Wilson v. Schaefer et al
ORDER. Defendants' motion for summary judgment 18 is GRANTED. Motion for leave to take Wilson's deposition 32 is DENIED as moot. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 1/19/2016. (TAG, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
JAN 19 2016
Clerk, U.S. District Court
District Of Montana
DAVID SCHAEFER, M.D., MIKE
FERRITER and TONY HEATON,
Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons explained below, the Court grants Defendants' motion.
A. Conviction and Deferred Sentence
On March 3, 2007, Plaintiff Colton Wilson ("Wilson") stabbed a man in the
neck after he was confronted breaking into a car. As part of his plea agreement
with the State of Montana ("State"), Wilson pleaded guilty to assault with a
weapon in exchange for a recommendation that his sentence be deferred for six
years. The plea agreement conditioned Wilson's deferred sentence on the
successful completion of the Montana Department of Corrections ("DOC") boot
camp program at Treasure State Correctional Training Center ("TSCTC"). On
December 18, 2008, Lake County District Judge Deborah Christopher accepted
Wilson's guilty plea and set his sentencing for the following month.
At sentencing, Judge Christopher noted the lenient nature of the plea
agreement and how she was initially inclined to reject it. However, she went on to
explain that she would accept it because if Wilson failed under the terms of the
agreement, she could then sentence him "to the full extent of the law." (Doc 20-4
at 4-5.) Judge Christopher stressed that Wilson's failure to complete the boot
camp program would be considered a violation of the terms of his probation and
he could potentially be sent to the Montana State Prison ("MSP") for a twenty year
sentence. Judge Christopher also ordered Wilson to continue taking his
prescription medication. At this time, Wilson was being treated for attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder, mania, depression and bipolar disorder, and had
been prescribed Vyvanse, Abilify, and Lamictal to treat these conditions.
On February 11, 2009, Wilson began the boot camp program at TSCTC.
About two weeks later, Wilson was issued a "Disciplinary Infraction
Report/Notice of Hearing" and was removed from the program. (Docs. 20-5 at 2,
20-6, at 3.) This removal was a result of Wilson refusing on order, interfering
with staff, and disruptive conduct. Apparently, Wilson was ordered by a drill
instructor to pick up the pace on a morning run and refused. When confronted by
the drill instructor, Wilson stated, "Fuck this, lock me up," and began walking
away. (Doc. 20-5 at 2.) Wilson then refused orders to stop moving away from the
drill instructor and was placed in temporary lockup as a security threat. Following
these violations, the State filed a petition to revoke Wilson's deferred sentence.
B. Revocation Proceedings
Following Wilson's removal from boot camp, he appeared at a series of
revocation hearings before Judge Christopher. Wilson's attorney explained that he
had not been successful at the boot camp program because he did not take three
medications prescribed to him by his treating physician. The facts of why Wilson
did not receive his medication is currently disputed by the parties. Wilson
maintains that he did not receive his prescription medication because Defendants
confiscated it during his transition to TSCTC. The State contends that Wilson
arrived at TSCTC without documentation to show that he had been prescribed the
medication and that he did not bring the mediation with him. Nonetheless, Wilson
requested that he be allowed to attend a different program that permitted him to
take his medication in order to serve his deferred sentence. Though the State
agreed to Wilson's request, Judge Christopher was reluctant to give Wilson a
Judge Christopher explained that part of the reason she adopted the plea
agreement, which she considered lenient, was that she was familiar with the
program at TSCTC. However, recognizing that Wilson had been unable to receive
his medication at TSCTC, Judge Christopher allowed further arguments on the
matter and ultimately decided to attempt to properly medicate Wilson and send
him back to TSCTC. The court cautioned Wilson that this would be his final
opportunity to succeed st boot camp. Further, the court stated that it recognized
that there was issues with Wilson possibly receiving his medication, but noted that
there was nothing that prevented him from going to boot camp. The court was
very clear that she would not override the medical personnel at the DOC. If the
DOC decided not to allow Wilson to take his prescribed medication and he failed
to complete the program, Judge Christopher reiterated that she would send him to
Following the revocation hearing, Wilson entered the Missoula Assessment
and Sanction Center ("MASC") in preparation for his transportation to TSCTC.
This facility prepares offenders for TSCTC and serves as a "pre-booter" program.
(Doc 20-11 at 7.) Roughly three weeks after Wilson entered MASC, he was
terminated from the program.
Appearing again before Judge Christopher at a hearing to discuss why he
failed at MASC, Wilson's attorney explained that Wilson had again been
prevented by DOC personnel from taking his prescription medications. After
hearing testimony from Wilson, his sister, and his probation officer, Judge
Christopher granted the State's petition to revoke his deferred sentence. The court
recognized that Wilson had been prevented from properly taking his prescribed
medications, but refused to excuse Wilson's conduct "on the basis of medicine."
(Doc. 20-11 at 27.) The court stated that it had heard conflicting opinion evidence
about the appropriate medication regimen for Wilson throughout the entirety of his
case and noted the lack of a consistent position on the subject. After granting the
parties additional time to prepare for sentencing and after hearing opinion
testimony regarding Wilson's proper medication regimen, the court sentenced
Wilson to twenty years in the Montana State Prison ("MSP"), with fifteen years
suspended. As the above chronology of events indicates, all of the events
resulting in Wilson's revocation relate to his failure to comply with the conditions
at TSCTC and MASC, and that all of the associated legal proceedings up to this
point in time concern, in part, his alleged failure to receive his medications.
C. Post-Conviction Relief
Wilson filed a Petition for Postconviction Relief on December 29, 2009.
This petition alleged that the conditions of Wilson confinement at MSP violated
his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under
the federal Constitution, as well as his individual right of dignity as guaranteed by
the Montana Constitution. Specifically, Wilson alleged that the State, through the
DOC, prevented Wilson from receiving his proper medications. This denial of
medication exasperated his mental illness and lead to behaviourial problems,
which, in tum, resulted in disciplinary "warnings and write-ups" which prolonged
his sentence. (Doc. 20-15 at 9.) Wilson petitioned the court to be resentenced to a
facility where he could receive all of his prescribed medications. The district court
denied Wilson's petition and he appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. Wilson
v. State, 249 P.3d 28 (Mont. 2010).
D. Montana Supreme Court
On appeal, the Montana Supreme Court reviewed the record of the case and
found no reason to reverse the district court's decision. Id. at 33. The court stated
that the district court "denied Wilson's petition for postconviction relief on the
grounds that the issues raised in the petition already had been decided." Id. The
court further noted that the district court conducted multiple hearings associated
with "Wilson's mental health and medication issues" and ultimately found that
Wilson could succeed in the criminal justice system without the medication
prescribed by his doctor. The court refused to overturn the district court's
determinations regarding this evidence. Id.
The Montana Supreme Court also found that MSP's policies, which
prevented Wilson from taking medication prescribed from his personal doctor, did
not violate Wilson's constitutional rights. Id. at 34. The court based its decision
on Wilson's failure to demonstrate that: ( 1) "that the staff at MSP consciously
disregarded a serious risk of substantial harm to [his] health"; and (2) "the
conditions at MSP greatly ... exacerbated his mental illness or deprived him of
his sanity." Id. In making these findings, the court noted the multiple hearings
before the district court concerning Wilson's appropriate medical regime and the
multiple opportunities to complete rehabilitation programs in place of prison. As
previously noted, these hearings focused on Wilson's conduct in the TSCTC and
MASC programs, and the court detailed Wilson's failure to comply with the
conditions of the TSCTC and MASC programs, and the role his medications
played in these failures. The court found that Wilson failed to establish his
entitlement to postconviction relief and affirmed the district court's denial of his
postconviction petition. Id.
E. Habeas Proceeding
In 2011, Wilson filed a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Montana
Ninth Judicial District Court, Toole County. Similar to his claims for
psotconvition relief, Wilson's petition alleged that his state and federal
constitutional rights were violated when he did not receive his prescribed
medications at TSCTC. Wilson further argued that "[b]ut for" these violations, "it
is highly probable that [he] would not presently be incarcerated." (Doc. 20-19 at
19.) Wilson argued that his termination from boot camp was the direct result of
Dr. David Schaefer's 1 refusal to continue his court ordered prescription regimen.
Wilson's petition was denied by the district court. The court provided two
reasons for this denial. First, the court found that the statute Wilson sought relief
under, Montana Code Annotated 46-22-102(2), was not available to attack the
legality of an order revoking a deferred sentence. Second, the court found that
Wilson's claims were "considered, addressed, and denied by the Montana
Supreme Court in Wilson v. State." (Doc. 20-20 at 3.) Wilson's petition was
denied and his case was dismissed. Wilson was ultimately released from prison on
June 10, 2013.
In this proceeding, Wilson argues that Defendants Dr. Schaefer, Mike
Ferriter, and Tony Heaton, employees of the DOC, individually violated his
Eighth Amendment and Due Process rights by failing to maintain his prescription
medication regimen at TSCTC. These constitutional violations, Wilson contends,
were the direct and proximate cause of his subsequent incarceration, as well as
Dr. Schaefer is the DOC's psychiatrist who treated Wilson at both TSCTC and MSP.
physical, emotional, mental and psychological harm. Wilson brings his claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, among
other forms of relief. Wilson filed his claims in the First Judicial District of
Montana and Defendants removed the action to this Court. Based on these claims,
and Wilson's prior litigation efforts, Defendants move for summary judgment.
Defendants move for summary judgment arguing that Wilson's claims are
barred under the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata. Defendants also
argue that Wilson's claims are Heck barred, as well as precluded by the Rooker-
Feldman doctrine. Because the Court finds that Wilson is collaterally estopped
from bringing his claims, as well as barred by the doctrine established in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Court will not address Defendants' other
A party is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate that "there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is warranted where
the documentary evidence produced by the parties permits only one conclusion.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986). Only disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit will preclude entry of summary
judgment; factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary to the outcome are
not considered. Id. at 248. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he
evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to
be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. The "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence
in support of the plaintiffs position" is insufficient to defeat a properly supported
motion for summary judgment. Id. at 252.
A. Collateral Estoppel
Defendants argue that Wilson's claims are precluded under the doctrine of
collateral estoppel. It is well settled law "that a federal court must give to a
state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment
under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered." Migra v. Warren
City Sch. Dist. Bd. ofEduc., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). Thus, in deciding if Wilson's
claims are precluded, this Court must apply Montana law. Id.
In Montana, collateral estoppel prevents parties "from reopening all
questions essential to the judgment which were determined by a prior judgment."
Baltrusch v. Baltrusch, 130 P.3d 1267, 1274 (Mont. 2006). Four elements must be
satisfied in order to apply collateral estoppel: "(1) the identical issue raised was
previously decided in a prior adjudication; (2) a final judgment on the merits was
issued in the prior adjudication; (3) the party against whom collateral estoppel is
now asserted was a party or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication"; and
"( 4) the party against whom preclusion is asserted must have been afforded a full
and fair opportunity to litigate any issues which may be barred." Id. Wilson, as
the party attempting to defeat collateral estoppel, has the burden "to establish the
absence of a full and fair opportunity to litigate." Id. (citation omitted).
1. Identical Issues
Defendants contend that collateral estoppel applies because the claims and
issues presented by Wilson were fully adjudicated in his revocation proceeding,
his post-conviction proceeding, and his habeas proceeding. To determine ifthe
issues presented in those proceedings are identical to the issues currently
presented by Wilson, this Court must "compare the pleadings, evidence and
circumstances surrounding" those actions. Holtman v. 4-G's Plumbing & Heating,
Inc., 872 P.2d 318, 322 (Mont. 1994). Additionally, "[t]he term 'issue' does not
equate with the elements of a cause of action." Haines Pipeline Const., Inc. v.
Montana Power Co., 876 P.2d 632, 636 (Mont. 1994) (holding modified by
Baltrusch). Further, "[c]ollateral estoppel also prevents relitigation of
determinative facts which were actually or necessarily decided in a prior action."
Brault v. Smith, 679 P.2d 236, 238 (1984). As such:
A litigant cannot avoid preclusion simply by reframing the same
issues or raising novel contentions. A new contention is not,
however, necessarily a new issue. If a new legal theory or factual
assertion put forward in the second action is related to the
subject-matter and relevant to the issues that were litigated and
adjudicated previously, so that it could have been raised, the
judgment is conclusive on it despite the fact that it was not in fact
expressly pleaded or otherwise urged.
Baltrusch, 130 P.3d at 1276 (citations and quotation marks omitted). However,
the fact that two cases arise out of the same set of circumstances "does not
necessarily mean that each involve identical issues." Id. at 1277. Nonetheless,
application of collateral estoppel is justified "when the issues are so intertwined
that to decide the issue before it, [this] Court would have to rehear the precise
issue previously decided." Id. (citation omitted).
Here, the Court finds that the issues currently raised by Wilson are so
intertwined with the issues raised in his previous proceedings, that to address his
present claims would require the Court to rehear the issues raised in his
revocation, post conviction, and habeas proceedings. For example, Wilson
currently alleges that Defendants, either through their individual actions or
through their acquiescence to DOC medical policies, violated his Eighth
Amendment rights at TSCTC by withholding his court ordered medicine. This,
Wilson contends, lead to a domino effect resulting in his incarceration at MSP.
Thus, in order to decide the issue of whether his Eighth Amendment rights were
violated, the Court would have to determine if the actions of DOC personnel, i.e.,
the Defendants, "acted with deliberate indifference to [Wilson's] health and
safety." Wilson, 249 P.3d at 33 (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834
(1994)). However, the Montana Supreme Court already addressed this issue in
Wilson's postconviction appeal and determined that Wilson's Eighth Amendment
rights were not violated by the conditions of his confinement. Wilson, 249 P.3d at
Wilson now attempts to distinguish the Montana Supreme Court's decision
in Wilson v. State from his current litigation. Wilson argues that his appeal before
the Montana high court challenged his conditions at MSP, not the actions of the
Defendants while in custody at TSCTC. The Court finds that Wilson's argument
raises form over substance. At issue in this case, just as it was an issue in Wilson,
are the policies of the DOC which led to the denial of Wilson's prescribed
medication. Even if the Court were to only look at the application of those
policies while Wilson was in custody at TSCTC, the Court finds that the two
arguments are so intertwined that the Court could not justifiably rule on the
constitutionality of Defendants' conduct without hearing the same issues presented
Further, in hearing Wilson's current claim the Court would have to rehear
determinative facts that had already been decided in Wilson's previous
proceedings. For example, ifthe Court allowed Wilson to continue with his
current claims, the Court would need to hear evidence about his medical diagnosis
and the proper treatment for this diagnosis. However, opinion evidence was
already presented on this issue during Wilson's revocation hearing. As discussed
by the Montana Supreme Court, the district court did not find "the expert
testimony sufficiently compelling to conclude that Wilson could not succeed in the
criminal justice system without" his medication and refused to disturb the district
court's findings. Wilson, 249 P.3d at 33. This Court will do the same and, like the
district court, refuse to excuse Wilson's conduct "on the basis of medicine." (Doc.
20-11 at 27.) The Court is satisfied that the first element of collateral estoppel is
2. Final Judgment
Next, Wilson may be precluded from bringing his claim if "a final judgment
on the merits was issued in [a] prior adjudication." Baltrusch, 130 P.3d at 1274.
This requires a determination of whether the issue was "actually litigated and
adjudged as shown on the face of the judgment." Gibbs v. Altenhofen, 330 P.3d
458, 466 (Mont. 2014). This Court must give preclusive effect to a judgment if it
was "adequately deliberated and firm." Id.
Here, the Court finds that a final judgment on the merits was entered in the
district court's denial of Wilson's petition for postconviction relief and the
subsequent affirmance of that denial by the Montana Supreme Court. 2 As stated
above, the Court disagrees with Wilson's attempt to distinguish the issues
presented in Wilson from the issues presented by the current action. As such, the
Court finds that the constitutional issues Wilson currently raises were already
litigated in the postconviction proceeding. The parties were given an opportunity
to fully brief this issue and briefs were submitted. These decisions were final and
on the merits.
Wilson argues that this element is not satisfied because he is currently
seeking damages for the actions of the Defendants and damages were not available
in the prior proceedings. However, Wilson fails to provide any binding precedent
for this argument. In support of his argument, Wilson merely cites to cases which
support his argument in the context of a res judicata analysis, not collateral
estoppel. See Audit Services, Inc. v. Anderson, 684 P.2d 491 (Mont. 1984) (case
decided solely on basis ofresjudicata); Joe v. City of Tucson, 120 F.3d 268 (9th
Cir. 1997) (unpublished) (damages argument decided on basis ofresjudicata);
The Court also notes that final judgments were also issued in Wilson's revocation and
habeas proceedings. Though the Eighth Amendment claims were not expressly raised during the
revocation proceedings, the Court finds that Wilson could have raised these arguments.
Burgess v. State, 772 P.2d 1272 (Mont. 1989) (case decided solely on basis of res
judicata). As such, the Court agrees with Defendants and finds that the second
prong for collateral estoppel is satisfied.
3. Party Against Whom Collateral Estoppel is Asserted
Third, Wilson is collaterally estopped from asserting his claims if he "was a
party or in privity with a party to the prior adjudication." Baltrusch, 130 P.3d at
1274. Here, it is beyond argument that Wilson was the prior party in the
revocation, postconviction, and habeas proceedings. Wilson does not appear to
dispute this prong and the Court finds that it is satisfied.
4. Full and Fair Opportunity to Litigate
Finally, Wilson is precluded from now raising his current claims ifhe was
"afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate any issues which may be barred."
Id. Similar to his argument concerning the second prong of this test, Wilson
contends that he was denied a full and fair opportunity to litigate the current issues
because he could not seek damages in the prior proceedings. However, the plain
language of this prong discusses the opportunity to litigate issues, not the
opportunity to pursue various forms of relief or to bring a specific claim, i.e., his §
1983 claims. Further, as discussed above, the authority Wilson provides in
support of his argument is inapposite to the issue of whether his claims are
precluded by collateral estoppel. Additionally, the Court finds that Wilson had the
full and fair opportunity to litigate the alleged denial of appropriate medical care
on numerous occasions and, in fact, did so during his three previous proceedings.
Because Wilson failed in his burden to establish the absence of a full and fair
opportunity to litigate these issues, the Court finds that all elements are satisfied
and Wilson is collaterally estopped from bringing his current claims.
Defendants also argue that Wilson is precluded from bringing the present
claims under the doctrine established in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
There, the United States Supreme Court held that
in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction
or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983
plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed
on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a
state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into
question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.
Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-487. Further, "the district court must consider whether a
judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his
conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the
plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been
invalidated." Id. at 487.
Here, Wilson contends that Defendants' failure to provide medical treatment
"was a cause-in-fact of [his] termination from [boot camp] and his subsequent
incarceration." (Doc. 1-1 at 16.) Based on these arguments, Wilson is essentially
asking the Court to rule that the revocation of his deferred sentence and his
commitment to MSP were a mistake, and but for this mistake, he would not have
been incarcerated. The Court finds that this would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his sentence and run counter to the decisions issued in the revocation,
postconviction, and habeas proceedings.
Wilson counters that Heck is not applicable to this case because the
Defendants' constitutional violations are "conceptually and temporally distinct
from the conduct forming the basis for his criminal conviction." (Doc. 23 at 31.)
Wilson further argues that his § 1983 claims are not based on his conviction and,
instead, stem from Defendants' unconstitutional conduct during his time at
This argument, however, ignores the fact that Heck prevents the award of
damages when a judgment in favor of Wilson would imply the invalidity of his
sentence. Here, the harm alleged by Wilson, i.e., his incarceration resulting from
his revoked sentence, is argued to be caused by Defendants' unconstitutional
actions. Any award for damages would undoubtedly suggest that the district court
erred in revoking his sentence. Wilson claims are barred under Heck.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that:
(1) Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18) is GRANTED.
(2) Defendants' motion for leave to take Wilson's deposition (Doc. 32) is
DENIED as moot.
(3) The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of Defendants
and against Plaintiff. This case is CLOSED.
DATED this I
ll~day of January,
Dana L. Christensen, Chief District Judge
United States District Court
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