Civil rights plaintiff ordered to appear in court

Judge calls former ODOT worker's continued filings over 2010 incident a 'burden on judicial resources'

A federal judge says a former Oregon Department of Transportation planner is burdening the judicial system with numerous and repetitive filings in his civil rights case, and has ordered him to appear in court to explain why his case should not be permanently dismissed.

U.S. District Court Judge Owen M. Panner said David J. Pyles' allegations that local officials violated his civil rights in 2010 by seizing his guns and taking him to a mental ward have become a "burden on judicial resources."

"The Court has done its best to accommodate Plaintiff over the course of his case, including appointing him legal counsel on two occasions and granting him numerous extensions. However, Plaintiff's actions are a burden on judicial resources," Panner wrote in the three-page order to show cause filed Thursday.

Pyles, who currently resides in Florida according to court documents, did not return phone calls from the Mail Tribune.

Pyles filed his complaint on Feb. 27, 2012, naming as defendants the city of Medford and Jackson County, as well as Sheriff Mike Winters, Deputy Philip Cicero and Medford Police Sgt. Scott Clauson.

In April 26, 2013, Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke issued a recommendation for dismissal, stating the police and all involved "acted in good faith" to protect Pyles and the public on March 8, 2010, when they temporarily placed him in protective custody at a local hospital and confiscated his guns.

Police reports at the time depicted Pyles as a disgruntled ODOT employee prone to verbal outbursts and in "a declining state of mental health." ODOT supervisors cited Pyles' slipping personal hygiene and appearance when they placed him on administrative leave on March 4.

Pyles was told to work from home until he could undergo a full psychiatric evaluation. But ODOT officials became concerned when they learned the suspended planner had bought three handguns, a 12-gauge shotgun and a semi-automatic AK-47 rifle over the next three days.

A teletype was sent to law enforcement offices across southwestern Oregon on March 7, 2010. Officers were told to be on the lookout for Pyles and warned of potential officer safety issues, stating Pyles might be mentally unstable and that he had made "concerning statements." But it also said Pyles hadn't made specific threats and police didn't have a reason to arrest him.

Medford police sent a SWAT team and a negotiator to Pyles' Effie Street home just before 6 a.m. on March 8. Pyles spoke with the negotiator, took a shower, then voluntarily came out of his house just before 7 a.m. He was handcuffed and agreed to show where the guns and ammunition were in his home so police could collect them, Medford police reports say. Pyles was taken to a Medford hospital for a mental health evaluation and was released about three hours later after being cleared by a psychiatrist.

Pyles' guns were returned to him on March 12, 2010.

Pyles has argued that his medical evaluation showed he was not a danger to himself or others. Police lied to him when he assured Pyles he would not be handcuffed or placed under arrest that morning, Pyles said, adding he was publicly humiliated by the police action.

Pyles at times demanded to represent himself in the case, and other times has asked the court to require an attorney to handle his case on a pro bono basis.

Clarke ruled in April, stating he was making his recommendation based on the information available, that the defendants in the case had reasonably determined that the risk of doing nothing was simply too great. In his recommendation for dismissal, Clarke said police had reason to believe there was probably cause for a "peace officer hold" on Pyles, and noted that once it was determined he was not a threat, he was released and his weapons were returned.

On July 9, Panner signed an order adopting Judge Clarke's findings and recommendations, and issued a judgment for the defendants.

"Since that date, (Pyles) has made a number of new filings and continues to contact the Clerk of the Court with regard to this case," Panner wrote.

Panner has allowed Pyles to retain his access to the district court's electronic data base. But he told Pyles he could not submit any further documents or communications, including any emails or notices of appeal, to the court clerk without having those documents "reviewed by judicial staff to ensure that they are not frivolous or repetitive."

Panner ordered Pyles to appear in his court on Aug. 26 to show cause why the order should not be made permanent.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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