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Toles v. Oklahoma Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

November 27, 2017

TERRANCE TOLES, Plaintiff,
v.
OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al. Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SHON T. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently before the Court are: (1) Plaintiff's Supplement to his Amended Complaint which alleges an intentional denial of entry into a court-ordered drug treatment program in violation of Due Process (ECF No. 34) and (2) Plaintiff's “Motion for Conditional Release Community Placement Federal CWC or Halfway House” (ECF No. 24). The Court should: (1) conclude that Mr. Toles has stated a valid Due Process claim in the Supplement to the Amended Complaint and (2) deny Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Release.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mr. Toles, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a pleading in the Oklahoma County District Court, alleging various constitutional deprivations related to the conditions of his confinement. (ECF No. 1-1). Service was completed on the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), [1] which then filed a notice of removal to this Court alleging proper jurisdiction here based on the nature of Plaintiff's claims. (ECF No. 1).

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff named six Defendants-the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), and five employees of the Northeastern Oklahoma Correctional Center (NEOCC). (ECF No. 1-1). The employees were: (1) Beth Crockett, Case Manager; (3) Christine Bagby, Case Manager; (4) Connie Kays, Unit Manager; (5) John Somers, Deputy Warden; and (6) Rodney Redman, Warden. (ECF No. 1-1).

         In the Complaint, Mr. Toles alleged three causes of action: (1) Defendants Crockett and Bagby “deprived Plaintiff of his Sixth Amendment Attorney/Client Privilege, ” (2) Defendants Crockett, Bagby, and Kays “retaliated and harassed Plaintiff in violation of his Constitutional right to Equal Protection, and Due Process of Law under the IV, V and XIV Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ” and (3) Defendants Crockett, Bagby, Kays, Somers, and Redman “intentionally denied and delayed Plaintiff access to the court ordered drug treatment program . . . in violation of the IV, V, VI, VIII and XIV Amendments to the United States Constitution.” (ECF No. 1-1:6).

         Pursuant to the Court's screening obligation as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the undersigned examined Mr. Toles' original Complaint and recommended: (1) dismissal, without prejudice, of the claims against the DOC and the official capacity claims against Defendants Crockett, Bagby, Kays, Somers and Redman; (2) dismissal, with prejudice, of the individual capacity claims against Defendants Crockett and Bagby in Count One and the individual capacity claims against Defendants Crockett, Bagby, and Kays in Count Two alleging harassment; (3) dismissal, without prejudice, of the individual capacity claims against Defendants Crockett, Bagby and Kays in Count Two alleging retaliation; and (4) the Court conclude that Mr. Toles had stated a valid Due Process claim based on the allegations in Count Three against Defendants Crockett, Bagby, Kays, Somers, and Redman in their individual capacities.

         Plaintiff filed a “Partial Objection” to the Report and Recommendation, wherein he requested to amend his original Complaint “to shed some clarity on his Constitutional provisions he believes applies to his substantive claims[.]” (ECF No. 5:3). Mr. Toles also suggested that an Amended Complaint might include a claim for racial discrimination and an Eighth Amendment claim. (ECF No. 5:3-4). Judge DeGuisti adopted the undersigned's recommendation, construed Plaintiff's Objection as a motion to amend the original Complaint, and re-referred the case to the undersigned for further proceedings. (ECF No. 8).

         Mr. Toles filed an Amended Complaint, but noticeably absent in the Amended Complaint, however, were any allegations related to “Count Three” in the original Complaint, which had alleged a violation of Due Process for intentionally denying Plaintiff access to a court-ordered drug treatment program. (ECF No. 23). The undersigned screened the Amended Complaint and recommended: (1) dismissal, without prejudice, of any claim against the DOC, based on Eleventh Amendment immunity; (2) dismissal, without prejudice, of any official capacity claim for monetary damages against Defendants Crockett, Bagby, Kays, Somers, and Redman; (3) dismissal, with prejudice, of any individual capacity claim seeking injunctive relief against all Defendants; (4) dismissal, with prejudice, of the individual-capacity monetary damages claim for violation of Attorney-Client Privilege against all Defendants; (5) dismissal, without prejudice, of the individual-capacity monetary damages harassment claims against Defendants Crockett and Bagby which were premised on yelling and verbal threats; (6) dismissal, without prejudice, of the individual-capacity monetary damages claims for “retaliation-harassment” against Defendants Crockett, Bagby, Kays, and Somers which were premised on the use of “job loopholes;” (7) dismissal, without prejudice, of the individual-capacity monetary damages claim against Defendant Redman for retaliation which was based on a theory of supervisory liability; and (8) that the Court conclude that Mr. Toles has stated a valid individual-capacity monetary damages claim for retaliation against Defendant Crockett, which alleged three distinct forms of retaliation.

         The Court ordered Mr. Toles to file a supplement to his Amended Complaint if he chose to pursue the Due Process claim which he had alleged in his original Complaint. (ECF No. 28 & 31). Plaintiff did so, by filing a pleading which he titled “Amended Complaint & or Supplement to Amend Complaint.” (ECF No. 34). In that document, Plaintiff alleged: (1) violation of attorney-client privilege, (2) a deprivation of the right to use the court system, (3) a deprivation of the right to petition government for a redress of grievance, (4) retaliation, and (5) violation of Due Process through an intentional denial and delay of Plaintiff's right to enter a court-ordered drug treatment program. (ECF No. 34).

         Because Mr. Toles was instructed to file a supplement to address only the “Count Three Due Process claim, ”[2] the undersigned struck all portions of ECF No. 34 which did not concern the Due Process claim. Accordingly, the undersigned is now obligated to screen the allegations in ECF No. 34 regarding the Due Process claim to determine whether Mr. Toles has stated a claim for relief. As stated, the undersigned will not consider any additional allegations set forth in ECF No. 34 which concern claims other than the Due Process claim, including: (1) a violation of attorney-client privilege, (2) a deprivation of the right to use the court system, (3) a deprivation of the right to petition government for a redress of grievance, and (4) retaliation.

         II. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         The Court must review each complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must accept Plaintiff's allegations as true and construe them, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). Since Mr. Toles is proceeding pro se, his complaint must be construed liberally. See id. at 1218. 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) (quotations and citation omitted). “Plausible” in this context does not mean “likely to be true, ” but rather refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, ” then the plaintiff has not “nudged (his) claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility requirement “serves not only to weed out claims that do not (in the absence of additional allegations) have a reasonable prospect of success, but also to inform the defendants of the actual grounds of the claim against them.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1248 (10th Cir. 2008).

         A complaint fails to state such a claim when it lacks factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. (footnote and citation omitted). Bare legal conclusions in a complaint are not assumed to be true; legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations” to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         “[A] pro se plaintiff requires no special legal training to recount the facts surrounding his alleged injury, and he must provide such facts if the court is to determine whether he makes out a claim on which relief can be granted.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. As a result, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief.” Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218. (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Whether a complaint contains sufficient facts to avoid dismissal is context-specific and is determined through a court's application of “judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Gee v. Pacheco, 627 F.3d 1178, 1184-85 (10th Cir. 2010) (discussing Iqbal). The Court's analysis for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is the same regardless of whether it is performed pursuant to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or sua sponte pursuant to the Court's screening obligations detailed above. See Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (applying Rule 12(b)(6) standard for purpose of § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) determination).

         IV. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND NATURE OF PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM

         In May of 2015, Mr. Toles was convicted in Oklahoma County Court and sentenced to 12 years in prison with the balance suspended upon successful completion of a drug offender work camp (DOWC). See ECF No. 1-1:3; Judgment and Sentence, State of Oklahoma v. Toles, Case No. CF-2015-696 (Okla. Co. May 20, 2015) (Judgment and Sentence).[3] While at Northeastern Oklahoma Correctional Center (NEOCC), Mr. Toles got into an argument with his case manager, Defendant Crockett, and his unit manager, Kay Somers, regarding Plaintiff's interaction with his attorney. (ECF No. 34:3). After the verbal altercation, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Crockett and Bagby threatened to transfer him to another building or another facility. (ECF No. 34). After the incident, Mr. Toles states that every day he “addressed complaints with a request or grievance or sit down with Redman, Somers, Kays, Chief of Security Clayton. The Minister.” (ECF No. 34:3). In an apparent form of retaliation for filing grievances, Plaintiff alleges that he was “blackballed from court ordered [drug] program.” (ECF No. 34:3); see ECF No. 34:4(“They kept me blackballed for using attorney about NEOCC complaints to D.O.C. an [sic]filing complaints to d.o.c.”). Mr. Toles states that other offenders were allowed in the program and that Defendant Kays told Plaintiff that he “had his shot at DOWC, ” but that she was “not going against her staff.” (ECF No. 34).

On page 7 of the Supplement to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states:
All Defendants have intentionally denied and delayed Plaintiff access to the court-ordered drug-treatment program pursuant to state judgment and sentence, which is conditioned upon his release from incarceration[.]

(ECF No. 34:7).

         Mr. Toles has named five Defendants in this action: Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh and four employees of NEOCC: Defendants Somers, Crockett, Bagby, and Kays. (ECF No. 34:1-2). Mr. Toles does not indicate whether he is suing these Defendants in their individual or official capacities, thus the undersigned will construe the pleading to include claims in both capacities. See, e.g., Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1093, n.2 (10th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief. (ECF No. 34:5, 8).

         V. OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY CLAIMS FOR ...


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