United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Delbert Lavon Lynch, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in
forma pauperis, has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Compl.) [Doc. No. 1]. Chief United
States District Judge Joe Heaton has referred the matter for
proposed findings and recommendations consistent with 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C). Defendants filed the
Court-ordered Special Report [Doc. No. 19] and a Motion to
Dismiss/Motion for Summary Judgment (Motion) [Doc. No. 21].
Plaintiff responded (Pl.'s Response) [Doc. No. 24] and
Defendants replied (Defs.' Reply) [Doc. No. 25]. For the
reasons set forth below, it is recommended that
Defendants' Motion be denied in part and granted in part.
The Court should also dismiss one claim on screening. These
rulings will terminate the action.
is confined at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center (JHCC).
See Compl. at 4. He claims that after another inmate
allegedly (and anonymously) reported that he had been selling
his morphine, the JHCC physician Defendant Balogh cut off
Plaintiff's pain medication “cold turkey”
“as a form of punishment” and without any due
process. Id. at 9, 12, 16. Plaintiff claims
Defendant Balogh's actions violated prison policy and
showed deliberate indifference to his substantial pain.
See Id. at 9-16. Plaintiff further alleges that
while trying to exhaust his administrative remedies on this
issue, Defendants Mike McDougal and Buddy Honaker denied him
“appellate due process.” Id. at 17-26.
Plaintiff invokes the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendmentsof the federal constitution and also refers
to the Oklahoma Constitution. See Id. at 2, 6-7, 15.
Because Plaintiff cites 28 U.S.C. § 1367, it is presumed
that he is asking the Court to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over any state-law claims.
sues each defendant in his individual and official
capacities and seeks an injunction requiring
Defendant Balogh to restart Plaintiff's pain medication
and a “direct settlement conference.”
Id. at 4, 7-8.
Analysis of Defendants' Motion
seeks dismissal and/or summary judgment on numerous grounds.
The Court should: (1) deny dismissal on Defendants'
Eleventh Amendment immunity argument; (2) grant dismissal
with prejudice on Plaintiff's “appellate due
process” claim; and (3) grant summary judgment for
Plaintiff's failure to establish deliberate indifference
under the Eighth Amendment. These rulings negate any need to
address Defendants' remaining arguments.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
relevant part, Defendants seek dismissal on grounds that they
are immune from monetary relief under the Eleventh Amendment
and Plaintiff cannot state a due process claim based on
alleged interference with the grievance process. See
Motion at 13-15, 17-18. The Court should reject the first
argument, but grant dismissal on the second.
Standard for Review
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim for 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.
se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly construed under
the Rule 12(b)(6) standard. See Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520 (1972). However, the generous construction
“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).
Defendants' Eleventh Amendment Argument
“[s]tates enjoy sovereign immunity from suit under the
Eleventh Amendment.” Muscogee (Creek) Nation v.
Pruitt, 669 F.3d 1159, 1166 (10th Cir. 2012). Pursuant
to this doctrine, Defendants first argue that in their
official capacities they “cannot be sued in federal
court for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Motion
at 14. They then explain that they are “immune from
suit for money damages in their official capacities as
employees of ODOC.” Id. Defendants'
arguments are misguided.
Plaintiff has not sought monetary relief; instead, he seeks
an injunction forcing Defendant Balogh to restart his
preferred prescription medication. See Compl. at
So, Defendants' argument relating to their immunity from
monetary damages is moot. See Raheem v. Miller, No.
CIV-09-80-C, 2010 WL 1253572, at *1 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 24,
2010) (unpublished report and recommendation) (“The
Eleventh Amendment immunity defense is moot, as [plaintiff]
did not seek monetary damages from [Defendants].”),
adopted, 2010 WL 1253577 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 25, 2010)
(unpublished district court order).
a plaintiff may indeed sue State employees in their official
capacities in this Court when he seeks prospective injunctive
relief to end an alleged ongoing violation of federal
See Muscogee (Creek) Nation, 669 F.3d at 1166
(holding under Ex parte Young, “a plaintiff
may bring suit against individual state officers acting in
their official capacities if the complaint alleges an ongoing
violation of federal law and the plaintiff seeks prospective
relief”). Here, Plaintiff is seeking an injunction for
an allegedly continuing violation of the Eighth Amendment -
the ongoing denial of his preferred pain medication. Under
such circumstances, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar his
request for prospective injunctive relief. See Gosselin
v. Kaufman, 656 Fed.Appx. 916, 918 (10th Cir. 2016)
(noting that plaintiff was requesting an injunction ordering
a prison medical official to arrange for medical treatment
and holding: “The Eleventh Amendment does not bar this
claim seeking prospective relief.”); see also
Campbell v. Jones, No. CIV-13-926-R, 2014 WL 652340, at
*1, *5 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 19, 2014) (unpublished district court
order) (holding plaintiff's request for injunctive relief
seeking adequate medical care “is a request for
these circumstances, the Court should deny Defendants'
motion to dismiss on their Eleventh Amendment immunity
Defendants' Defense to Plaintiff's “Appellate
Due Process” Claim
to Plaintiff, Defendants Honaker and McDougal violated
Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) policy and his
“appellate due process” rights when they
allegedly allowed Defendant Balogh to change a grievance
response and otherwise interfered with his attempts to
exhaust administrative remedies. Compl. at
17-26. Defendants argue that ...