United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V. EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Murtaza Ali, appearing pro se, initiated this 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action on January 15, 2016, by filing a complaint
(Dkt. # 1). The Court granted Ali leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. See Dkt. # 5. Ali filed a “Third
Amended Civil Rights Complaint” (Dkt. # 83) on April 5,
2017. Before the Court are two motions: the motion to dismiss
filed by defendants Dustin Duboise, Gary Kaiser, and Travis
Lambert (collectively, defendants) (Dkt. # 86); and the
motion to dismiss filed by Armor Correctional Health
Services, Inc. (Armor) (Dkt. # 85). For the reasons discussed
below, the Court finds that both motions shall be granted,
that Ali's amended complaint shall be dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted as to Armor, and Kaiser, and that the amended
complaint shall be dismissed with prejudice as to Duboise and
Lambert because they are entitled to qualified immunity.
Ali filed his original complaint, he was an alien detainee in
custody of the United States Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), and housed at the Rolling Plains Regional
Jail and Detention Center, Haskell, Texas. But this civil
rights action arises from events that Ali alleges occurred
while he was a federal prisoner detained at the David L. Moss
Criminal Justice Center (a.k.a., the Tulsa County Jail or
TCJ), Tulsa, Oklahoma. See Dkt. # 83. The following
facts are drawn from Ali's amended complaint.
“an Orthodox Muslim with sincerely held Islamic
Religious Beliefs.” Dkt. # 83 at 2. Ali is obligated by
his religion to pray five times each day. Id. at 4
n.1. On October 17, 2015, at approximately 1:15 p.m., he was
preparing to pray in his cell on the J-4 Unit with another
federal prisoner, Kamau J. Williams. Id. at 4.
Deputy Duboise opened the cell door and asked Ali what he was
doing. Id. When Ali replied that he and Williams
were preparing to pray, Duboise stated, “You both
cannot perform your prayers in the cell, you will have to
pray outside.” Id. Ali then asked Duboise
“to state a place on the unit where they could conduct
their obligatory prayers.” Id. According to
Ali, Duboise “got infuriated by Ali's questioning,
display[ed] hostility, ” and threatened to “lock
[Ali] up.” Id. Then, when Ali suggested there
was “‘no legitimate reason' to lock him up,
” Duboise “pushed Ali's chest with his left
arm, causing Ali's back to be slammed into the cell wall
by the door.” Id. When Ali asked to report the
“assault” to a supervisor, Duboise became
“further infuriated” and, “yelled,
‘Look at the badge . . . It states Deputy Sheriff, back
up, or I will fuck you up and place you under arrest!”
Id. Duboise then “slammed the cell door and
locked Ali in the cell until 5 [p.m.]” Id. at
same day, around 6:30 p.m., Ali asked Officer FNU Williams if
he could report Duboise's “assault” and
pursue criminal charges against him. Id. at 5-6.
About 15 minutes later, Officer Lambert and Officer FNU
Blackheart, “arrived in the sally port of Unit J-4, and
entered the J-4 Unit.” Id. at 6. Ali walked
into the sally port when the sally port door opened.
Id. When Lambert noticed Ali in the sally port,
Lambert “pointed a taser at Ali's back side,
shouted, ‘PUT YOUR FUCKING HANDS UP, ” and told
Ali to turn around. Id. Ali complied. Id.
Lambert then “approached” Ali, “violently
grabbed [him] by his left arm, ” “jerked [him]
back onto the [J-4 Unit, ] and vigorously pushed [him] face
first on the J-4 control desk while simultaneously twisting
his left arm behind his back.” Id. Ali alleges
that he “was not resisting and [that he was] complying
with all orders.” Id.
Ali told Lambert that he was using excessive force against
him, Lambert stated, “I haven't used excessive
force yet MOTHER FUCKER, I will show you excessive
force.” Id. Lambert “continued to
violently jerk Ali towards the stairs by his arms hand-cuffed
behind his back, all while Ali offered no resistance, causing
him to loose [sic] balance and fall on the stairs head first,
with a hard impact.” Id. Lambert then
“continued to drag . . . Ali's prone body up the
stairs by violently jerking [him].” Id. Ali
asked Lambert to stop and told him that he was experiencing
pain in his shoulder. Id. at 7. Officer Doe told
Lambert they should take Ali to the medical unit.
Id. Lambert and Doe “then drug Ali back down
the stairs while he still lay prone on his frontal body area,
still being held by his handcuffed arms behind his
bottom of the stairs, Sergeant Kaiser told Lambert,
“Let me get him.” Id. Kaiser and Doe
“continued to drag” Ali, while Ali “offered
no resistance.” Id. When Ali told the officers
that they would “not get away with assaulting [him] for
no reason, ” Kaiser “pushed Ali's left wrist
upwards . . . causing excruciating pain and shock to Ali from
[his] wrist to left shoulder, ” and said to Ali,
“How you like that . . .” Id. at 7-8.
Doe and Ali arrived in the medical unit around 7 p.m.
Id. at 10. Ali immediately told medical personnel
that he had left shoulder pain and he requested
“preservation of the surveillance videos of J-4 Unit
and between hallways from J-4 Unit and medical unit showing
assault and excessive use of force.” Id. at 8.
According to Ali, medical personnel examined his shoulder,
“concluded Ali had apparent injuries to [his] left
shoulder, ” gave him two ibuprofen for the pain, and
“informed Ali that he would be seen by medical the next
day.” Id. at 8-9. Around 8 p.m., Kaiser
transported Ali to the segregation housing unit (SHU) and
placed him in a cell. Id.
next morning, Ali sent a handwritten request for immediate
medical treatment. Id. at 10. Medical personnel came
to the SHU at 7:30 a.m. and examined Ali's injuries
through the glass window of his cell. Id. Ali
“requested that his injuries be logged in his medical
records.” Id. Ali again reported his injuries
to medical personnel on October 20th or 21st. Id. at
10-11. On October 22, 2015, medical personnel arrived in the
SHU to conduct a “New Arrival Inmate Physical
Exam.” Id. at 11. For this exam, Ali was
removed from his cell and transported to the SHU medical
unit. Ali again asked medical personnel to log his injuries.
Id. According to Ali, medical personnel
“display[ed] hostility, ” and “refus[ed] to
document facts regarding cause and effect of injuries to Ali
by ‘Jailer Assault.'” Id. at 12. Ali
alleges that he made repeated requests for further treatment
and that medical personnel “ignored [his] request for
proper medical diagnosis of injuries by [a]
specialist.” Id. at 12-13. According to Ali,
those injuries included “physical injury to left
shoulder, laceration to right foot, contusion and bruising to
right elbow and both wrists, swelling of left knee, numbness
to both wrists and ongoing pain to left shoulder and shoulder
blade, and ongoing numbness to left wrist.”
Id. at 9.
November 3, 2015, Ali was transferred from the TCJ to federal
prison to complete his federal sentence. Id. at 13.
Upon completion of his federal sentence on November 10, 2015,
the Federal Bureau of Prisons released Ali into ICE's
custody for administrative/civil proceedings. Id. at
14. ICE then placed Ali in the TCJ as an alien detainee.
Id. Ali alleges that while he was detained in the
TCJ between November 10, 2015, and December 7, 2015, he
“was never seen by a doctor or specialist to diagnose
the extent of his injuries sustained during the ‘Jailer
Assault'” on October 17, 2015. Id. at
14-15. ICE transferred Ali from the TCJ to the Rolling Plains
Regional Jail and Detention Center on December 8, 2015.
Id. at 15.
on these facts, Ali identifies the following claims:
Count I: Duboise, acting under color of state law, (a)
violated Ali's rights under the First Amendment and the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, by preventing him from
praying in his jail cell; and (b) violated his rights under
the Eighth Amendment by using excessive force against him in
response to Ali's attempt to exercise his religion.
Count II: Kaiser and Lambert, acting under color of state
law, violated Ali's rights under the Eighth Amendment by
using excessive force against him;
Count III: Armor, acting under color of state law, violated
Ali's rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to
provide adequate medical care for the injuries he sustained
on October 17, 2015.
See id. at 3-5, 10. In his prayer for relief, Ali
seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated his
constitutional rights and nominal damages for those
violations, “an award of compensatory and punitive
damages . . . in an amount to be proven at trial, ” and
“equitable relief or such other relief . . . [he] is
entitled to.” Id. at 16.
Rule 12(b)(6) standard
defendants and Armor move to dismiss the amended complaint
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Dkt. ## 85, 86. In
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must
accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as
true, even if doubtful in fact, and determine whether the
complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). The
complaint should be dismissed “when the allegations in
a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of
entitlement to relief.” Id. at 558.
when a plaintiff appears pro se, a court must liberally
construe the complaint. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214,
1218 (10th Cir. 2007). This “means that if the court
can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on
which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so.”
Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir.
1991). Nonetheless, a pro se plaintiff still bears “the
burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized
legal claim could be based.” Id. And in
affording the plaintiff's complaint a liberal
construction, a 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).
Failure to exhaust
preliminary matter, Armor and the defendants contend that
this action should be dismissed because Ali failed to exhaust
his administrative remedies as required under the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
See Dkt. # 85 at 11-13; Dkt. # 86 at 10-11. Section
1997e(a) provides that “[n]o action shall be brought
with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 . . . by
a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other
correctional facility until such administrative remedies as
are available are exhausted.” But the PLRA defines
“prisoner” as “any person incarcerated or
detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of,
sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of
criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole,
probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.”
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h). By Order dated February 3, 2016,
the Court found that because Ali was being held in connection
with immigration proceedings when he filed his original
complaint, he did not appear to be a “prisoner”
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h) and that he
was therefore not subject to the PLRA's filing fee
provisions. Dkt. # 5 at 2; see Norton v. City of
Marietta, 432 F.3d 1145, 1150 (10th Cir. 2005)
(concluding “that it is plaintiff's status at the
time he files suit that determines whether §
1997e(a)'s exhaustion provision applies”);
Agyeman v. INS, 296 F.3d 871, 885-86 (9th Cir. 2002)
(finding that PLRA's filing fee provisions “do not
apply to an alien detainee who proceeds in forma
pauperis . . . so long as he does not also face criminal
charges”). Because § 1915(h) and § 1997e(h)
use identical language to define “prisoner, ” the
Court concludes that Ali is likewise not subject to the
PLRA's exhaustion requirement. Thus, the Court rejects
the contention by Armor and the defendants that Ali's
alleged failure to exhaust his administrative remedies
supports dismissal of this action.
Failure to state a claim against Armor
moving to dismiss Ali's amended complaint, Armor
primarily contends that Ali fails to plausibly allege that
Armor violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical
care. Alternatively, Armor contends that Ali fails to
plausibly allege that Armor could be liable for any such
violation under a theory of municipal liability. See
Dkt. # 86 at 4-10.
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a §
1983 claim, a plaintiff must plausibly allege: “(1) a
violation of rights protected by the United States
Constitution or created by federal statute or regulation, (2)
proximately caused (3) by the conduct of a ‘person'
(4) who acted under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom[, ] or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia.” Summum v. City of
Ogden, 297 F.3d 995, 1000 (10th Cir. 2002) (alteration
in original) (citation omitted); see also Schaffer v.
Salt Lake City Corp., 814 F.3d 1151, 1155 (10th Cir.