Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rachel v. Troutt, No. 15-6104 (published): The Tenth holds that the district court should have given the pro se prisoner additional time to respond to the defendants' motion for summary judgment in his civil suit alleging he received inadequate medical care. The prisoner was given 21 days to seek discovery, obtain and review responses that were not even due within the 21-day period, and respond to the summary judgment motion. Mr. Rachel had access to the prison law library for only a few hours each week. Accordingly, he asked for additional time to respond. The district court did not rule on the motion until the day the response was due, so Mr. Rachel had no choice but to respond without the benefit of the requested discovery. He intended to supplement the pleading when he received the requested discovery, but the defendants did not respond. Even though Mr. Rachel had not had any chance to conduct discovery, the magistrate judge recommended the district judge deny the motion for an extension and grant summary judgment to the defendants, in part because Mr. Rachel had not provided evidence of any deficiencies in his medical care or of the prison officials' deliberate indifference. The district court adopted the recommendation. The Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that the district court abused its discretion in denying the extension motion and that Mr. Rachel had shown good cause. However, it briefly visited other issues raised on appeal, and denied most of those.