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Doe v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 18, 2016

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et ah, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff in this case, known here by the pseudonym Jane Doe, is a young transgender woman who served a sentence in District of Columbia jail. She had a feminine appearance and, due to ongoing hormone therapy, had developed breasts. On the night of July 17, 2012, for reasons not apparent from the record, two prison guards placed her in the same cell as another inmate, Leonard Johnson. Doe protested that she was on "house alone" status, but the guards locked Johnson in her cell regardless. They left Johnson there until morning. Security footage shows that, with perhaps one exception, no guard visually checked on Doe's cell until the next shift arrived the following morning. By then, Johnson had raped Doe twice. This was the second time in eight months that guards improperly transferred Johnson into the cell of another prisoner whom Johnson allegedly raped.

         Doe filed suit against the two guards-Lieutenant Robert Gladden and Corporal Longinus Ogu-and against four other guards on duty that night, as well as against the District of Columbia. She brings claims against all defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and common law negligence. She also brings Eighth Amendment claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the individual guards.

         This opinion concerns the guards' motion for summary judgment as to Doe's Eighth Amendment claims. Doe does not oppose the grant of summary judgment on these claims with respect to four of the officials. But she does oppose the motion with respect to Gladden and Ogu (herein, "Defendants"). Because a reasonable jury could find that Gladden and Ogu acted with "deliberate indifference" to Doe's safety, and because Doe's right to be free from deliberate indifference to sexual assault at the hands of other inmates was clearly established at the time, Gladden and Ogu's motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Because Doe is the nonmoving party, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to her.[1] See Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d 303, 308 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Where the parties have disagreed over details in the factual recitation that follows, the Court has assumed that Doe's version of events is correct.

         A. Doe's Incarceration Before July 17, 2012

         Plaintiff Jane Doe is a transgender woman. At the times relevant here, she was twenty years old, was undergoing hormone therapy, and had developed breasts. Dkt. 76-1 at 2 (Ex. 4[2]); Dkt. 77-3 at 98 (Doe Dep. 146). She wore a training bra. Dkt. 77-3 at 98 (Doe Dep. 146). Her voice was high enough in pitch that Gladden "suspected [Doe] was a transgender female based upon her voice." Dkt. 77-9 at 8-9 (Ex. 2) (Gladden's Resp. to Req. for Admis. 6). Another defendant testified that Doe "[d]oesn't look like a man." Dkt. 74 at 21 (Adjanla Dep. 12). Doe describes her own appearance as "feminine" with "a slight build." Dkt. 33-1 at 2 (Am. Compl. ¶ 2). She stands five feet and five inches tall. Dkt. 76-1 at 2 (Ex. 4).

         Beginning on June 21, 2012, Doe was incarcerated at the District of Columbia's Central Detention Facility ("D.C. Jail"), which is operated by the D.C. Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Dkt. 76-1 at 92 (Ex. 34); accord Dkt. 70 at 3 (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 1). In accordance with DOC transgender housing guidelines, Dkt. 77-11 at 47 (Ex. 33), jail intake officials noted Doe's transgender status and recorded it in the Jail Community Corrections System database ("JACCS"), Dkt. 77-3 at 10 (Doe Dep. 58); see Dkt. 76-1 at 92 (Ex. 34) (JACCS printout); see also Dkt. 77-4 at 12-13 (Gladden Dep. 12-13). It appears that Doe signed a waiver indicating her request to be housed according to her biological sex (male), rather than her expressive gender (female). See Dkt. 82-1 at 2 (Ex. M).[3] She was sentenced on June 25, 2012.

         Between June 21 and July 16, 2012, Doe was housed in the "Northeast One" cellblock. Dkt. 76-1 at 92 (Ex. 34). According to Corporal Kiana Reid, Northeast One is a "Protective Custody Unit" for "inmates that generally fear for their safety." Dkt. 77-7 at 11 (Reid Dep. 27). Protective custody is "[a] form of separation from the general population for inmates requesting or requiring protection from other inmates for reasons of health or safety." Dkt. 77-11 at 55. Jail records indicate that Doe requested protective custody for herself because she "fear[ed] for [her] safety" among the general population. Dkt. 76-1 at 87 (Ex. 28); see also Dkt. 77-7 at 22 (Reid Dep. 38) ("[Doe] chose to go to a Protective Custody Unit."). Doe's protective custody status was apparent from her file on JACCS. Dkt. 77-7 at 22 (Reid Dep. 38). Indeed, the top of Doe's JACCS file stated, "Alerts: KS . . . TRANSGENDER, " where "KS" means "keep separated." Dkt. 76-1 at 92 (Ex. 34); accord Dkt. 77-4 at 40 (Gladden Dep. 40).

         On July 16, 2012, Doe was transferred to cell 57 of the "North One" cellblock but remained on protective custody status. Dkt. 76-1 at 87 (Ex. 28); id. at 92 (Ex. 34). Unlike Northeast One, North One is "a segregation unit." Dkt. 77-7 at 10 (Reid Dep. 26). North One houses at least some "protective-custody inmates, " but most inmates there have "a disciplinary infraction" or have been placed in "involuntar[y] protective custody." Id. at 11 (Reid Dep. 27); see also Dkt. 77-3 at 91 (Doe Dep. 139) ("North 1 is a whole different block. It's not a protective custody block."). Prison officials transferred her to North One because another inmate "placed a note on her, " which the DOC Housing Board found to represent "a clear and present threat to [Doe's] personal safety." Dkt. 76-1 at 87 (Ex. 28). In Doe's words: "[A] lieutenant came ... to my cell[ and] said, 'Ms. [Doe], somebody dropped a note on you . . . saying that they want to kill you . . . .' So they moved me off the unit." Dkt. 77-3 at 54 (Doe Dep. 102). Although there is evidence that Doe opposed the transfer and denied the need for continued protective custody, [4] the Housing Board kept her in protective custody nonetheless. Dkt. 76-1 at 87 (Ex. 28).

         When Doe arrived at North One, her case manager, Winifred Hawkins, told the officer on duty, Corporal Reid, that Doe "was to be on house[ ]-alone status." Dkt. 77-7 at 28 (Reid Dep. 44). Reid understood this to mean "that [Doe] should not have a cell mate." Id.; accord Dkt. 77-5 at 5 (Hawkins Dep. 66) ("[I]f there was not a transgender available to go in [Doe's] cell, I would not allow anyone else to go into [her] cell."). Reid accordingly left a note on the command center bulletin board-the "small piece of poster board where [officers] put all the inmates['] names ... so that [the officers] can look and see." Dkt. 77-7 at 27 (Reid Dep. 43); see also Dkt. 77-3 at 23-25 (Doe Dep. 71-73). The bulletin board is located in "the Bubble, " which is the central office of the North One cellblock. Dkt. 77-3 at 24 (Doe Dep. 72); Dkt. 77-7 at 13-14 (Reid Dep. 29-30). The Bubble has transparent walls, and is visible from the hallways adjoining the inmates' cells. Dkt. 77-7 at 14 (Reid Dep. 30). The note Reid left on the bulletin board next to Doe's name read, "per the case manager, house alone." Id. at 28 (Reid Dep. 44). Reid also wrote in the North One logbook that Doe was to be housed alone. Id. at 30 (Reid Dep. 46).

         B. Johnson's Incarceration Before July 17, 2012

         Leonard Johnson was also incarcerated in the North One cellblock at that time. He was serving a 69-month sentence for conspiracy and weapons convictions arising out of a scheme in which he agreed to be shot by another D.C. Jail inmate in order to create a basis for a lawsuit against the District of Columbia. Dkt. 77-9 at 19, 37 (Ex. 7). He was also awaiting trial on charges of possession of a prohibited weapon and unlawful possession of liquid PCP. Dkt. 76-1 at 94 (Ex. 37). As of 2011, Johnson "ha[d] been booked into the [D.C. Jail] ¶ 18 separate occasions since 1995." Dkt. 76-1 at 32 (Ex. 8). He is six feet and one inch tall. Dkt. 76-1 at 42 (Ex. 9).

         Johnson had a history of sexual violence in the D.C. Jail. On December 7, 2011, he raped his then-cellmate, who identified as homosexual. Dkt. 76-1 at 35 (Ex. 8). The DOC's Office of Internal Affairs conducted an investigation and identified two failures among the jail staff that resulted in the rape. First, the Jail's Correctional Treatment Specialist erred by overlooking Johnson's "previous violent institutional behavior involving a weapon, " causing Johnson to be assigned to a "Medium" custody unit rather than "Maximum." Id. at 36. Second, James Holbrook-also a defendant here-erred by failing to contact the compliance officer before authorizing Johnson's transfer between cells. Id. This failure violated the Northeast One Post Order, i.e., the protocol for jail officers in that cellblock, id., and placed Johnson's cellmate at substantial risk of sexual assault. Johnson was later transferred to North One, where he remained on the night of July 17, 2012. Dkt. 76-1 at 53 (Ex. 10).

         C. Night of July 17-18, 2012

         On July 17, 2012, "Shift #3" in the North One block took place between 4:00 p.m. and midnight. Among the officers working that shift were two defendants in this case: Lieutenant James Holbrook and Lieutenant Ronald Pope.

         At approximately 8:25 p.m., Pope removed Doe from cell 57 and transferred her to cell 24. Dkt. 77-3 at 15-17 (Doe Dep. 63-65). Pope told Doe that "all protective custody is moving to [one] side [of the cellblock]." Id. Doe asked why, but Pope declined to respond. Id. The JACCS database was soon updated to reflect Doe's transfer, but the "reason for move" field was left empty. Dkt. 76-1 at 92 (Ex. 34). Around the same time, Johnson was transferred from cell 53 to cell 22, just down the hall from Doe's new location. See Dkt. 76-1 at 53 (Ex. 10). No reason for this move was listed, either. Id.

         At midnight, "Shift #1" took over, and continued until 8:00 a.m. Four Shift #1 officers are defendants in this case: Gladden, Ogu, Sergeant Twan Rhyne, and Private Lanwoe Adjanla. The events that took place during Shift #1 are documented principally through Doe's deposition testimony and video-only security footage from a camera in the hallway outside her cell.[5]

         Around 1:35 a.m., Gladden had a brief conversation with Johnson from outside his cell. See Ex. C (Video at 01:34:48-01:35:49). The record contains no evidence of what was said, however.

         1. Johnson's First Double-Celling with Doe (1:50 a.m. to 2:46 a.m.)

         Around 1:50 a.m., Gladden and Ogu removed Johnson from cell 22 and placed him in cell 24 with Doe. Dkt. 70 at 4 (Defs.' SUMF ¶ 9). The security footage shows that Gladden and Ogu approached Johnson's cell first, where they spoke with him for almost ninety seconds. Ex. C (Video at 01:47:43-01:49:08). Gladden says they were speaking about "a problem in Johnson's cell." Dkt. 77-9 at 9 (Ex. 2) (Gladden Resp. to Req. for Admis. 7). After Gladden opened the door, Johnson entered the hallway carrying his mattress and two large plastic bags. Id. (Video at 01:49:53-01:50:34). Gladden then walked to Doe's nearby cell, opened her door, and ushered Johnson inside. Id. (Video at 01:50:34-01:51:31). Johnson dropped some of this belongings in the cell and returned to retrieve the remainder. Id.

         As Johnson moved himself in, Gladden spoke to Doe for about forty seconds. Id. (Video at 01:50:53-01:51:31). According to Doe, they had an exchange along the following lines:

Gladden: "Is it okay for him [Johnson] to stay here?"
Doe: "No, ... I [am] supposed to be housed alone. . . . Nobody is supposed to be here with me." Id.
Gladden: "Well, he's going in here anyway. . . . [H]e's only going to be here for a couple of minutes."
Doe: "Okay, it's fine with me if he's only going to be here for a couple of minutes."

Dkt. 77-3 at 21-23 (Doe Dep. 69-71). Even after Doe relented, however, she "kept trying to tell them nobody is supposed to be housed with [her]" and that it said so "on the bulletin board."[6]Id. at 23-24 (Doe Dep. 71-72). Without responding, Ogu locked the door. Id.; Ex. C (Video at 01:51:31).

         Notwithstanding Gladden's assurance that Johnson would remain in the cell for only "a couple of minutes, " he was left there for almost an hour, from 1:50 a.m. to 2:46 a.m. Twice during that span, Gladden returned to cell 24 and spoke briefly with one or both occupants, but did not remove either one. Ex. C (Video at 02:15:43-02:16:03, 02:24:53-02:25:29). At some point-although it is unclear when-Doe asked to speak to the warden. Dkt. 77-3 at 22-23 (Doe Dep. 70-71). She was told to fill out a grievance form instead. Id. Doe requested such a form on multiple occasions, but never received one. Id. Finally, at 2:46 a.m., Gladden and Ogu took Johnson out of the cell. Ex. C (Video at 02:42:56-02:46:12).

         2. Johnson's Second Double-Celling with Doe (3:02 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.)

         But around 3:00 a.m.-just fourteen minutes after Johnson had been removed-Gladden ordered Ogu to place Johnson back in Doe's cell. Dkt. 77-9 at 6 (Ex. 2) (Gladden's Resps. to Reqs. for Admis. 1-3). The order was recorded in the North One logbook, which read:

3:00/A Per Order of Lt. Gladden put Inmate Johnson Leonard [sic] ... in cell with a P/C Med. [Jane Doe] . . . till he ...

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