United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
ROBERT V. WONSCH, Plaintiff,
DEPUTY GARNER, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Robert V. Wonsch, a pretrial detainee appearing pro se and in
forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging violations of his federal constitutional
rights. The matter has been referred by United States
District Judge Stephen P. Friot for initial proceedings
consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). For
the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the
Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 54] be dismissed.
Background / Plaintiff's Claims for
claims arise out of his pretrial detention at the Cleveland
County Detention Center (CCDC). He brings sixteen different
claims for relief challenging various aspects of his
confinement. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and
punitive damages. He also seeks various forms of injunctive
names twenty-eight defendants and brings claims against them
in their individual and/or official capacities. As discussed
below, many of these defendants are immune from suit and
Plaintiff's claims against them should be dismissed on
that basis. Other defendants are not suable entities for
purposes of § 1983. In addition, Plaintiff fails to
state any plausible claims for § 1983 relief. And,
pursuant to Younger,  the Court should abstain from the
exercise of jurisdiction over any claims that pertain to
Plaintiff's ongoing state criminal proceedings. Because
Plaintiff's federal claims are subject to dismissal, the
Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over any state law claims.
Screening of Complaint - Governing Standard
as here, a prisoner proceeds in forma pauperis, the court
must dismiss the case if, at any time, the court determines
the action is “frivolous or malicious” or
“fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). A
claim is frivolous under § 1915 if it “lacks an
arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
court's review of a complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B)
mirrors that required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court
must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and
construe them, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from
them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See
Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). The
court “review[s] the complaint for plausibility; that
is, to determine whether the complaint includes enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Young v. Davis, 554 F.3d 1254, 1256
(10th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). “Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly construed under
this standard. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). The generous construction to be given the pro se
litigant's allegations “does not relieve the
plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which
a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The court
“will not supply additional factual allegations to
round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal
theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New
Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).
addition to these standards, the Tenth Circuit has made clear
that “context matters” when determining the
plausibility of the allegations of a complaint. Robbins
v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1248 (10th Cir. 2008). The
requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure are particularly important in the context of a
§ 1983 action involving multiple claims against multiple
defendants. Id. at 1249. Thus, the complaint should
“make clear exactly who is alleged to have
done what to whom, to provide each
individual with fair notice as to the basis of the claims
against him or her.” Id. at 1250 (emphasis in
original); see also Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E.
Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007) (to comply
with Rule 8, the allegations of the plaintiff's complaint
should inform each defendant “what [he or she] did to
[the plaintiff]; when the defendant did it; how the
defendant's action harmed [the plaintiff]; and, what
specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant
Defendants Immune from Suit 1. Eleventh
Amendment Immunity Bars Plaintiff's Claims Against the
State of Oklahoma, OIDS and the OSBI
brings § 1983 claims against the State of Oklahoma, the
Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS), and the Oklahoma
State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). See Am.Compl.
Ex. 1, at 2, 11-14, 17. Under Oklahoma law, the OSBI and OIDS
are state agencies and therefore qualify as “arms of
the state.” Rivard v. Bullard, No.
CIV-14-762-M, 2014 WL 6641682, at *6, n.9 (W.D. Okla. Nov.
21, 2014) (“OIDS is a state agency funded ‘almost
entirely' through annual appropriations by the Oklahoma
Legislature.”); Okla. Stat. tit. 74,
§ 150.1 (establishing OSBI as a state agency).
Eleventh Amendment is a jurisdictional bar that precludes
unconsented suits in federal court against a state and arms
of the state. Peterson v. Martinez, 707 F.3d 1197,
1205 (10th Cir. 2013); see also Steadfast Ins. Co. v.
Agric. Ins. Co., 507 F.3d 1250, 1256 (10th Cir. 2007)
(state agencies entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity).
Eleventh Amendment immunity applies to both monetary and
injunctive relief. See Higganbotham v. Oklahoma ex rel.
Okla. Transp. Comm'n, 328 F.3d 638, 644 (10th Cir.
2003) (application to injunctive relief); Korgich v.
Regents of N.M. Sch. of Mines, 582 F.2d 549, 551 (10th
Cir. 1978) (application in case seeking monetary damages).
While a state may waive the defense of sovereign immunity,
the State of Oklahoma has not waived its sovereign immunity
defense against § 1983 actions brought in federal
district court cases. See Ramirez v. Okla. Dep't of
Mental Health, 41 F.3d 584, 589 (10th Cir. 1994).
Therefore, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the
State of Oklahoma, OIDS, and the OSBI should be dismissed
without prejudice on grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Judicial Immunity Bars Plaintiff's Claims Against
brings claims against Tracy Schumacher, a former state
district judge in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. Plaintiff
claims Defendant Schumacher denied his “Open Records
Request, ” see Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 9, and has
denied requests he has made for his “defense file and
all discovery & evidence against him, ” see
id. at 13. Because Plaintiff's claims against
Defendant Schumacher arise out of acts taken by her in her
judicial capacity, absolute judicial immunity bars those
claims. See Whitesel v. Sengenberger, 222 F.3d 861,
867 (10th Cir. 2000) (a judge is entitled to absolute
judicial immunity for actions taken within his or her
judicial capacity); Hunt v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1263,
1266 (10th Cir. 1994) (accord). Accordingly, Plaintiff's
claims against Defendant Schumacher should be dismissed with
Prosecutorial Immunity Bars Plaintiff's Claims Against
Defendants Mashburn and Puckett
brings claims against Greg Mashburn and Lori Puckett,
prosecutors employed by the Cleveland County District
Attorney's Office. Plaintiff asserts that Mashburn and
Puckett received, read, and used his medical records in his
pending state-court criminal case in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 17. Because Plaintiff sues
these Defendants for actions taken in the course of his
ongoing state criminal proceedings, Defendants are entitled
to prosecutorial immunity. See Nielander v. Bd. of Cty.
Comm'rs., 582 F.3d 1155, 1164 (10th Cir.2009)
(“Prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity for
their decisions to prosecute, their investigatory or
evidence-gathering actions, their evaluation of evidence,
their determination of whether probable cause exists, and
their determination of what information to show the
court.”)(citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S.
409, 430-31 (1976)); see also Buckley v.
Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993) (“[A]cts . .
. which occur in the court of [the prosecutor's] role as
an advocate for the State . . . are entitled to the
protections of absolute immunity.”). Therefore,
Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Mashburn and
Puckett should be dismissed with prejudice.
Defendant James Radford is not a State Actor for Purposes of
also sues his court-appointed public defender, James Radford.
He claims Defendant Radford refuses to provide him with the
“discovery evidence” the State has against him
and refuses to subpoena evidence that Plaintiff has
“demanded” since the beginning of his
representation. See Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 13.
“[P]ublic defender[s] do[ ] not act under color of
state law when performing a lawyer's traditional
functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal
proceeding.” Harris v. Champion, 51 F.3d 901,
909 (10th Cir. 1995) (quoting Polk Cty. v. Dodson,
454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981)); see also Dunn v. Harper
Cty, 520 F. App'x 723, 725-26 (10th Cir.2013)
(“[I]t is well established that neither private
attorneys nor public defenders act under color of state law
for purposes of § 1983 when performing traditional
functions as counsel to a criminal defendant.”). Thus,
the claims against Defendant Radford should be dismissed with
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which § 1983
relief may be granted.
Defendants Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, CCDC,
Cleveland County Courthouse and, Cleveland County Clerk's
Office are Not Suable Entities Under Section 1983
has also asserted § 1983 claims against the Cleveland
County Sheriff's Office, the CCDC, the Cleveland County
Courthouse, and the Cleveland County Court Clerk's
Office. See Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1-7, 10-14. These
entities are not suable entities under § 1983. See
e.g. Reid v. Hamby, No. 95-7142, 1997
WL 537909 at *6 (10th Cir. Sept. 2, 1997) (unpublished)
(Oklahoma sheriff's department is not a proper entity for
purposes of a § 1983 suit); Aston v.
Cunningham, No. 99-4156, 2000 WL 796086 at *4 n.3 (10th
Cir. June 21, 2000) (unpublished) (affirming dismissal of
county jail as defendant in prisoner's § 1983 action
on basis that “a detention facility is not a person or
legally created entity capable of being sued”);
Reed v. Ottawa Cty. Sheriff's
Dep't, No. 10-CV-305-GKF-TLW, 2010 WL 5209260,
at *1 (N.D. Okla. Dec. 16, 2010) (“The Ottawa County
Court Clerk's Office . . . [is] also dismissed with
prejudice because [it has] no independent legal
identity.”); Blackwell v. Tulsa Dist.
Courthouse, No. 13-CV-0757-CVE-FHM, 2013 WL 6191019, at
*2 (N.D. Okla. Nov. 26, 2013) (noting “it is unlikely
that [a] plaintiff could state a claim for alleged violations
of constitutional rights against” a county
courthouse).Therefore, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims
against the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, the CCDC,
the Cleveland County Courthouse, and the Cleveland County
Clerk's Office should be dismissed with prejudice.
Claims Subject to Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim Upon
Which Section 1983 Relief May be
1983 “is not itself a source of substantive rights, but
a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred
by those parts of the United States Constitution and federal
statutes that it describes.” Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979). Thus,
“[a]n important caveat to any § 1983 claim is that
‘the plaintiff must . . . prove a violation of [an]
underlying constitutional right.'” Bird v. West
Valley City, 832 F.3d 1188, 1208 (10th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330
addition, “[i]ndividual liability under § 1983
must be based on personal involvement in the alleged
constitutional violation.” Gallagher v.
Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069) (internal quotations marks
and citation omitted). Indeed, “[p]ersonal
participation is an essential allegation in a § 1983
claim.” Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260,
1262-63 (10th Cir.1976). To the extent Plaintiff seeks to
impose § 1983 liability on Cleveland County (whether
through official capacity claims or by naming the Cleveland
County Board of Commissioners), Plaintiff must identify a
policy or custom that caused constitutional injury to him.
See Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1202 (10th
Cir. 2010); see also Schneider v. City of Grand Junction
Police Dep't, 717 F.3d 760, 770 (10th Cir. 2013)
(“A challenged practice may be deemed an official
policy or custom for § 1983 municipal-liability purposes
if it is a formally promulgated policy, a well-settled custom
or practice, a final decision by a municipal policymaker, or
deliberately indifferent training or supervision.”).
discussed below, Plaintiff's claims against the remaining
Defendants should be dismissed. Plaintiff fails to allege
facts sufficient to state any plausible claim for § 1983
relief and/or has failed to allege facts identifying an
individual defendant responsible for the alleged violations
of his constitutional rights. Robbins, 519 F.3d at
1248. Nor has Plaintiff identified any policy or custom of
the County sufficient to state a plausible claim for
imposition of § 1983 liability.
Claim One - Denial of Access to Grievance Procedures
Claim One, Plaintiff alleges that he was “never given a
‘verbal' explanation nor was [he] able to ask
questions about the grievance procedure(s)” at CCDC.
See Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1. He also claims he has
been denied the right to appeal his grievances. Id.
He seeks monetary damages and ...