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Jones v. Oklahoma County Jail

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

November 17, 2017

OKLAHOMA COUNTY JAIL; P. D. TAYLOR, Undersheriff; and BRIAN MAUGHAN, Oklahoma County Commissioner, Defendants.



         I. Plaintiff's claims.

         Harlinza Jones (Plaintiff), appearing pro se[1] and in forma pauperis, brings this civil rights action seeking relief for a claimed violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment at the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC).[2] Doc. 1, at 6.[3] As Defendants, Plaintiff lists the OCDC, id. at 1, and he names P.D. Taylor, Undersheriff, and Brian Maughan, Oklahoma County Commissioner, in their official and individual capacities. Id. at 1, 4.

         As factual support for his claim, Plaintiff alleges “[i]t's black mold in the shower 8C pod and through out the building only one shower is usable.” Id. at 7. He contends “[i]nmates are breathing this air in because the county jail has recycled air no outside air.” Id. As relief, he asks “for the showers to be fixed[, ] for black mold to be cleaned out of the building, for the county jail to make it where it's real outside air flowing through this building, [and] for the courts to make the county jail to pay me $1 million[.]” Id.

         II. Screening.

         Federal 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In addition, because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the court has an ongoing duty to consider the sufficiency of his claims. See Id. § 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), 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A 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.

         “A 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 Yang v. Archuleta, 525 F.3d 925, 927 n.1 (10th Cir. 2008).

         III. Analysis.

         A. Defendant OCDC is not a suable entity.

         In the caption of his complaint, Plaintiff lists the OCDC-what he refers to as the Oklahoma County Jail-as the first Defendant. Doc. 1, at 1. Because the OCDC does not have a legal identity separate from that of Oklahoma County, the OCDC is not a suable entity and is not a proper defendant in a § 1983 action. See Aston v. Cunningham, No. 99-4156, 2000 WL 796086, at *4 n.3 (10th Cir. Jun. 21, 2000) (“[A] detention facility is not a person or legally created entity capable of being sued.”); Hinton v. Dennis, 362 F. App'x 904, 907 (10th Cir. 2010) (county criminal justice center is not a “separate suable entity” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the OCDC- the Oklahoma County Jail, as Plaintiff terms it-upon which relief may be granted.

         B. Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against Defendants Taylor and Maughan in either their official or individual capacities.

         1. Official capacity.

         “Suing individual defendants in their official capacities under § 1983 . . . is essentially another way of pleading an action against the county or municipality they represent.” Porro v. Barnes, 624 F.3d 1322, 1328 (10th Cir. 2010) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). In order to state a viable claim, Plaintiff must plausibly allege that Defendants Taylor and Maughan “committed a constitutional violation” and that an Oklahoma County “policy or custom was the moving force behind the constitutional deprivation.” Campbell v. City of Spencer, 777 F.3d 1073, 1077 (10th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, Plaintiff describes allegedly deficient conditions at OCDC-black mold, lack of usable showers, recycled air-but he pleads no facts to effectively allege an “official policy or custom [of Oklahoma County that] was both deliberately indifferent to his constitutional rights and the moving force behind his injury.” Porro, 624 F.3d at 1328. In other words, “his complaint does not link ...

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