Matthews v. Koffel et al
ORDER Accepting in Part and Rejecting in Part 120 the Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty; GRANTING 104 and 106 Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. SO ORDERED by Judge Raymond P. Moore on 2/24/2020.(swest)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Judge Raymond P. Moore
Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-01004-RM-MEH
TRAVIS JAMES MATTHEWS,
NICOLA GESI, and
WILLIAM WARREN, individually and in their official capacities,
This matter is before the Court on the February 5, 2020, recommendation of United
States Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty (ECF No. 120) to grant Defendants’ motions to
dismiss (ECF Nos. 104, 106). The recommendation advised the parties that specific written
objections were due within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the recommendation.
(ECF No. 120 at 2 n.2.) The time to object has expired, and only Defendants Schnitker, Gesi,
and Warren (the “DEA Defendants”) have responded by filing a partial objection to the
recommendation. (ECF No. 121.) The partial objection does not argue that the DEA
Defendants’ motion to dismiss should not be granted; rather, it argues that there are additional
reasons for granting the motion that the magistrate judge rejected or failed to consider. For the
reasons below, the Court overrules the objection, accepts in part and rejects in part the
recommendation, and grants the motions to dismiss.
According to the complaint, Plaintiff was a confidential informant who worked with the
DEA Defendants to apprehend drug traffickers. He alleges that Defendants Brauchler and Kofol
(the “DA Defendants”) disclosed his identify to a target of one of their operations, placing his
life at risk. He further contends that Defendants continued to work with him despite failing to
warn him that his identity had been compromised, which caused him to be assaulted and shot by
gang members and his boyfriend to be murdered.
Plaintiff asserts two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants—one for state
created danger (“Claim One”) and another for deliberate indifference and/or failure to supervise
(“Claim Two”). Both the DA Defendants and the DEA Defendants moved to dismiss under Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) on various grounds, including that they were entitled to qualified immunity.
The DEA Defendants also moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), arguing that Plaintiff
could not bring a § 1983 claim against them because he failed to allege adequately that they
engaged in state action. The Court referred the motions to dismiss to the magistrate judge. After
the motions were fully briefed, the magistrate judge issued the recommendation to grant them
The magistrate judge first determined that the Court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1343 to address the claims against the DEA Defendants. Construing Claim One as a claim for
violations of substantive due process against all Defendants in their individual capacities, the
magistrate judge then determined that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because
Plaintiff failed to show that their conduct violated his clearly established rights. Construing
Claim Two as a claim for municipal liability, the magistrate judge determined that Plaintiff had
conceded his municipal liability claims against the DA Defendants should be dismissed. The
magistrate judge also determined that Plaintiff’s failure to establish violations of his clearly
established rights by the DEA Defendants precluded his claim for municipal liability against
them. Finally, the magistrate judge recommended that Plaintiff’s request for leave to amend
should be denied because the deficiencies in his claims could not be cured by amendment.
With the exception of the magistrate judge’s first determination regarding §1343
jurisdiction, no party objected to the determinations in the recommendation. “In the absence of a
timely objection, the district court may review a magistrate judge’s report under any standard it
deems appropriate.” Summers v. State of Utah, 927 F.3d 1165, 1167 (10th Cir. 1991). The
Court discerns no clear error in the record and finds that the magistrate judge’s substantive
analysis of Plaintiff’s claims provides a sound basis to grant the motions to dismiss.
However, the Court rejects as unnecessary the magistrate judge’s initial determination
with respect to § 1343 jurisdiction. As noted by the magistrate judge, Plaintiff asserts
jurisdiction under both § 1343 and 28 U.S.C. § 1331 in this case. Where a plaintiff asserts
jurisdiction only under § 1343, the state action requirement is a jurisdictional prerequisite.
See Elliott v. Chrysler Fin., 149 F. App’x 766, 767-68 (10th Cir. 2005) (unpublished). But
“[o]rdinarily, § 1983 plaintiffs assert federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and
the state action requirement is treated only as an element of the claim.” Id. at 768 (citation
omitted). That is the case here, and because jurisdiction clearly exists under § 1331, the
magistrate judge’s findings with respect to § 1343 are unnecessary. See Mehdipour v. Matthews,
386 F. App’x 775, 778 n.3 (10th Cir. 2010) (unpublished) (stating that “a plaintiff’s failure to
properly allege a ‘state action’ in a § 1983 complaint strips the district court of subject matter
jurisdiction only if jurisdiction is alleged under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3)”). Accordingly, the Court
rejects that portion of the recommendation.
In their partial objection, the DEA Defendants also argue that an additional basis exists
for dismissing the municipal liability claim against them. Because the Court has already found
that the recommendation provides sufficient grounds for granting the motions to dismiss and no
party has objected to those grounds, the Court need not consider this additional argument further.
Therefore, the Court OVERRULES the DEA Defendants’ partial objection (ECF
No. 121), ACCEPTS IN PART and REJECTS IN PART the recommendation (ECF No. 120), as
stated herein, and GRANTS Defendants’ motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 104, 106). The Clerk is
directed to CLOSE this case.
DATED this 24th day of February, 2020.
BY THE COURT:
RAYMOND P. MOORE
United States District Judge
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