty interest requiring procedural due
process protections); Kirby v. Siegelman, 195 F.3d 1285, 1291 (11th Cir. 1999) (“The
Supreme Court has held that when a change in the prisoner’s conditions of confinement is so
severe that it essentially exceeds the sentence imposed by the court, a prisoner is entitled to
some procedural protections” (citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995)); Neal v.
Shimoda, 131 F.3d 818, 827 (9th Cir. 1997) (holding that sex offender classification, because
it can cause severe hardships for prisoners, could require procedural due process
protections). At the same time, regardless of how this Court would rule on the merits of this
constitutional issue, it must give effect to a prior court’s decision on the matter. See
Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 398 (1981) (“[A]n erroneous conclusion
reached by the court in the first suit does not deprive the defendants in the second action of
their right to rely upon the plea of res judicata.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Failure to do so bars a claim from federal court. Jones v. Block, 549 U.S. 199, 211
(2007). As Mr. Naranjo admits in his complaint, all of the events giving rise to his
Eighth Amendment claim occurred in or around December 2010 at a BOP facility in
Florence, Colorado. (Doc. # 1, 35-44.) Thus, Mr. Naranjo was obligated to pursue
his grievance claims against Defendants regarding any aspect of his confinement by
proceeding through the four- step Administrative Remedy Program that the BOP
made available to him. See 28 C.F.R. § 542.10-19. First, Mr. Naranjo could have
attempted to resolve the complaint informally with the appropriate BOP employee. Id.
§ 542.13(a). Second, if dissatisfied with the result of step one, he could have filed an
Administrative Remedy request with the prison warden within twenty days of the
incident. Id. § 542.14(a). Third, he could have appealed the warden’s decision to the
BOP’s Regional Director within twenty days of that decision. Id. § 542.15(a). Finally,
he had thirty days to appeal the Regional Director’s decision to the BOP’s General
Nevertheless, as is detailed in an affidavit and exhibits submitted by the
government, Mr. Naranjo failed to follow this process with respect to his Eighth
Amendment claim. (Dkt. # 27-1) Further, the Court accepts the government’s
detailed contentions as true, absent objection from Mr. Naranjo. See Murray, 312 F.3d
at 1199. Thus, the Court must dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim against the
defendants as unexhausted.
Unhausted claims come in two forms: those that are “temporary, curable,
procedural flaw[s],” which can be dismissed without prejudice, and those that are
incurable, which should be dismissed with prejudice. Kikumura v. Osagie, 461 F.3d
1269, 1290 (10th Cir. 2006), overruled in part on other grounds as recognized by
Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1246-47 (10th Cir. 2008).
In this case, the administrative procedures outlined in the government’s
affidavit and in BOP regulations require Mr. Naranjo to bring administrative
challenges within twenty days of the incident giving rise to the complaint.
Nevertheless, as the affidavit details, Mr. Naranjo has failed to fulfill this procedural
requirement. With nearly three years having passed since the December 2010
incident, the possibility that Mr. Naranjo may yet exhaust his claim is foreclosed.
Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims arising from the December 3, 2010 incident and alleged
property theft are dismissed with prejudice. See Kikumura, 461 F.3d at 1290.
For the reasons stated above, it is ORDERED that the government’s Motion to
Dismiss (Dkt. # 26) and Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. # 27) ARE
GRANTED. Further, this Court dismisses both of Mr. Naranjo’s claims WITH
PREJUDICE and DISMISSES this case. 2
DATED: November 29, 2013
BY THE COURT:
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO
United States District Judge
The government did not file its motions on behalf of the John Doe defendant, but
nevertheless argues that he should be dismissed from the case because Mr. Naranjo has
failed to serve him with a copy of the complaint within 120 days of its being filing, in violation of
Rule 4 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. (Doc. # 26, at 1 n.1.) The Court need not
reach this argument. For the reasons stated above, Mr. Naranjo’s two claims would also fail
against this defendant and are therefore dismissed with prejudice. Cf. Casey v. Mabus, 878
F. Supp. 2d 175, 180 (D.D.C. 2012); Tolley v. Illinois, CIV 06-627-GPM, 2006 WL 3842120
(S.D. Ill. Dec. 20, 2006).
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