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Hitt v. McLane

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

June 22, 2018

JONATHAN HITT, Plaintiff,
v.
MARSHA MCLANE, in her official and individual capacities as Executive Director of the Texas Commitment Office; BRIAN THOMAS, in his individual and official capacities as Facility Director of the Texas Commitment Center; TRAVIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; TEXAS COMMITMENT CENTER;[1] and CORRECT CARE RECOVERY SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SAM SPARKS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically, Plaintiff Jonathan Hitt's Motion to Amend [#63] and Defendant Marsha McLane's Response [#75] in opposition; Hitt's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [#64], Defendants Brian Thomas and Correct Care Recovery Solutions (CCRS)'s Response [#73] in opposition, and McLane's Response [#74-2] in opposition; Thomas and CCRS's Motion for Summary Judgment [#66]; Thomas and CCRS's Motion to Supplement Motion for Summary Judgement [#67] and Hitt's Response [#72] in opposition;[2] and McLane's Motion for Summary Judgment [#65-1] and Hitt's Response [#87] in opposition.[3] Having reviewed the documents, the relevant law, and the case file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and orders.

         Background

         In July 1999, Hitt was convicted on eight counts of indecency with a child and sentenced to ten years in prison. R. & R. [#45] at 2. In 2009, shortly before Hitt was to be released from prison, the State of Texas filed a petition to civilly commit Hitt under the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVP Act). Id. at 6. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury unanimously found Hitt suffers from a behavioral abnormality predisposing him to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. Id. The trial court rendered a final judgment adjudicating Hitt to be a sexually violent predator (SVP) under the statute and issued an order of civil commitment mandating Hitt undergo outpatient treatment and supervision until his behavioral abnormality is no longer likely to cause him to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence. Id. Hitt underwent outpatient treatment from 2010 to 2015. Id. at 6-7.

         In 2015, Texas amended the SVP Act. Id. Whereas the SVP Act previously provided exclusively for outpatient treatment, the 2015 amendments instated a tiered treatment program providing for both inpatient and outpatient treatment. Id. The Texas Civil Commitment Office (TCCO) notified Hitt of the amendments to the SVP Act and informed him he had a right to a hearing regarding the changes to the program. Id. Hitt waived his right to a hearing and consented to enter the new, tiered treatment program. Id. Accordingly, Hitt's order of civil commitment was amended to reflect the changes implemented by the 2015 amendments to the SVP Act. Id. Of particular importance here, the amended order provides the TCCO with authority to require Hitt to reside at the TCCO in order to undergo inpatient treatment. McLane Mot. Summ. J. [#65-2] Ex. A (Am. Order Civil Commitment) at 2-3 (mandating Hitt "reside where instructed by the TCCO"). Hitt was notified that, should he be transferred to inpatient treatment, he possessed a right to file a petition for release or a petition for transfer to less restrictive supervision. Id.

         In January 2016, Hitt's case manager discovered Hitt had been "forming a relationship with coworker Maria Lopez" which included intimate physical contact. Id. at 8. Hitt's case manager instructed him to avoid all contact with Lopez. Id. Hitt alleges that on February 1, 2016, TCCO Executive Director Marsha McLane threatened to transfer Hitt into inpatient treatment at the Texas Civil Commitment Center (TCCC) for having a secret relationship. Id. On February 12, Hitt was given a polygraph examination to determine whether he had been sexually involved with Lopez. Id. Hitt failed the polygraph and was immediately taken into custody by employees of CCRS. Id. He was then taken to Travis County Correctional Complex pending transport to the TCCC on February 15, 2016. Id. Hitt alleges he never received a due process hearing regarding his confinement at the TCCC. Am. Compl. [#3] at 12-14, 43-45; Obj. [#50] at 6; see also McLane Mot. Dismiss [#12] at 2 (making no mention of any due process hearing following Hitt's confinement at the TCCC).

         On April 5, 2017, Hitt filed the instant civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Compl. [#1]. Hitt also brings state law claims for false imprisonment. Am. Compl. [#3]. On March 11, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motions to dismiss Hitt's claims. Order of March 11, 2018 [#52]. Hitt's remaining claims are as follows: (1) a Fourth Amendment claim for unreasonable seizure brought against Thomas and CCRS;[4] (2) a Fourth Amendment claim for unreasonable seizure brought against McLane in her official capacity; (3) a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim brought against McLane in her official capacity; (4) a First Amendment freedom of association claim brought against McLane in her official capacity; (5) a Fifth Amendment self-incrimination claim brought against McLane in her official capacity; and (6) a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim brought against McLane in her official capacity.

         Hitt now moves to amend his complaint for the third time, and all parties move for summary judgment. Hitt Mot. Summ. J. [#64]; McLane Mot. Summ. J. [#65-1]; CCRS Mot. Summ. J. [#66]. These pending motions are ripe for review.

         Analysis

         I. Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint

         This Court previously dismissed Hitt's claims against McLane in her personal capacity on the ground Hitt had failed to allege facts indicating McLane was personally involved in the constitutional deprivations complained of by Hitt. Order of March 11, 2018 [#52] at 8. Hitt now seeks leave to amend his complaint to add allegations regarding McLane's personal involvement in the denial of Hitt's constitutional rights. Mot. Amend [#63] at 1.

         The Court denies Hitt's motion for leave to amend. Hitt has failed to include an executed copy of his proposed amended complaint as required by Local Rule CV-7(b), and, as a result, the Court is unable to judge the merits of Hitt's motion or to determine whether amendment would be futile. This alone is a sufficient basis for the denial of Hitt's motion, but additional considerations also counsel against allowing Hitt to amend his complaint. All parties have already filed motions for summary judgment on Hitt's remaining claims, and this case is currently set for trial next month. In this context, any amendments to Hitt's complaint would be prejudicial to the remaining defendants, and for this additional reason, Hitt's motion for leave to amend is DENIED.

         II. Motions for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn v. Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007). A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view all inferences drawn from the factual record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508. Further, a court "may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence" in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.

         Once the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the party opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine fact issue. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Mere conclusory allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and thus are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007). Unsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not competent summary judgment evidence. Id. The party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports his claim. Adams v. Travelers Indent. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2006). Rule 56 does not impose a duty on the court to "sift through the record in search of evidence" to support the nonmovant's opposition to the motion for summary judgment. Id.

         "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing laws will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Disputed fact issues that are "irrelevant and unnecessary" will not be considered by a court in ruling on a summary judgment motion. Id. If the nonmoving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to its case and on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

         In the interest of efficiency and because the parties' motions for summary judgment overlap substantially, the Court proceeds by evaluating the parties' motions for summary judgment on a claim by claim basis. The Court will first evaluate the claims against Thomas and CCRS. It then turns to the claims brought against McLane in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Texas Civil Commitment Office.

         A. Claims Against Thomas and CCRS

         Thomas and CCRS move for summary judgment on the claims brought against them. CCRS Mot. Summ. J. [#66]. Hitt also moves for summary judgment on the same claims. Hitt Mot. Summ. J. [#64] at 15-18. The Court first examines the claims brought against Thomas in his individual capacity and then addresses the claims brought against CCRS.

         1. Thomas-Individual Capacity

         "Personal involvement is an essential element of a civil rights cause of action." Thompson v. Steele, 709 F.2d 381, 382 (5th Cir. 1983). Thomas and CCRS contend Thomas is entitled to summary judgment on the claims brought against him in his individual capacity because Hitt has failed to present any evidence showing Thomas was personally involved in Hitt's detention. CCRS Mot. Summ. J. [#66] at 5-6.

         The Court agrees Thomas is entitled to summary judgment on this claim. In his own motion for summary judgment, Hitt clarifies he brought claims against Thomas because Thomas "was the Facility Director at the time Hitt's complaint was filed." Hitt Mot. Summ. J. [#64] at 16. While Thomas's position at the TCCC may support a claim against Thomas in his official capacity, it is insufficient to demonstrate the sort of personal involvement necessary to establish a claim against Thomas in his individual capacity, see Thompson, 709 F.2d at 283, and Hitt does not otherwise allege or point to facts suggesting Thomas had any personal involvement in Hitt's initial detention. See Hitt Mot. Summ. J. [#64] at 16-17; ...


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