What: Rally to commemorate the two year anniversary of the deaths of Carmela DeVargas and Rex Corcoran due to negligence at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility
When: Saturday, November 6, 2 to 6 p.m.
Where: Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility, 28 Camino Justicia off State Highway 14.
The estate of Carmela DeVargas, represented by her father, Antonio DeVargas, filed a lawsuit on February 19, 2021 against the Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners and its employees: Santa Fe Public Safety Director Pablo Sedillo; Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility Warden Derek Williams; Medical Director Dr. Melequides Olivares; and Correctional Officers Lieutenant Rojas and Caption Rios. The County filed a motion to dismiss, and last week, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack issued his decision as to what charges can proceed to trial. Most of the charges leveled against the County will go forward: failure to implement a MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) at the jail; failure to treat Carmela’s OUD (Opioid Use Disorder) with Suboxone; allowing the jail to remain in an unsanitary condition; the policy of shackling; and an account of battery for administering Narcan against Carmela’s will. (Narcan is administered for an overdose; Carmela did not overdose.) Except for Dr. Melequides Olivares, whose failure to treat Carmela’s OUD is allowed to proceed, the other named defendants are dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity.
This case was filed before the New Mexico State Legislature passed the New Mexico Civil Rights Act that permits “an individual to bring a claim against a public body or person acting on behalf of or under the authority of a public body for a violation of the individual’s rights, privileges, or immunities,” or essentially, revoke the defense of qualified immunity, which, because of the arduous process to prove that rights have been violated, has abrogated these rights for too many years. The Civil Rights Act was amended to include the provision that a judgment “against a person acting on behalf of, under color of or within the course and scope of the authority of the public body shall be paid by the public body.” The case will be heard in Magistrate Court and a December 2 status hearing has been scheduled.
I just heard from Susie Schmitt, Rex Corcoran’s mother, that her wrongful death lawsuit will be filed in state court tomorrow. I’ll provide more information on that in a later article.