Williams v. Utah Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER granting 48 Millard County Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Second Cause of Action; denying 58 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff's claims against Millard County Defendants (Gehre and Winget) are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge Robert J. Shelby on 3/29/2016. (eat)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH
GREGORY E. WILLIAMS,
CAPT. DEVON BLOOD et al.,
MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER
GRANTING MILLARD COUNTY
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON
PLAINTIFF’S SECOND CAUSE OF
Case No. 2:13-CV-601-RJS
District Judge Robert J. Shelby
Plaintiff Gregory E. Williams is a pro se plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis and
alleging, in part, that Defendants Sgt. Gehre and Lt. Winget (Millard County Defendants)
violated his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, his second cause
of action in his Amended Complaint1 asserts that (1) Millard County Defendants retaliated
against him for filing grievances regarding religious-diet accommodations; and that (2) Millard
County Defendants violated his right to equal protection. Millard County Defendants move for
summary judgment on Plaintiff’s second cause of action.2 The Motion is opposed.3
(Docket Entry # 14.)
(Docket Entry # 48.)
(Docket Entry # 58.)
As a state prisoner in the Utah Department of Corrections (DOC) Inmate
Placement Program (IPP), from April 2, 2010 until May 6, 2010, Plaintiff was held in Millard
County Jail (MCJ).4
On April 1, 2010, Plaintiff was notified that Utah Department of Corrections
(DOC) had approved his religious-diet request.5
Plaintiff’s religious diet began on April 10, 2010.6
On April 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed a grievance about his religious-diet
On April 24, 2010, Plaintiff met with Defendant Gehre about his grievance. After
the meeting, Defendant Gehre made a note in the Jail Events Summary Report for April 24,
2010: “Williams stated that right now he would be more comfortable going back to the prison
where his meals are pre-packaged to be kosher.”8
On April 26, 2010, Plaintiff met with Defendant Winget. After that meeting,
Defendant Winget made a note in the Jail Events Summary Report for April 26, 2010: “I related
to Mr. Williams that I would get him to where his needs were able to be met, if he felt that we
were not meeting them here.”9
(Gehre Declaration, Docket Entry # 43-1, ¶ 3.)
(Id ¶ 5.)
(Jail Events Summary Report for April 24, 2010, Docket Entry # 43-8.)
(Jail Events Summary Report for April 26, 2010, Docket Entry # 43-8.)
On April 26, 2010, the possibility of transferring Plaintiff out of MCJ was
discussed with IPP Coordinator Kelly Swallow (another defendant in this case).10
On May 6, 2010, IPP directed that Plaintiff be moved from MCJ.11
The Court’s thorough review of the Martinez report and all its documents,
together with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint and response to Millard County Defendants’
summary-judgment motion reveals not one instance in which Millard County Defendants cast
Plaintiff in a poor light or referred to his grievances as troublesome or hinted that the transfer
was a disciplinary action.
This Court shall grant summary judgment when “the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.”12 A party may support factual assertions by “citing to particular parts of materials in the
record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions,
interrogatory answers, or other materials.”13 The purpose of the summary judgment rule “is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.”14
The movant bears the initial burden “to demonstrate an absence of evidence to support an
essential element of the non-movant’s case.”15 If the movant meets this burden, “the burden then
(Gehre Declaration, Docket Entry # 43-1, ¶ 9.)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
Id. at 56(c)(1).
Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
Johnson v. City of Bountiful, 996 F. Supp. 1100, 1102 (D. Utah 1998).
shifts to the non-movant to make a showing sufficient to establish that there is a genuine issue of
material fact regarding the existence of that element.”16 In meeting this burden, the non-movant
must “go beyond the pleadings and ‘set forth specific facts’ that would be admissible in evidence
in the event of a trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant.”17 In
ruling on a summary-judgment motion, this Court must “examine the factual record and
reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.”18
The First Amendment Retaliation Claim is Dismissed with Prejudice.
A. No Genuine Dispute of Material Fact Exists.
This Court notified Plaintiff that, in response to a summary-judgment motion, “Plaintiff
cannot rest upon the mere allegations in the complaint. Instead . . . Plaintiff must allege specific
facts, admissible in evidence, showing that there is a genuine issue remaining for trial.”19
Plaintiff did not respond to Millard County Defendants’ Martinez report, nor did he identify
material facts that are in dispute.
B. The Undisputed Facts Support Dismissal of the First Amendment Claim.
A Plaintiff bringing retaliation claims “must prove that ‘but for’ the retaliatory motive,
the incidents to which he refers, including the disciplinary action, would not have taken place.”20
A plaintiff must also “allege specific facts showing retaliation because of the exercise of the
prisoner’s constitutional rights.”21 Plaintiffs asserting retaliation also have the option of using
Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998).
Lopez v. LeMaster, 172 F.3d 756, 759 (10th Cir. 1999).
(Docket Entry # 15, at 3.)
Peterson v. Shanks, 149 F.3d 1140, 1144 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal quotations omitted).
Id. (quoting Frazier, 922 F.2d at 562 n.1) (emphasis in original).
circumstantial evidence to show a reasonable jury would find the allegations of retaliation were
supported, rather than direct evidence of retaliatory motive.22 In response, defendants may raise
“a legitimate and facially plausible explanation for the transfer.”23
Plaintiff has provided no direct or circumstantial evidence to show that Millard County
Defendants initiated the discussion that led to his transfer to retaliate for his expressed concerns
about his religious diet. At most, Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint implicitly points only to the
proximity in time between his grievances about religious meals and the transfer. However, mere
temporal proximity of constitutionally protected speech and alleged retaliation is insufficient to
meet this requirement.24 And Defendants do not even contest that Plaintiff’s grievances were
unrelated to the transfer. Instead, they acknowledge that the grievances specifically caused them
to explore the possibility of transfer.
Indeed, Millard County Defendants raise a legitimate and plausible reason for initiating
Plaintiff’s transfer--i.e., that Plaintiff himself expressed that he wanted a transfer. Moreover,
even if Plaintiff did not request the transfer--which is what he asserts and is the only dispute of
fact--Millard County Defendants have another (stand-alone) legitimate and plausible reason for
initiating the transfer--i.e., that they saw UDOC as better capable of meeting Plaintiff’s dietary
See Smith v. Maschner, 899 F.2d 940, 949 (10th Cir. 1990) (stating circumstantial evidence included suspicious
timing of discipline, coincidental transfers of plaintiff’s witnesses and assistants, and pattern of blocking access to
legal materials and help).
See Strope v. Cummings, 381 Fed. Appx. 878, 883 (10th Cir. 2010) (unpublished) (noting defendants explained
transfer of inmate to other unit allowed him to resume visits “with a particular counselor with whom he had a good
See Wright v. McCotter, No. 98-4095, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 11576, at *4 (10 th Cir. Feb. 19, 1999)
The Court identifies three other interesting and supportive points. First, Plaintiff has no
right to be in any particular facility.25
Second, he has suggested no prejudice; in other words, he does not intimate that MCJ
was a better fit for him than any other facility. He has not identified what it is about any other
facility, to which he may have been moved, that might function as a punishment or detriment
leading to an inference of retaliation.26
And, third, Millard County Defendants are not even the ones who decided on and
effected the transfer. That was done by UDOC. All Millard County Defendants did was discuss
with the IPP coordinator the possibility of IPP arranging to transfer Plaintiff. For purposes of
this Order only, which regards solely Millard County Defendants, the Court supposes that
UDOC personnel could have made the transfer for myriad other reasons, aside from or including
Plaintiff’s religious-diet requests. This summary-judgment motion does not address any other
defendants’ motives for their decision-making or actions. And their motives are immaterial here.
Accordingly, this Court concludes that Plaintiff has not shown facts that but-for a
retaliatory motive, by Millard County Defendants, he would not have been transferred. Millard
County Defendants have stated a legitimate, facially plausible reason for the transfer, a reason
that Plaintiff has not challenged. Plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claim against
Defendants fails as a matter of law and is dismissed with prejudice.
See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224-25 (1976) (“The Constitution . . . does [not] guarantee that a convicted
prisoner will be placed in any particular prison . . . . The conviction has sufficiently extinguished the defendant’s
liberty interest to empower the State to confine him in Any Of [sic] its prisons.”) (alterations in original).
Cf. Harris v.Chabries, 114 Fed. Appx. 363, 365 (10 th Cir. 2004) (unpublished) (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515
U.S. 472, 485 (1995) (holding “atypical and significant hardship . . . in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison
life” would trigger constitutional protection)).
The Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Claim is Dismissed with
A valid equal-protection claim requires that the plaintiff was treated differently from
others who were similarly situated to him.27 Plaintiff has made no factual assertions to support
his conclusory allegations of equal-protection violations, nor has he responded to Millard County
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on this claim.28 Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment
equal-protection claim is therefore also dismissed with prejudice.
The undisputed facts show that Millard County Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff’s second cause of action, which regards retaliation.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that:
(1) Millard County Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff’s Second
Cause of Action is GRANTED.29
(2) Plaintiff’s claims against Millard County Defendants (Gehre and Winget) are
DISMISSED with prejudice. They are no longer defendants in this case.
(3) Plaintiff’s summary-judgment motion is DENIED.30
DATED this 29th day of March, 2016.
BY THE COURT
ROBERT J. SHELBY
United States District Judge
Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1172-73 (10th Cir. 2011).
See DUCivR 56-1(g).
(See Docket Entry # 48.)
See Docket Entry # 58.)
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