A “far from overwhelming” pro se whistleblower complaint lodged by a healthcare worker in the state prison system will proceed, largely because the attorney general’s bare-bones summary judgment motion fell flat with a federal judge.

Western District Judge David Larimer (See Profile) said the state “utterly failed” to show that the plaintiff’s case was meritless, and rejected its motion for summary judgment in Murray v. Coleman, 08-cv-6383.

The plaintiff, William Murray, who works at the Five Points Correctional Facility, alleges that he was retaliated against for revealing the misappropriation of millions of dollars in public funds, the unlawful early release of inmates and illegal nepotism within what was then the Department of Correctional Services.

Both Murray and the attorney general moved for summary judgment, and Larimer denied both petitions.

Larimer said that while Murray “submitted a voluminous set of exhibits” to support his motion, the attorney general’s office relied on a blanket assertion without developing its argument or pointing to anything in the record to support its position, and generally did “nothing to assist the court” in making its determination.

“It is not this court’s responsibility to do counsel’s work for them by scouring the record to determine whether counsel’s conclusory arguments hold water,” Larimer wrote. “If the state is serious about the motion, it must make the necessary effort. Perhaps on a more thoroughly briefed and well-supported motion, summary judgment might be appropriate here.”

The judge noted that the state included boilerplate language in its assertion for qualified immunity and said he “will not enter judgment based on what amounts to a ‘throwaway’ line in a brief.” The judge did, however, dismiss claims against six individual defendants.

Larimer also said that Murray’s “proof of retaliation is far from overwhelming.” Yet he said Murray did raise “genuine issues of material fact” sufficient to overcome the attorney general’s summary judgment motion, but not strong enough to grant summary judgment to the plaintiff.

Assistant Attorney General J. Richard Benitez represents the state.