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Case Name Conn v. City of Reno PN-NV-0001
Docket / Court 05-cv-00595 ( D. Nev. )
State/Territory Nevada
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On April 28, 2005, Brenda Jean Clustka committed suicide while inside her cell at the Washoe County jail. On November 3, 2005, her daughter and administer of the estate, represented by two civil rights lawyers, brought a complaint in the District of Nevada (Judge Howard D. McKibben) against the ... read more >
On April 28, 2005, Brenda Jean Clustka committed suicide while inside her cell at the Washoe County jail. On November 3, 2005, her daughter and administer 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 of the United States Constitution 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 and injunctive relief that these acts were illegal and unconstitutional, as well as actual, compensatory, 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 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 9th Circuit's decision exacerbated a circuit split over §1983 municipal liability for not training law-enforcement officers to diagnose suicide risk, and that the 9th 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. The judgment was then vacated and the case remanded 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. The Circuit court 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. The jury found in favor of the officers. A mild amount of litigation occurred after trial over the Defendants' awards for costs. The case is now closed.

David Priddy - 07/07/2011
Kenneth Gray - 08/01/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Failure to train
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Reno, Nevada
Plaintiff Description Children and estate of a woman who committed suicide while in a Reno, Nevada jail
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
07-15572 (U.S. Supreme Court) 07/06/2010
PN-NV-0001-9001.pdf | Detail
05-cv-00595 (D. Nev.) 05/09/2011
PN-NV-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 11/03/2005
PN-NV-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint 12/12/2005
PN-NV-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Summary Judgment 08/29/2006
PN-NV-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment 09/25/2006
PN-NV-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment 10/13/2006
PN-NV-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment 03/08/2007 (D. Nev.)
PN-NV-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appellants' Opening Brief 08/06/2007 (2007 WL 2734637)
PN-NV-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Appellees' Answering Brief 09/27/2007 (2007 WL 4266351)
PN-NV-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Plaintiffs-Appellants' Reply Brief 01/31/2008 (2007 WL 4991080)
PN-NV-0001-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
9th Circuit Opinion 07/24/2009 (572 F.3d 1047)
PN-NV-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari 05/06/2010
PN-NV-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Brief of Amici Curiae International Municipal Lawyers Association, National League of Cities & National Association of Counties in Support of Petitioner 06/09/2010 (2010 WL 2354756)
PN-NV-0001-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Brief in Opposition 08/09/2010 (2010 WL 3183971)
PN-NV-0001-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Denial of Petition for Rehearing en Banc 01/08/2011 (591 F.3d 1081)
PN-NV-0001-0019.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Supplemental Brief for Respondents 03/29/2011 (2011 WL 1155267)
PN-NV-0001-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Petitioners' Supplemental Brief 03/31/2011 (2011 WL 1321237)
PN-NV-0001-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order of US Supreme Court 04/04/2011 (131 S.Ct. 1812 / 179 L.Ed.2d 769)
PN-NV-0001-0020.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Appellants' Supplemental Brief 05/20/2011 (2011 WL 2129928)
PN-NV-0001-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Petitioners' Reply Brief 07/05/2011 (2010 WL 3375616)
PN-NV-0001-0015.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges McKibben, Howard D. (D. Nev.)
PN-NV-0001-0008 | PN-NV-0001-9000
McQuaid, Robert A. Jr. (D. Nev.) [Magistrate]
PN-NV-0001-9000
Nelson, Dorothy Wright (Ninth Circuit)
PN-NV-0001-0019
Reinhardt, Stephen Roy (Ninth Circuit)
PN-NV-0001-0001 | PN-NV-0001-0019
Schroeder, Mary Murphy (Ninth Circuit)
PN-NV-0001-0019
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hughes, Paul W. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0012 | PN-NV-0001-0014 | PN-NV-0001-0016
Keyser-Cooper, Terri (Nevada)
PN-NV-0001-0002 | PN-NV-0001-0004 | PN-NV-0001-0006 | PN-NV-0001-0009 | PN-NV-0001-0011 | PN-NV-0001-0012 | PN-NV-0001-0014 | PN-NV-0001-0016 | PN-NV-0001-9000
Kimberly, Michael B. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0014 | PN-NV-0001-0016
Pincus, Andrew J. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0014 | PN-NV-0001-0016
Rothfeld, Charles A. (New York)
PN-NV-0001-0012 | PN-NV-0001-0014 | PN-NV-0001-0016 | PN-NV-0001-9001
Vaillancourt, Diane K. (California)
PN-NV-0001-0002 | PN-NV-0001-0004 | PN-NV-0001-0006 | PN-NV-0001-0009 | PN-NV-0001-0011 | PN-NV-0001-0012 | PN-NV-0001-0014 | PN-NV-0001-0016 | PN-NV-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bibas, Stephanos (Pennsylvania)
PN-NV-0001-0003 | PN-NV-0001-0015 | PN-NV-0001-0017
Campbell, Jack D. (Nevada)
PN-NV-0001-0005 | PN-NV-0001-0007 | PN-NV-0001-9000
Christensen, Donald L. (Nevada)
PN-NV-0001-0003 | PN-NV-0001-0010 | PN-NV-0001-0015 | PN-NV-0001-0017
Gordon, Nancy Bregstein (Pennsylvania)
PN-NV-0001-0003 | PN-NV-0001-0015 | PN-NV-0001-0017
Kadlic, John J. (Nevada)
PN-NV-0001-0003 | PN-NV-0001-0010 | PN-NV-0001-0015 | PN-NV-0001-0017 | PN-NV-0001-9001
Lynch, Patricia A. (Nevada)
PN-NV-0001-0005 | PN-NV-0001-0007 | PN-NV-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Byers, Jacqueline J. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0013
Etzkorn, Lars (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0013
Graham, Tamara L. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0013
Kinnaird, Stephen B. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0013 | PN-NV-0001-9001
Stevens, Michael W. (District of Columbia)
PN-NV-0001-0013

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