United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
SUZANNE MITCHELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Davis (Plaintiff)-a prisoner in the custody of the Oklahoma
Department of Corrections (DOC)-has filed an amended
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,  seeking relief
for alleged constitutional violations during his
incarceration at Lawton Correctional Facility (LCF), a
private prison owned and operated by GEO Group under contract
with the DOC. Doc. 20. Plaintiff appears pro se.
specifically identifies sixteen Defendants as parties to his
amended complaint, and he sues each in their individual and
official capacities. Id. at 1, 5, 6, 7, 8. They
include nine LCF officials: Warden Rios; Medical Supervisor
Thomas; Doctor Gonzaga; Grievance Coordinator Durant; Nurse
Practitioner Denton; Doctor Musallam; Medical Director
John/Jane Doe; Correctional Officer Adams; and Correctional
Officer Dawson. Id. He also names four DOC
officials-Director Allbaugh, Medical Services Administrator
(MSA) Honaker,  Medical Services Administrator (MSA)
McGee,  and Contract Monitor Minyard. Plaintiff
identifies the three remaining Defendants as: GEO Group
Corrections, Inc., Amber Martin, V.P.; Dan Ronay, Correct
Care Solutions (CCS) supervisor; and John Doe, podiatrist and
director of Lawton Foot Clinic. Id. at 1, 5, 6, 7,
8. He seeks monetary and injunctive relief from each
Defendant. Id. at 11, 25, 36, 41.
United States District Judge Joe Heaton has referred the
matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for proceedings
consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (C). Doc. 39.
law requires the court to screen complaints filed by
prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an
officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In addition, because Plaintiff is
conditionally proceeding in forma pauperis, Docs. 19, 51, the
court has an ongoing duty to consider the sufficiency of his
claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The court
must dismiss any frivolous or malicious claim, any claim
asking for monetary relief from a defendant who is immune
from such relief, or any claim on which the court cannot
grant relief. Id. §§ 1915A(b),
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Gee
v. Pacheco, 627 F.3d 1178, 1184 (10th Cir. 2010).
“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of
the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to
legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally
and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d
1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The court, however, may not
serve as Plaintiff's advocate, creating arguments on his
behalf. See generally Yang v. Archuleta, 525 F.3d
925, 927 n.1 (10th Cir. 2008).
following reasons, the undersigned recommends the dismissal
on screening of all official capacity claims against the LCF
Defendants and of all claims against the DOC Defendants.
Claims for relief from the LCF Defendants in their
prison employees can be held liable in their individual
capacities under § 1983, but they “do not have an
‘official capacity' as that term is used under
Eleventh Amendment.”' Jones v. Barry, 33
F. App'x 967, 971 n.5 (10th Cir. 2002); see also Yost
v. Stouffer, Case No. CIV-15-783-F, 2016 WL 4154281, at
*7 n.4 (W.D. Okla. June 30, 2016) (unpublished magistrate
judge recommendation) (an LCF employee lacks an
“official capacity” under § 1983),
adopted, 2016 WL 4150935 (W.D. Okla. Aug. 4, 2016)
(unpublished district court order). Plaintiff does not state
a viable claim for relief against the LCF Defendants-Rios,
Thomas, Gonzaga, Durant, Denton, Musallam, Medical Director
John/Jane Doe, Adams, and Dawson-in their official
capacities, and the undersigned recommends the dismissal of
these claims on screening.
Claims against the DOC Defendants.
Claims for monetary relief from the DOC Defendants
in their official capacities.
for damages against a state official in his or her official
capacity are construed as claims against the State and, so,
are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985) (holding that a suit
against an individual acting in an official capacity is
properly treated as a suit against the state itself and
“the Eleventh Amendment bars [such] a damages
action.”); see also White v. Colorado, 82 F.3d
364, 366 (10th Cir. 1996) (holding Eleventh Amendment
sovereign immunity barred § 1983 claims “for money
damages” against prison officials in their official
capacities). While a State may waive the defense of sovereign
immunity, the State of Oklahoma has not waived its sovereign
immunity defense against § 1983 claims brought in
federal district court cases. See Ramirez v. Okla.
Dep't of Mental Health, 41 F.3d 584, 588-89 (10th
Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Ellis v. Univ.
Kan. Med. Ctr., 163 F.3d 1186 (10th Cir. 1998). The
Eleventh Amendment, therefore, forecloses Plaintiff's
claims for monetary relief against state officials in their
official capacity, and the undersigned recommends the
dismissal of these claims on screening.
Remaining claims against the DOC Defendants.
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
Here, Plaintiff seeks relief from various Defendants through
four claims, and he identifies one or more DOC officials as
Defendants in three of those claims. See Doc. 20.
First claim for relief.
claims a “violation of [his] Eighth Amendment right to
adequate medical services” while housed at LCF.
Id. at 10. He alleges instances of what he maintains
were knowing and deliberate failures, denials, and delays by
LCF-related Defendants-medical staff, supervisors, and
corporate ownership-to adequately treat and respond to his
medical needs and pain. Id. at 12-14. He contends
the medical staff was not qualified, and he details both his
requests for evaluations by outside specialists and his
administrative grievance efforts. Id.
then makes his initial reference to a DOC Defendant, MSA