Case: Conn v. City of Reno

3:05-cv-00595 | U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada

Filed Date: April 28, 2005

Closed Date: 2012

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On April 28, 2005, Brenda Jean Clustka died by suicide while inside her cell at the Washoe County jail. On November 3, 2005, her daughter and administrator of the estate, represented by two civil rights lawyers, brought a complaint in the District of Nevada (Judge Howard D. McKibben) against the City of Reno, Nevada and two officers of the Reno Police Department. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants performed, participated, aided and/or abetted in acts that led to the death of Ms. Clutska…

On April 28, 2005, Brenda Jean Clustka died by suicide while inside her cell at the Washoe County jail. On November 3, 2005, her daughter and administrator of the estate, represented by two civil rights lawyers, brought a complaint in the District of Nevada (Judge Howard D. McKibben) against the City of Reno, Nevada and two officers of the Reno Police Department. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants performed, participated, aided and/or abetted in acts that led to the death of Ms. Clutska.

The plaintiff alleged that the police officers escorting Ms. Clutska to the jail did not report her apparent earlier attempt to commit suicide while in the back of their police van. The plaintiff brought this action against the police officers for not putting Ms. Clutska on suicide watch and against the City of Reno for not properly training its police officers to deal with this type of situation. The plaintiff alleged a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the part of the police officers for abridging Ms. Clutska's right to be free from deliberate indifference to risk of suicide. The plaintiff also brought a separate cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Reno for failing to properly train its police officers with respect to their obligation to report suicide attempts by detainees. Plaintiff sought declaratory that these acts were illegal and unconstitutional, injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for these alleged violations. A First Amended Complaint, filed on December 12, 2005, added the estate and Clustka's son as plaintiffs in addition to the daughter.

On August 29, 2006 the defendants, moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiffs could not establish a §1983 claim because they could not show that Ms. Clustka was an objectively serious suicide risk while in custody and that the officers failed to take appropriate steps to protect her. The court agreed that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to establish that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to Clustka's serious medical needs, or that the conduct of the defendants was the actual cause of Clutska's harm sufficient to constitute liability under §1983. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment and awarded judgment in favor of the defendants on March 8, 2007.

The plaintiffs then appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. On July 24, 2009 the 9th Circuit reversed and remanded the case. Conn v. City of Reno, 572 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2009). The 9th Circuit (Judge Stephen Reinhardt, Judge Mary M Schroeder, and Judge Dorothy W. Nelson) held that a reasonable jury could find that the police officers were liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for their deliberate indifference to Clustka's serious medical need, and that their actions were a cause in fact and a proximate cause of her suicide.

The defendants petitioned for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. In their May 6, 2010 petition, the defendants argued that the Ninth Circuit's decision exacerbated a circuit split over §1983 municipal liability for not training law-enforcement officers to diagnose suicide risk, and that the Ninth Circuit created a new circuit split by erroneously imposing on officers a constitutional duty to diagnose and report suicidal tendencies. On April 4, 2011 the Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit for further consideration in light of Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350 (2011). In Connick, the Supreme Court addressed the liability of a district attorney's office for its prosecutors on a failure-to-train theory under § 1983.

On remand and in consideration of Connick, the Ninth Circuit found that the district court had been correct to hold that the municipality was not liable. On September 6, 2011, the Ninth Circuit reinstated its original opinion except for the part on municipal liability. Conn v. City of Reno, 658 F.3d 897 (D. Nev. 2011). On the district court level, the case then proceeded to trial against the two police officers only.

After a six-day jury trial, with proceedings beginning March 7, 2012, the jury found in favor of the officers. On March 13, 2012, the plaintiffs had objected to the qualified immunity jury instruction:

The jury instruction objected to asks "whether the officers reasonably misapprehended how the law would govern their situation.'' This is a legal question and one the Ninth Circuit has decided. Should the jury find that the officers were indeed deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of Brenda Clustka, then there can be no qualified immunity because the Ninth Circuit found that law clearly established, and the officers cannot have reasonably misapprehended it.
The court denied the objection during the trial proceedings that day. On March 14, 2012, the jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning a verdict in favor of the defendants. Judgment was entered in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs.

A small amount of litigation occurred after trial over the defendants' awards for costs. In an order of September 19, 2012, the court found that as the defendants prevailed on all claims, they were entitled to an award of all allowable costs. In response to the plaintiffs' argument that the court should deny costs because of the plaintiffs' indigency and the the fact that it was a case of substantial public importance, effecting an immediate change in the way suicide threats were handled locally. Considering these circumstances, the court adjusted the costs to reflect the plaintiffs' economic circumstances and the desire not to chill future plaintiffs from bringing actions raising substantial constitutional issues, reducing the costs awarded to the defendants by fifty percent. The case is now closed.

Summary Authors

David Priddy (7/7/2011)

Kenneth Gray (8/1/2013)

Sarah McDonald (8/18/2018)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6032876/parties/charla-conn-vs-city-of-reno/


Judge(s)

McKibben, Howard D. (Nevada)

McQuaid, Robert A. Jr. (Nevada)

Nelson, Dorothy Wright (California)

Reinhardt, Stephen Roy (California)

Schroeder, Mary Murphy (Arizona)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Hughes, Paul W. (District of Columbia)

Keyser-Cooper, Terri (Nevada)

Kimberly, Michael B. (District of Columbia)

Pincus, Andrew J. (District of Columbia)

Rothfeld, Charles A. (New York)

Judge(s)

McKibben, Howard D. (Nevada)

McQuaid, Robert A. Jr. (Nevada)

Nelson, Dorothy Wright (California)

Reinhardt, Stephen Roy (California)

Schroeder, Mary Murphy (Arizona)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Hughes, Paul W. (District of Columbia)

Keyser-Cooper, Terri (Nevada)

Kimberly, Michael B. (District of Columbia)

Pincus, Andrew J. (District of Columbia)

Rothfeld, Charles A. (New York)

Vaillancourt, Diane K. (California)

Wetherall, Paul C. (Nevada)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Campbell, Jack D. (Nevada)

Christensen, Donald L. (Nevada)

Kadlic, John J. (Nevada)

Lynch, Patricia A. (Nevada)

Other Attorney(s)

Bibas, Stephanos (Pennsylvania)

Byers, Jacqueline J. (District of Columbia)

Etzkorn, Lars (District of Columbia)

Gordon, Nancy Bregstein (Pennsylvania)

Graham, Tamara L. (District of Columbia)

Kinnaird, Stephen B. (District of Columbia)

Stevens, Michael W. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

07-15572

Supreme Court Docket

City of Reno v. Conn

Supreme Court of the United States

July 6, 2010

July 6, 2010

Docket

3:05-cv-00595

Docket

April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013

Docket
2-2819237

3:05-cv-00595

Complaint

Nov. 3, 2005

Nov. 3, 2005

Complaint
16

3:05-cv-00595

First Amended Complaint

Dec. 12, 2005

Dec. 12, 2005

Complaint
49

3:05-cv-00595

Motion for Summary Judgment

Aug. 29, 2006

Aug. 29, 2006

Pleading / Motion / Brief
53

3:05-cv-00595

Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment

Sept. 25, 2006

Sept. 25, 2006

Pleading / Motion / Brief
58

3:05-cv-00595

Reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Oct. 13, 2006

Oct. 13, 2006

Pleading / Motion / Brief
62

3:05-cv-00595

Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment

March 8, 2007

March 8, 2007

Order/Opinion

07-15572

Appellants' Opening Brief

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

2007 WL 2734637

Aug. 6, 2007

Aug. 6, 2007

Pleading / Motion / Brief

07-15572

Appellees' Answering Brief

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

2007 WL 4266351

Sept. 27, 2007

Sept. 27, 2007

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6032876/charla-conn-vs-city-of-reno/

Last updated Aug. 7, 2022, 3:03 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
30

ORDER re 29 Ex Parte Application for Order Declaring Charla Conn the "Next of Kin" for the Purpose of Obtaining Mental Health Records for Her Deceased Mother Brenda Clustka filed by Charla Conn. Signed by Judge Robert A. McQuaid Jr. on 4/25/2006. (HJ, )

April 25, 2006

April 25, 2006

RECAP
45

PROTECTIVE ORDER TO PROTECT CONFIDENTIALITY OF CERTAIN MATERIALS re 44 . Signed by Judge Robert A. McQuaid Jr. on 8/1/2006. (HJ, )

Aug. 1, 2006

Aug. 1, 2006

RECAP
126

MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS - Telephonic Status Conference held on 2/29/2012 before Judge Howard D. McKibben. Crtrm Administrator: Paris Rich; Pla Counsel: Terri Keyser-Cooper, Diane Vaillancourt and Peter Wetherall; Def Counsel: Jack C ampbell; FTR Reporter: 8:59:30 to 9:36:54; Courtroom: 4; See attached Minutes with Orders. Jury Trial RESET for Wednesday, 3/7/2012 at 8:00 AM in Reno Courtroom 4 before Judge Howard D. McKibben. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - PR)

Feb. 29, 2012

Feb. 29, 2012

RECAP
148

ORDER - Clerk of court shall proceed to tax costs pursuant to FRCP 54(d) and LR 54-1 and 54-13. Re: 146 Bill of Costs; 147 Objection to Bill of Costs. Signed by Judge Howard D. McKibben on 5/7/2012. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - DRM)

May 7, 2012

May 7, 2012

RECAP
152

ORDER : 1. The court's order dated June 7, 2007 (# 74 ) administratively closing the plaintiffs' motion to retax (# 73 ) is VACATED. 2. The plaintiffs' request for an order resolving outstanding cost awards (# 98 ) is DENIED AS MOOT as to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cost awards, but is GRANTED in all other respects. 3. The plaintiffs motions to retax (# 73 ), to deny costs(# 147 ) and to retax (# 151 ) are GRANTED in part. Costs are awarded in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs in the amount of $2,822.53. Signed by Judge Howard D. McKibben on 9/19/2012. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - DRM) Modified on 9/19/2012 for spacing (DRM).

Sept. 19, 2012

Sept. 19, 2012

RECAP

Case Details

State / Territory: Nevada

Case Type(s):

Policing

Special Collection(s):

Multi-LexSum (in sample)

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 28, 2005

Closing Date: 2012

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Children and estate of a woman who committed suicide while in a Reno, Nevada jail

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

City of Reno, Nevada (Reno, Washoe), City

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Failure to train