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Clopten v. Crowther

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 24, 2019

DEON CLOPTEN, Plaintiff,
SCOTT CROWTHER et al. Defendants.


          DEE BENSON JUDGE United States District Court

         Plaintiff, inmate Deon Clopten, brings civil-rights claims against past Utah State Prison (USP) wardens Alfred Bigelow and Scott Crowther. See 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2019). He argues Defendants violated his federal due-process and equal-protection rights by keeping him classified in housing more restrictive than the general population, from December 2002 through 2015.[1] (Doc. No. 5.)

         Defendants filed a Martinez report, (Doc. No. 37), including these documents: (1) declarations of Defendants and other relevant Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) personnel; (2) medical records; and (3) jail records, including grievances, assessments, physical-location history, housing logs, and procedures. (Doc. Nos. 37-45.) Based on the Martinez report and invoking qualified immunity, Defendants move for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 46.) Plaintiff opposes summary judgment; his evidence consists of UDOC memorandums, inmate affidavits, grievances and responses, medical records, and his own declaration. (Doc. Nos. 5-2, 5-3, 5-4, 5-5 & 67-1.) The Court rules for Defendants.


         Summary judgment is proper 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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.” Id. at 56(c)(1)(A). Summary judgment’s purpose “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

         The movant has the “initial burden to demonstrate an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-movant’s case.” Johnson v. City of Bountiful, 996 F.Supp. 1100, 1102 (D. Utah 1998). Once movant meets this duty, “the burden then 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.” Id. To do so, 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.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). 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.” Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000).


         1. In 2002, Plaintiff was convicted of first-degree murder, (Powell Decl. ¶ 13, Doc. No. 45), and sentenced to life in prison. (Crowther Decl. ¶ 8, Doc. No. 44.). He was initially assessed C-2-K classification code and assigned to Unita 2, USP. (Compl., at 5, Doc. No. 5.)

         2. Defendant Bigelow was USP warden from July 2010-April 2014. (Bigelow Decl. ¶ 4, Doc. No. 40.)

         3. Defendant Crowther was USP warden from April 2014-2016. (Crowther Decl. ¶ 4.) “He had no authority over Plaintiff Clopten’s housing assignments.” (Pl.’s Opp’n to Defs.’ Summ. J. Mot., at 3, Doc. No. 67.)

         4. USP reassessed Plaintiff’s security classification annually and other times when he requested such review. (Powell Decl. ¶¶ 15-19; Ex. H, Doc Nos. 39, 41, 41-1.) His security classification was consistently Level 2, with a “notoriety override” that kept him in Uinta facilities. (Powell Decl. ¶ 13; Crowther Decl. ¶ 14.)

         5. Inmates housed in Uinta participated in Offender Management Review (OMR) upon arrival. (Ex. M, Doc. 39.) After that, an inmate could request OMR as desired, but OMR was held at least yearly. (Id.; Crowther Decl. ¶ 10; Powell Decl. ¶ 10-13.) OMR is a meeting with the inmate, caseworker, housing-unit officers, and other relevant staff. (Bigelow Decl. ¶¶ 24-27.) OMR’s purpose is to discuss the inmate’s classification, housing, and privileges, like education, training, and employment. (Id.) OMR team members may recommend the inmate’s housing score, or placement or removal of overrides. (Id.) Recommendations are reviewed by deputy wardens and other administrators in deciding whether to continue an override. (Crowther Decl. ¶¶ 15-18; Ex. L, Doc. No. 39.)

         6. Plaintiff frequently used the OMR system. From 2010-2016, he met with his OMR team at least fifteen times. (Powell Decl. ¶¶ 18-19.) Each time, Plaintiff was told of his classification score, override, and housing assignment. He was allowed to appeal his classification score and override. (Id.) His notoriety override was left in place, despite his challenges and opinions of some UDOC administrators who recommended its removal. (Powell Decl. ¶¶ 12, 14, 16; Ex. H.)

         7. “Neither Warden Crowther nor Bigelow had a role in assessing, reviewing, approving, or removing Clopten’s notoriety override.” ...

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