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Spencer L. Lindsay v. Emmalee Conover

January 24, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Monti L. Belot United States District Judge


This case comes before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment.*fn1 (Doc. 10). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 11, 19, 20, 22, 25, 27). Defendant's motion is granted for the reasons herein.

I. Facts

In 2011, plaintiff was incarcerated at Winfield Correctional Facility ("Winfield"). Defendant Emmalle Conover was the Warden of Winfield. On April 8, 2011, the Kansas Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision vacating plaintiff's sentence, which was a term 42 months, and remanding the case to the Russell County District Court for resentencing. The mandate was not issued until May 12, 2011. On April 19, the district court proceeded with resentencing. The district court judge resentenced plaintiff to 40 months. At that time, plaintiff had been incarcerated since approximately April 15, 2009.

After returning to Winfield, plaintiff filed a grievance to the records department asserting that he should be immediately released because his sentence was reduced to 40 months. Plaintiff's request was denied on the basis that the journal entry had not been received and his sentence had not been recalculated. Plaintiff's request was not submitted to defendant. On April 26, plaintiff filed an emergency grievance with defendant. The grievance was received by defendant's office on April 27. The grievance stated that plaintiff was being detained without a valid order of detention because his current incarceration was vacated by the Kansas Court of Appeals. Plaintiff's grievance stated he had attached both the appellate opinion and the request sent to the records department for review.

The district court judgment was filed with the district court clerk on May 3. Defendant responded to plaintiff's grievance on May 5. Defendant stated that KDOC had not received any official document from the courts at that time and that plaintiff would not be released until the prison received notice and his release date could be reviewed. The journal entry of the judgment was transmitted to the Kansas Department of Corrections and received on May 5.

Prior to the receipt of the journal entry, the sentence computation unit of KDOC had not received any notification of plaintiff's resentencing from the district court. The sentence computation unit of KDOC receives journal entries from district court clerks and then calculates sentences based on applicable credits available to inmates. The unit then informs the facilities when an inmate is to be released. After receiving plaintiff's journal entry, the unit filled out a sentence computation worksheet. Plaintiff's earliest release date was determined to be March 25 and a latest release date of September 25. Due to the receipt of good time credit, plaintiff was eligible for immediate release.

Plaintiff was released from Winfield on May 5.

Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant alleging that defendant violated his rights to be free from unlawful incarceration. Defendant moves for summary judgment on the basis that there was no unlawful detention in this case.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

The rules applicable to the resolution of this case, now at the summary judgment stage, are well-known and are only briefly outlined here. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) directs the entry of summary judgment in favor of a party who "show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" if sufficient evidence exists so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way and an issue is "material" if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Adamson v. Multi Community Diversified Svcs., Inc., 514 F.3d 1136, 1145 (10th Cir. 2008). When confronted with a fully briefed motion for summary judgment, the court must ultimately determine "whether there is the need for a trial--whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). If so, the court cannot grant summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

III. Analysis

A. Official Capacity Claim

Plaintiff brought claims against defendant in both her personal and official capacity. Defendant moves to dismiss the official capacity claims on the basis that the State of Kansas may not be sued for damages in section 1983 claims. The Tenth Circuit has held that "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under ยง 1983." Stidham v. Peace Officer Stds. & Training, 265 F.3d 1144, ...

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