Sabeerin et al v. Albuquerque Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Judith C. Herrera granting 17 Motion to Dismiss filed by New Mexico Corrections Department & Gregg Marcantel and granting Plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint, as explained herein, within fourteen days of the date of entry of this Memorandum Opinion. (baw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
BOBACK SABEERIN, MICHELLE
ROYBAL, J.R. and S.S.
No. 1:16-cv-00497 JCH-LF
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT
DETECTIVE TIMOTHY FASSLER, in his individual capacity,
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT
DETECTIVE JOHN DEER, in his individual capacity,
CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE,
STATE OF NEW MEXICO,
SECRETARY GREGG MARCANTEL, in his official and
NEW MEXICO CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On August 8, 2016 Secretary Marcantel and the New Mexico Corrections Department
collectively filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17) the claims against them. The Court, having
reviewed the motion, briefs, relevant law, and otherwise being fully advised, finds that the
motion should be granted. The Court also finds that Plaintiffs should be granted leave to file an
Plaintiff Boback Sabeerin is a national of Iran, but in 1986 he fled that county and came
to this one as a political refugee. See Comp. ¶ 11, ECF No. 1. He obtained permanent residency
soon after, and made a livelihood from working in and running auto repair and “body shops.” Id.
¶¶ 12-14. In 1991, Mr. Sabeerin had a run in with the law, and was criminally charged with two
counts of vehicle theft. Id. ¶ 15. He pleaded no contest to those charges and it appears he avoided
jail time. Id. This infuriated the then-officer working on the case, Defendant Detective John
Deer, so much that he told Mr. Sabeerin to “watch his back.” Id.
Nearly 20 years later, in 2009, another detective, Defendant Timothy Fassler executed a
search warrant on the body shop that Mr. Sabeerin owned together with his “domestic partner,”
Plaintiff Michelle Roybal. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. When Detective Fassler entered Plaintiffs’ shop to
execute the warrant, he told Mr. Sabeerin, “the two detectives that worked on your case twenty
years ago, work for me. Now we are going to make sure you don’t get out this time. Foreigners
like you don’t belong in this country. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure you
get deported this time.” Id. ¶ 18. Detective Deer, the officer from the 1991 incident, came out of
retirement specifically to join the investigation against Mr. Sabeerin. Id. ¶ 17. The search turned
up a number of stolen vehicles and evidence of a VIN-switching operation. Id. ¶ 23.
The State brought four charges against Mr. Sabeerin for auto theft and similar charges.
Id. ¶ 19. In Mr. Sabeerin’s first case, he moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of
the search of his business property, arguing that Detective Fassler lacked probable cause to
support issuance of a warrant. Id. The state judge denied the motion, and Mr. Sabeerin was found
guilty and jailed. Id. Before trial for his second charge, Mr. Sabeerin again moved to suppress the
evidence, which the judge again denied. Id. While incarcerated, corrections officers subjected
him to a number of humiliations, including dragging Mr. Sabeerin across the jail in his boxers,
and refusing to let him shower before and during trial. Id. ¶ 20. Each time Mr. Sabeerin’s
appearance was required at trial or a motions hearing, corrections officers placed him in solitary
confinement. Id. ¶ 28. These stints in solitary confinement pressurized Mr. Sabeerin – who is bipolar and suffers from other mental illnesses – so much that he pleaded guilty to the remaining
charges to avoid further jail time. Id. ¶¶ 22, 90. His charges were consolidated and he was
sentenced to a total of 27 years. Id. ¶¶ 21, 23.
Mr. Sabeerin was placed in solitary confinement throughout his incarceration. Id. ¶ 28.
His mental disorders made him particularly vulnerable to the effects of being segregated. Id. ¶
81. His mental health deteriorated and he went long periods without sleep. Id. ¶¶ 81-82.
Corrections officers deprived him of recreation and blocked his access to group therapy sessions.
Id. ¶ 86. Officers also withheld or delayed giving him his medications. Id. ¶ 81.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sabeerin appealed the trial court’s denials of his motions to suppress. Id.
¶ 23. In August 2014 – after spending five years in prison – the New Mexico Court of Appeals
reversed his conviction, holding that the property search of Plaintiffs’ business was invalid for
lack of probable cause. Id. ¶ 24. Without evidence for re-trial, the prosecution agreed to dismiss
the charges against Mr. Sabeerin, and the state judge released him in November 2015. Id. ¶ 27.
NMCD told him he would be deported, although it knew this was inaccurate because Mr.
Sabeerin was a permanent resident. Id. ¶ 31. Instead of releasing Mr. Sabeerin, NMCD delivered
him – nearly naked in a clear plastic jumpsuit – to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
and intimated to ICE authorities that Mr. Sabeerin was “illegal.” Id. ¶¶ 31, 33, 41. ICE detected
no problems, and released Mr. Sabeerin in less than an hour. Id. ¶ 31.
Mr. Sabeerin’s incarceration effectively destroyed his family and business life. Id. ¶¶ 3441. His and Ms. Roybal’s body shop was shuttered, its inventory impounded and sold at auction,
and the couple’s family unit broke apart. Id. ¶¶ 29, 36, 40.
Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this Court against Defendants and asserted the
following claims: (I) violation of Mr. Sabeerin’s and Ms. Roybal’s Fourth Amendment rights
and Mr. Sabeerin’s Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (II) conspiracy to
violate Mr. Sabeerin’s and Ms. Roybal’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42
U.S.C. § 1983; (III) violation of Mr. Sabeerin’s right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment under the Eighth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (IV) violation of Mr.
Sabeerin’s and Ms. Roybal’s rights to be free from unlawful searches under N.M. Const. art. II, §
10; (V) conspiracy to violate N.M. Const. art. II, § 10; (VI) false arrest or imprisonment under
the New Mexico Tort Claims Act; (VII) tortious abuse of process; and three claims of loss of
consortium for each of Ms. Roybal, J.R., and S.S. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs’ pleaded all
counts against “Defendants.”
Defendants Secretary Marcantel and NMCD collectively moved to dismiss, arguing that
Secretary Marcantel, in his official-capacity, and NMCD are entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. See Defs.’ Mot. at 1, ECF. No. 17. Secretary Marcantel additionally moved for
dismissal in his individual capacity, asserting the defense of qualified immunity against
Plaintiffs’ federal claims. Id. Regarding Plaintiffs’ state claims, Secretary Marcantel contends
that the State of New Mexico has not waived immunity under the NMTCA for the claims
asserted. Id. The parties agreed to drop Plaintiffs’ claim against NMCD, but all other claims
remain intact. See Pls.’ Resp at 1, ECF No. 20; Defs.’ Rep at 1-2, ECF No. 25.
In their response brief, Plaintiffs raised new allegations that were not contained in their
Complaint. For example, they alleged that Secretary Marcantel and NMCD placed Mr. Sabeerin
in solitary confinement to block his access to court to pursue post-conviction remedies.
Defendants placed Mr. Sabeerin – who appealed his convictions pro se – in solitary confinement
before and after each motions hearing, according to Plaintiffs, to pressure him to drop his
appeals. Plaintiffs also amplified some of their allegations against Secretary Marcantel, detailing
his supervisory role in creating inmate discipline policies, including solitary confinement.
Finally, Plaintiffs ask the Court to convert Defendants’ Motion to a motion for summary
judgment. Plaintiffs attached seven exhibits to their response brief that contest Defendants’
version of events, and request limited discovery. Defendants oppose this request and ask the
Court to ignore Plaintiffs’ newly raised allegations.
Motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity
To survive dismissal, a complaint must set forth factual allegations that “raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). When
reviewing a plaintiff’s complaint in ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all wellpleaded allegations as true and construe them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Smith v.
United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009).
Qualified immunity operates to protect officers from the “sometimes hazy border
between excessive and acceptable force and to ensure that, before they are subjected to suit,
officers are on notice that their conduct is unlawful.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 206 (2001)
(internal citation and quotations omitted), overruled on other grounds by Pearson v. Callahan,
555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009). The doctrine protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 638 (1987). “Officials who
are mistaken about the lawfulness of their conduct may still be entitled to qualified immunity if
the mistake is reasonable in light of the applicable law and the facts known to them at the time.”
Gomes v. Wood, 451 F.3d 1122, 1136 (10th Cir. 2006). If officials of reasonable competence
could disagree about the lawfulness of the challenged conduct, then the defendant is entitled to
qualified immunity. Id.
Although a plaintiff can overcome the defense without a favorable case directly on point,
existing precedent must have placed the constitutional question “beyond debate.” Aldaba v.
Pickens, 844 F.3d 870, 877 (10th Cir. 2016). “Clearly established law” must not be defined “at a
high level of generality.” White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552 (2017). “Once the qualified
immunity defense is asserted, the plaintiff bears a heavy two-part burden to show, first, the
defendant’s actions violated a constitutional or statutory right, and, second, that the right was
clearly established at the time of the conduct at issue.” Eckert v. Dougherty, 658 F.App’x 401,
405 (10th Cir. 2016). “Asserting a qualified immunity defense via a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
however, subjects the defendant to a more challenging standard of review than would apply on
summary judgment.” Thomas v. Kaven, 765 F.3d 1183, 1194 (10th Cir. 2014).
Eleventh Amendment immunity
Claims against state officials in their official capacities are essentially claims against the
state entity. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (“Official-capacity suits, in
contrast, generally represented only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which
an officer is an agent.”). It is well established that “the Eleventh Amendment precludes a federal
court from assessing damages against state officials sued in their official capacities because such
suits are in essence suits against the state.” Hunt v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1263, 1267 (10th Cir. 1994).
Absent an unmistakable waiver by a state of its Eleventh Amendment immunity, or an
unmistakable abrogation of such immunity by Congress, the Eleventh Amendment provides
absolute immunity from suit in federal courts for states and their agencies. Blatchford v. Native
Vill.of Noatak & Circle Vill., 501 U.S. 775, 785 – 86 (1991). Thus, an official capacity lawsuit is
appropriate only where the claims could be sustained against the entity in its own name. Monell
v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978).
Under the framework of Blatchford, Secretary Marcantel, in his official capacity, has not
waived his Eleventh Amendment immunity. Nor has Congress abrogated such immunity. Thus,
the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiffs’ claims for money damages in Counts I, II, and VII
against Secretary Marcantel in his official capacity, and accordingly, the Court will dismiss those
claims. See Ky., 473 U.S. at 169 (Eleventh Amendment bars federal jurisdiction over state
official acting in official capacity in suit for money damages).
Documents outside of the pleadings
Before analyzing Plaintiffs’ claims, the Court must determine if it can consider the seven
exhibits that Plaintiffs attached to their responsive brief. Plaintiffs included: (i) an affidavit by
Mr. Sabeerin; (ii) a blank “parole plan” issued by NMDC; (iii) e-mail correspondence between
the parties’ lawyers; (iv) Secretary Marcantel’s biography taken from NMCD’s website; (v) an
NMCD regulation describing the duties of the Secretary of Correction and his subordinates; (vi)
a notice of tort claim from Plaintiffs’ lawyer to Secretary Marcantel; (vii) and an NMCD policy
governing restrictive housing.
“Generally, a court considers only the contents of the complaint when ruling on a
12(b)(6) motion.” Berneike v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 708 F.3d 1141, 1146 (10th Cir. 2013).
However, the court can properly consider the following: “documents incorporated by reference
in the complaint; documents referred to in and central to the complaint, when no party disputes
its authenticity; and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Id. The Court will not
consider any of the above documents. None were incorporated by reference in the Complaint,
nor did the Complaint refer to any of them or indicate their centrality.
Count VII: Eighth Amendment violation
Whether Secretary Marcantel violated the Eighth Amendment
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual” punishment. See
U.S. Const. amend. VIII. “[T]he unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” constitutes cruel and
unusual punishment. See Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). “Among unnecessary and
wanton inflicts of pain are those that are totally without penological justification.” Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981). In terms of solitary confinement, “the transfer of an inmate
to less amenable and more restrictive quarters for nonpunitive reasons is well within the terms of
confinement ordinarily contemplated by a prison sentence.” Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468
(1983). “An inmate making an Eighth Amendment claim for constitutionally inadequate
conditions of confinement must allege and prove an objective component and subjective
component associated with the deficiency” claimed. See Shannon v. Graves, 257 F.3d 1164,
1168 (10th Cir. 2001). “The objective component requires conditions sufficiently serious so as to
deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Id. “The subjective
component is met if the prisoner shows the defendants knew he faced a substantial risk of harm
and disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Hunt v. Uphoff, 199
F.3d 1220, 1224 (10th Cir. 1999).
Plaintiffs’ claim against Secretary Marcantel in his individual capacity amounts to a
claim of direct supervisory liability. To establish such liability, Plaintiffs must show Secretary
Marcantel’s “direct personal responsibility” for the claimed deprivation of Mr. Sabeerin’s Eighth
Amendment right. See Porro v. Barnes, 624 F.3d 1322, 1327 (10th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in
original); see also Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dept., 717 F.3d 760 768 (10th Cir.
2013). “Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to ... § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that
each Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has violated
the Constitution.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). It is not enough that an official
acted in a supervisory role when the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were violated. Dodds v.
Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1195 (10th Cir. 2010). Rather, the plaintiff “must show an
‘affirmative link’ between the supervisor and the constitutional violation,” Schneider, 717 F.3d
at 767, which requires proof of three interrelated elements: “(1) the defendant promulgated,
created, implemented or possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a policy that (2)
caused the complained of constitutional harm, and (3) acted with the state of mind required to
establish the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Dodds, 614 F.3d at 1199.
Plaintiffs lodge two main complaints against Secretary Marcantel in connection with their
Eighth Amendment claim: that he arbitrarily placed Mr. Sabeerin in solitary confinement, and
that Mr. Sabeerin received inadequate medical care while incarcerated.
The first element that a § 1983 plaintiff must demonstrate against a defendant-supervisor
is the defendant’s personal involvement in promulgating, creating, or implementing a
constitutionally deficient policy. Id. at 1999. The parties center their analyses on the Tenth
Circuit’s decision in Dodds, and the Court agrees that Dodds and its progeny are instructive to
this case. There, the defendant-sheriff ignored numerous state laws requiring him to release the
plaintiff, who was able to post bail and thus eligible for release. Id at 1202-03. The sheriff had an
informal policy of releasing a detainee only after being arraigned by a judge. Id at 1202. In the
plaintiff’s case, that meant he languished in jail for two extra days. Id. Those two days were not
trivial. As the court explained, “[t]he right of an accused to freedom pending trial is inherent in
the concept of a liberty interest protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment.” Id. at 1192. The sheriff therefore could be held individually liable for the policy
even if he did not personally have contact with the plaintiff or “actually know of his
subordinates’ enforcement of these policies with regard to [p]laintiff in particular.” Id. at 1202.
The sheriff’s policy was, as the Tenth Circuit described in a later case, “constitutionally infirm in
the overwhelming majority of its applications, if not on its face.” Durkee v. Minor, 841 F.3d 872,
877 (10th Cir. 2016). By way of contrast, in Durkee, the Tenth Circuit believed the lower court
misread Dodds when it held a sheriff individually liable for a policy of unshackling detainees in
a booking room that led to an inmate-on-inmate assault. 841 F.3d at 877. Where the policy was
facially constitutional, and no other similar assaults occurred, the sheriff could not be
individually liable. Id.
Here, Plaintiffs allege that in light of Mr. Sabeerin’s mental illnesses, placing him in
solitary confinement was an Eighth Amendment violation. But the Tenth Circuit previously
considered and rejected a similar claim in Hill v. Pugh, 75 Fed.Appx. 715, 720–21 (10th Cir.
2003). There, the plaintiff was subjected to extended periods of isolation and sensory
deprivation. Id. at 717. He claimed that placing him in solitary confinement “in disregard of his
history of mental illness” amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Id. The Tenth Circuit
disagreed: No Eighth Amendment violation occurred in the absence of allegations that the
prisoner was deprived of “minimal physical requirements - food, shelter, clothing and warmth.”
Id. at 721. This comports with the Supreme Court’s view that, with solitary confinement issues
generally, “the transfer of an inmate to less amenable and more restrictive quarters for
nonpunitive reasons is well within the terms of confinement ordinarily contemplated by a prison
sentence.” Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983). “To the extent that such conditions are
restive and even harsh,” but not cruel and unusual, solitary confinement is permissible. See
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981).
In the face of such a permissible policy, Plaintiffs have not alleged that Secretary
Marcantel, say, thwarted state law and ran a renegade policy, as the defendant in Dodds had. The
Durkee court indicated that a supervisor is typically liable for his “promulgation of the sort of
policy at issue in Dodds,” or “when he has actual knowledge of subordinates’ past constitutional
violations but does nothing to stop future occurrences.” 841 F.3d at 878. Nothing in Plaintiffs’
Complaint indicates that occurred here. Plaintiffs therefore have failed to demonstrate Secretary
Marcantel’s “direct personal responsibility,” Porro, 624 F.3d at 1327.
Because Plaintiffs have not demonstrated Secretary Marcantel’s personal involvement,
the Court will not examine whether the next two elements, causation and culpable state of mind,
Inadequate medical care
Plaintiffs also generally allege that Mr. Sabeerin received inadequate medical care while
imprisoned. The problem with these allegations is their generality. Plaintiffs do allege in their
Complaint that while in solitary confinement Mr. Sabeerin’s mental health declined, medications
were withheld from him, his sleep worsened, his bi-polar disorder made him more vulnerable to
the harsh effects of confinement, and that Secretary Marcantel knew all of this. But Plaintiffs
pleaded no facts that tie Mr. Sabeerin’s alleged inadequate medical care to Secretary Marcantel’s
role as supervisor. Supervisory liability based on inadequate medical care is typically predicated
on a theory of deliberate indifference; for example, the plaintiff may allege that a supervisordefendant failed to train or supervise his subordinates. See Dodds, 614 F.3d at 1212. Nowhere in
the Complaint do Plaintiffs substantiate any facts that would support such a claim.
Whether Secretary Marcantel violated clearly established rights
Because Plaintiffs have insufficiently alleged that Secretary Marcantel deprived Mr.
Sabeerin of his Eighth Amendment rights, the Court proceeds no further in the qualified
immunity analysis. See A.M. v. Holmes, 830 F.3d 1123, 1134-35 (10th Cir. 2016) (“if the
plaintiff fails to establish either prong of the two-pronged qualified-immunity standard, the
defendant prevails on the defense.”). The Court dismisses without prejudice Count VII.
Count I: Fourteenth Amendment violation
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State may
“deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....” The Due Process
Clause protects individuals against two types of governmental action: (1) “substantive due
process” prevents the government from engaging in action that “shocks the conscience” or
“interferes with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” and (2) “procedural” due
process ensures that government action is implemented in a fair manner. See United States v.
Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 746 (1987).
Under the Fourteenth Amendment, the “[s]tate does not acquire the power to punish ...
until after it has secured a formal adjudication of guilt.” Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 671
n. 40 (1977). Thus “the Due Process Clause protects a pretrial detainee from the use of excessive
force that amounts to punishment.” Graham v. Connor, 490 US 386, 395 n. 10 (1989). In
determining “what does and [does not] constitute ‘punishment[,]’” Blackmon v. Sutton, 734 F.3d
1237, 1242 (10th Cir. 2013), the Tenth Circuit has explained that “a restriction on a pretrial
detainee does not constitute punishment unless it is (1) intended as punishment or (2) unrelated
to a legitimate government objective.” Cordova v. City of Albuquerque, 816 F.3d 645, 655 n. 5
(10th Cir. 2016).
Plaintiffs’ Complaint can be fairly read to allege that Mr. Sabeerin was placed in solitary
confinement, as a pretrial detainee, more than once, and, that in one case he was confined for a
month. Secretary Marcantel personally created and executed the policies that led to Mr.
Sabeerin’s confinement, Plaintiffs contend. This was tantamount to punishment, Plaintiffs argue,
and therefore Secretary Marcantel’s conduct shocks the conscious sufficiently to violate the
It is Plaintiffs’ burden to show that Secretary Marcantel violated a clearly established
constitutional right. Mindful of this, the Court first examines whether Plaintiffs’ Complaint
sufficiently alleges a violation of clearly established law. See A.M., 830 F.3d at 1135 (explaining
that a court has discretion to address the sequence of the qualified immunity analysis).
“Ordinarily, a plaintiff may show that a particular right was clearly established at the time of the
challenged conduct by identifying an on-point Supreme Court or published Tenth Circuit
decision; alternatively, the clearly established weight of authority from other courts must have
found the law to be as [she] maintains.” Id.
Here, Plaintiffs have not identified an on-point Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit case, or a
case from another court. In fact, Plaintiffs have not cited a single case – at all – supporting
Plaintiffs’ position that placing Mr. Sabeerin in solitary confinement as a pretrial detainee
violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court therefore dismisses without prejudice Plaintiffs’
Fourteenth Amendment claim in Count I against Secretary Marcantel.
Count II: Conspiracy to violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
“[A] conspiracy to deprive a plaintiff of a constitutional or federally protected right under
color of state law” pursuant to § 1983 is actionable. See Snell v. Tunnell, 920 F.2d 673, 701 (10th
Cir. 1990). In order to prevail on such a claim, the plaintiff “must plead and prove not only a
conspiracy, but also an actual deprivation of rights; pleading and proof of one without the other
will be insufficient.” Id. “A conspiracy requires the combination of two or more persons acting
in concert.” Salehpoor v. Shahinpoor, 358 F.3d 782, 789 (10th Cir.2004). “In order to plead a
conspiracy claim, a plaintiff must allege, either by direct or circumstantial evidence, a meeting of
the minds or agreement among the defendants.” Id. The plaintiff must show that there was “a
single plan, the essential nature and general scope of which [was] know [sic] to each person who
is to be held responsible for its consequences.” Snell, 920 F.2d at 702.
According to Plaintiffs, NMCD and Secretary Marcantel conspired to place Mr. Sabeerin
in solitary confinement to break his resolve so he would plead guilty to his remaining charges.
The Complaint, however, pleads very few and very inconsistent facts to support this charge. For
example, it alleges that Mr. Sabeerin entered a guilty plea “on the advice of counsel and because
of his mental condition of terror occasioned by his treatment at Defendant’s [sic] hands.”
(emphasis added). See ECF. No. 1, ¶ 21. Plaintiffs’ contentions amount to little more than
conclusory allegations, which the Court disregards. See Hunt v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1263, 1266
(10th Cir. 1994) (stating that “[c]onclusory allegations of conspiracy are insufficient to state a
valid § 1983 claim.”). Accordingly, the Court dismisses Count II against Secretary Marcantel
Counts III, IV, V, and VII: Claims brought under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act
The New Mexico Tort Claims Act specifically includes state constitutional violations
committed by public officers and governmental entities within the torts for which liability may
be found. Begay v. State, 1985-NMCA-117, 723 P.2d 252, rev’d on other grounds by Smialek v.
Begay, 1986-NMSC-049, 721 P.2d 1306. A person cannot sue the public officers and
governmental entitles for damages for violation of a state constitutional right, however, absent a
waiver of immunity under the NMTCA. Valdez v. State, 2002-NMSC-028, ¶ 12, 54 P.3d 71, 77.
If no specific waiver is found in the NMTCA, the claim must be dismissed. See Begay v. State,
723 P.2d at 255–56.
Plaintiffs’ Complaint fails to identify which waiver under the NMTCA applies to their
state law claims. Thus, their Complaint has not shown Secretary Marcantel’s immunity is
waived. The Court therefore dismisses without prejudice Counts III, IV, V, and VII against
Count VI: Abuse of Process
“In a malicious abuse of process claim, a claimant must establish three elements: (1) the
use of process in a judicial proceeding that would be improper in the regular prosecution or
defense of a claim or charge; (2) a primary motive in the use of process to accomplish an
illegitimate end; and (3) damages.” LensCrafters, Inc., v. Kehoe, 2012-NMSC-020, ¶ 29, 282
P.3d 758, 766. Plaintiffs allege that “Defendants misused the legal process by bringing charges
against the Plaintiff that lacked probable cause and the proceedings against Sabeerins’ [sic] and
with malice.” The Court dismisses this claim. Secretary Marcantel – who is neither a law
enforcement officer nor a prosecutor – never used judicial process against Mr. Sabeerin. Count
VI is accordingly dismissed without prejudice.
Counts VIII, IX, X: Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a derivative cause of action, so that the plaintiff may not recover
unless the defendant’s misconduct harmed the person in relation to the plaintiff. See McLelland
v. United Wisc. Life Ins. Co., 1999-NMCA-055, ¶ 26, 980 P.2d 86, 310. Because Plaintiffs have
not pleaded facts demonstrating Secretary Marcantel’s liability, the Court need not address
Plaintiffs’ loss of consortium claim. Counts VIII, IX, and X are dismissed without prejudice.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17) is
IT IS ALSO ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ claims against Secretary Marcantel and NMCD
are DISMISSED without prejudice.
The Court interprets Plaintiffs’ Rule 56 request as a request for leave to file an amended
complaint. Plaintiffs may file an amended complaint compliant with this Memorandum and
Order and Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure within 14 DAYS of entry of this
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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