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Ruiz v. Clifton

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 16, 2014

ARMANDO S. RUIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
EMMANUEL CLIFTON, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CARLOS MURGUIA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Armando Ruiz was an inmate at the Shawnee County Jail. Plaintiff filed the instant action against defendant Emmanuel Clifton, a Shawnee County Corrections Officer, alleging that defendant violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff alleges that defendant knowingly and willingly allowed another inmate to beat him up. This matter is before the court on defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 16). For the reasons stated below, the court finds that defendant is entitled to qualified immunity.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts in the summary judgment record are as follows: Plaintiff was incarcerated in Module C of the Shawnee County Jail. Defendant was a corrections officer on duty in Module C, which has two levels: 1) a lower level that includes a common dining/living area, inmate cells, and the correction's officer's desk, and 2) an upper level with inmate cells. Plaintiff's cell was located on the upper level of Module C.

On January 28, 2012 at approximately 5:10 p.m, defendant observed plaintiff verbally arguing with inmate Bryan Horn in the lower area of Module C about something that had spilled and was not cleaned up. Defendant observed no fighting or threats of physical violence between plaintiff and Horn at that time. After the verbal dispute ended, plaintiff walked upstairs to his cell.[1] Sometime thereafter, Horn walked upstairs as well. Defendant testified that he assumed Horn was simply returning to his own cell. ( Id. ¶ 5.)

According to surveillance video, which the court has closely reviewed, at 5:18:39 p.m., Horn arrived at the open door to plaintiff's cell on the upper level of Module C. (Doc. 17, Exhibit 2 (filed conventionally with the court).) Plaintiff raised both his arms, made fists, and kicked at Horn. ( Id. ) It appears to the court from the surveillance video that Horn did not even stop at plaintiff's cell; rather, plaintiff kicked Horn while Horn was in the hallway area. Horn then lunged at plaintiff, and the two went into plaintiff's cell and out of the view of the surveillance camera. ( Id. ) Two seconds later, at 5:18:41 p.m., defendant stood up from his desk on the lower level of Module C and reached for his radio while heading up the stairs. ( Id. ) Immediately upon observing that there was a fight, defendant called for assistance on his radio. ( Id. ) Eight seconds later, at 5:18:49 p.m., as defendant was headed up the stairs, two other inmates entered plaintiff's cell. ( Id. ) Eight seconds later, at 5:18:57 p.m., the inmates pulled Horn out of the plaintiff's cell. ( Id. ) Three seconds later, at 5:19:00 p.m., defendant had Horn in his custody, and the incident was over. ( Id. ) A total of twenty-one seconds elapsed between the first swing and the fight ending. ( Id. ) After the incident, defendant wrote a Shawnee County Jail Incident/Disciplinary Report regarding the incident involving plaintiff and Horn. (Doc. 17-3.)

Plaintiff claims that, during the verbal altercation between plaintiff and Horn over the spill, defendant was laughing and allowed the fight to continue. Plaintiff argues that defendant should have placed either himself or Horn on lockdown on the basis of what defendant witnessed in the common dining/living area. Defendant has testified under oath that:

• at no time did he laugh at or encourage the fighting between plaintiff and Horn;
• in his experience working as a corrections officer, verbal disputes and arguments are very common, and few ever lead to fights or violence;
• he did not perceive any risk of harm to plaintiff because he thought plaintiff and Horn simply had a common dispute over a minor issue-a spill that had not been cleaned up-and that the dispute had been resolved;
• he did not believe the situation would escalate to violence or end in a fight because he observed that the two had separated, and it appeared that the dispute between the two inmates had been resolved;
• prior to the verbal dispute, he was not aware of any animosity between plaintiff and Horn;
• at no time did plaintiff inform him that he felt physically threatened by ...

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