Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion from June 28

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Ingram v. Werholz, et al.

Michael Ingram, an inmate in the Colorado Department of Corrections who was confined at Sterling Correctional Facility, suffers from foot impairments that caused a prison doctor to prohibit him from standing for more than 30 minutes at a time. He also has other medical conditions that “significantly limit daily activities, singularly and aggregately,” including migraines, nausea, light sensitivity and a choking cough as well as pain in his neck, right elbow, lower back, left hip, knees and ankles.

Ingram’s first amended complaint targeted several conditions of his confinement. The district court dismissed all of his claims and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part, but reversed the dismissal of two sets of claims in 2017 and remanded the case back to the lower court. 

First, Ingram alleged that CDOC required him to stand in a long line outdoors to receive his medications, asserting that the extended standing was painful and aggravated his medical conditions, particularly in cold and windy weather. Sometimes, he skipped the med line and tried to compensate with over-the-counter medications from the canteen. The circuit court held these allegations stated a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. 

Second, Ingram alleged he was assigned to work in various positions in the SCF kitchen. He asserted this work assignment violated his medical restrictions and the physical demands aggravated his medical conditions, causing him pain and fatigue. According to Ingram, Keri McKay, a physician’s assistant, violated the Eighth Amendment by refusing to issue work restrictions that would keep him out of the kitchen. The 10th Circuit held these allegations.

On remand, the district court denied several non-dispositive motions filed by Ingram. The state defendants and McKay moved for summary judgment. Ingram moved for a six-month extension to conduct litigation activities and respond to McKay’s motion, but the district court didn’t address those motions for more than six months after he filed them. During that time, Ingram didn’t respond to the summary-judgment motions or seek additional time to respond. Ultimately, the district court denied the motions for an extension and found no good cause for further extensions.

The day after denying the motions for an extension, the district court granted both summary-judgment motions. It held that Ingram couldn’t bring ADA and RA claims against the state defendants in their individual capacities. It further held he could not proceed with the ADA and RA claims against Roger Werholz, Rick Raemisch, James Falk and John Chapdelaine in their official capacities because they had all retired from CDOC by the time of the decision. The district court allowed Ingram to pursue his ADA and RA claims against the serving Executive Director of CDOC, Dean Williams, in his official capacity and assumed that Ingram had one or more qualifying disabilities. It held, however, that the undisputed evidence didn’t show that he was denied any service or program, including his medicine, as a result of a disability.

The district court determined Ingram failed to establish an Eighth Amendment violation in his claim against McKay, holding the record didn’t allow an inference that McKay was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. “Rather, the undisputed facts in the record show McKay properly and repeatedly exercised her considered medical judgment as to… Ingram. That is the opposite of deliberate indifference.” 

Denial of Appointed Counsel

Ingram’s motion for appointment of counsel was denied in March 2019 and again in April 2020 by the magistrate judge, and the district court overruled Ingram’s objections. On appeal, Ingram argued the court abused its discretion. He claimed “the numerous sources of pain and chronic sleep deficit make it difficult and painful to write, but [also] to think clearly,” asserting that “appointment of counsel would benefit the court by a well-pled presentation that narrowed the issues and discovery and partial motions for summary judgment would simplify trial and encourage a settlement.”  He further asserted that “a showing of all [four] factors was unnecessary” because his motions detailed “the severe nature/extent of [his] physical/cognitive impairments and noted that all efforts exacerbated [his] pain/suffering and were tantamount to torture.” 

According to the court of appeals, the magistrate judge considered all relevant factors and acknowledged Ingram’s medical conditions, recognizing his allegations that “his physical/cognitive impairments have become so much greater” and that “everything is more difficult.”  However, she determined the averments were outweighed by other factors Ingram did not address. Because the decision was not arbitrary and didn’t involve an error of law or other erroneous factual findings, the 10th Circuit determined it wasn’t an abuse of discretion.

Denial of Extension to Serve a Deceased Defendant 

Ingram’s original complaint named “Frank” Clements as a defendant, though it became apparent he intended to sue Tom Clements, a former executive director of CDOC. Clements died in March 2013, before Ingram filed the action. After the remand in Ingram’s original case, he sought to pursue claims against Clements. The magistrate judge substituted the current director of CDOC, Williams, for claims in Clements’ official capacity, but opined that Ingram was too late to substitute Clements’ estate for claims against him in his individual capacity.

Ingram objected, asserting that Rule 25(a)(1) did not apply and the 90-day period never commenced because the court and parties had never been properly notified of Clements’ death. The district court overruled the objection and dismissed the individual-capacity claims. 

On appeal, Ingram argued that “[t]he failure to serve [the] estate is not relevant until the proper procedure for deceased parties is followed.” The court of appeals asserted that Ingram had no claims to assert against Clements or his estate, stating that he could sue Clements in two capacities — individual or official — and the magistrate judge substituted Williams as the official capacity defendant. As such, the court determined that Ingram can’t proceed against Clements or his estate with an individual-capacity claim.

Grant of Summary Judgement 

On appeal, Ingram challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment. As stated, Ingram didn’t respond to the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, making all of his arguments challenging the grant new on appeal. As such, the 10th circuit was only able to review the arguments for plain error, but when a party doesn’t argue for a plain-error review of new arguments, that party waives appellate review of those arguments. Because Ingram didn’t address whether his arguments satisfied the plain error doctrine, the court waived the arguments. 

On all counts, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment.

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