United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
KENT G. SAVAGE, Plaintiff,
GOVERNOR MARY FALLIN, et al., Defendants.
HEATON CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
§ 1983 case, plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the
Oklahoma Department of Corrections (“ODOC”),
asserts violations of his Eighth Amendment right to safe and
humane conditions of confinement. At the time the case was
filed, he asserted claims against the Governor of Oklahoma,
Oklahoma legislative leaders, and several officials of the
ODOC. Various proceedings have since occurred in the case,
resulting in the disposition of some claims, and it is useful
to briefly recount the history before addressing the pending
filed this case pro se in 2015. Following its
filing, the case was referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon
T. Erwin for initial proceedings. Judge Erwin issued a report
recommending that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety
on various grounds. That report was adopted by this court and
plaintiff's claims were dismissed.
appealed the dismissal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.
It affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's claims for
damages against all the defendants in their official
capacities. It affirmed the dismissal of all claims of any
kind against defendants Cline and Doke. It also affirmed the
dismissal of all claims against the legislative leaders, on
the basis of legislative immunity.
Circuit reversed this court's dismissal of the claims
against Governor Fallin on the basis of legislative immunity,
concluding that plaintiff had potentially alleged claims
against her based on actions which were administrative,
rather than legislative, in nature and hence not barred by
legislative immunity. It left open the question of whether
claims against her were otherwise stated.
Circuit also reversed the dismissal as to the claims against
ODOC officials Bryant and Patton, concluding that plaintiff
had sufficiently alleged a basis for claim against those two
remand, plaintiff, still proceeding pro se, sought
and received leave to file an amended complaint adding a
claim against the current director of ODOC, Joe Allbaugh. The
amended complaint, in addition to adding the claims against
Allbaugh, also reasserted some of the claims that had been
previously dismissed and the dismissal upheld by the Circuit.
This court adopted a second Report and Recommendation
dismissing again those claims the dismissal of which had been
affirmed by the Tenth Circuit.
result of these proceedings is that, after remand and the
amendment, claims remain (or potentially remain) against
Governor Fallin and ODOC officials Patton, Bryant, and
Allbaugh. The claims assert Eighth Amendment violations based
on the defendants' alleged deliberate indifference to a
substantial risk of serious harm to plaintiff, due to their
failure to address overcrowding and understaffing in the
state's correctional facilities. Plaintiff also asserts a
state law claim against these defendants for intentional
infliction of emotional distress.
remaining defendants have moved to dismiss the remaining
claims on various grounds or, alternatively, for summary
judgment as to them. Judge Erwin issued a third Report and
Recommendation as to those motions, recommending that they be
treated as summary judgment motions and denied. The
defendants have objected to the recommendation, which
triggers de novo review by this court of the matters
to which objection was made.
threshold matter, the court concludes the present motions
should be viewed as motions to dismiss, rather than for
summary judgment, and resolved on that basis. Plaintiff is an
incarcerated prisoner, which limits his ability to secure
factual materials such as might bear on claims he raises
here. Until recently, he has proceeded pro se and he
secured legal counsel, at least formally, only after his
objections to the pending motions were due.Given these
circumstances, including the Court of Appeals' conclusion
that some claims have been stated and the complexity of
certain of the legal doctrines involved, the court concludes
it is premature to resolve the present motions as ones for
the motions as motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), the standard of review is familiar. To survive a
motion to dismiss under that rule, the complaint must contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Conclusory
allegations are insufficient to state a facially plausible
claim. Id. at 557. A claim is facially plausible
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Thus, dismissal under
Rule 12(b)(6) is only appropriate “if the complaint
alone is legally insufficient.” Brokers' Choice
of America, 861 F.3d at 1104-05 (citation omitted).
asserts claims against the four defendants in both their
individual and official capacities. To the extent he asserts
claims against the defendants in their official capacities,
Eleventh Amendment immunity limits the relief that is
available. That amendment bars claims for damages or other
relief sought directly against a state. However, it is
subject to limited exceptions. The exception applicable here
was recognized by Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123
(1908), which established that a plaintiff may “bring
suit against individual states officers in their official
capacities if the complaint alleges an ongoing violation of
federal law and the plaintiff seeks prospective
relief.” Muskogee (Creek) Nation v. Pruitt,
669 F.3d 1159, 1166 (10th Cir. 2012). Here, the
complaint purports to do that.
state an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must allege
facts showing that the officials, “acting with
deliberate indifference, exposed a prisoner to a sufficiently
substantial risk of serious damage to his future
health.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843
(1994) (quotations and citation omitted). To succeed on such
a claim, plaintiff must demonstrate that the
“defendant-officials  at the time suit was filed . .
. knowingly and unreasonably disregard[ed] an objectively
intolerable risk of harm, and that they will continue to do
so . . . during the remainder of the litigation and into the
future.” Id. at 846.
Court of Appeals concluded that plaintiff has adequately
pleaded claims that defendants Bryant and Patton were
deliberately indifferent to overcrowding and understaffing
conditions that posed a substantial risk of serious harm.
“At this preliminary phase, we conclude that Savage has
plausibly pled that he is subjected to overcrowding and
staffing conditions that pose a substantial risk of serious
harm” sufficient to satisfy the objective component of
an Eighth Amendment violation. Savage v. Fallin, ...