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Smith v. Allbaugh

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 30, 2018

FRED SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
JOE ALLBAUGH et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Fred Smith, an Oklahoma prisoner appearing pro se, has filed suit under various federal statutes seeking monetary and injunctive relief against officials within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (“ODOC”). See Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 36) at 1-2, 4, 6-8; Pl.'s Aff. (Doc. No. 36-2) at 1; Am. Compl. Exs. (Doc. Nos. 36-1, 36-3 to 36-6); Am. Compl. Br. in Supp. (Doc. No. 37) at 1-3.[1] Chief United States District Judge Joe Heaton has referred Plaintiff's case to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the Amended Complaint be dismissed except as to a single 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Defendants Joe Allbaugh and Mr. Shelight.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must screen Plaintiff's Amended Complaint to identify its cognizable claims and to dismiss the pleading, or any portion thereof, if it “is frivolous, malicious, . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); accord 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). To survive dismissal a “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, 12(b)(6); Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007). A claim is facially plausible when the well-pled factual allegations, accepted as true and viewed in the plaintiff's favor, “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged” under the governing law. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Burnett v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 706 F.3d 1231, 1236 (10th Cir. 2013).

         A pro se plaintiff's complaint is “construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” so that any potentially valid claim can be fairly decided on its merits. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Still, a pro se plaintiff must allege “facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based, ” id., and district courts should not “construct . . . claims or grounds [for] relief” not fairly presented in the complaint, Windsor v. Colo. Dep't of Corr., 9 Fed.Appx. 967, 970 (10th Cir. 2001). Courts also “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”; Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff makes various allegations regarding the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement while he was incarcerated at James Crabtree Correctional Center (“JCCC”), a state-operated prison in Helena, Oklahoma. See Am. Compl. at 4, 6-7 (Claim I), 7-8 (Claim II); Pl.'s Aff. at 1; Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1; Am. Compl. Ex. 4 (Doc. No. 36-4) at 2; Am. Compl. Ex. 6 (Doc. No. 36-6) at 2; Am. Compl. Br. in Supp. at 1-3. Plaintiff names seven state officials as Defendants to these claims: (1) Joe Allbaugh, ODOC's Director; (2) Dan Grogan, a unit manager at JCCC; (3) Nina, a nurse at JCCC; (4) Dr. Troutt, Plaintiff's treating physician at JCCC; (5) Buddy Honaker, ODOC's Medical Services Administrator; (6) Jason Bryant, JCCC's Warden; and (7) Carol Montolvo, the “Acting CHSA” at JCCC. See Am. Compl. at 1, 4, 6-8; Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1; Pl.'s Aff. at 1. Plaintiff states that he is suing these seven Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. See Am. Compl. at 4; Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1. The Amended Complaint also contains allegations against two other individuals-identified only as “Mr. Shelight” and “Mr. Denton”-whose positions within ODOC are not entirely clear. Am. Compl. at 1, 6; Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1; Pl.'s Aff. at 1. The undersigned assumes that Plaintiff also intended to sue these two Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. See Am. Compl. at 6-8; Trackwell v. U.S. Gov't, 472 F.3d 1242, 1244 (10th Cir. 2007).[2]

         The Amended Complaint, however, is so disjointed and contains so many conclusory allegations and statements that it is nearly “impossible to ascertain” the exact issues “raised for the court's disposition.” Bakalov v. Utah, 4 Fed.Appx. 654, 657 (10th Cir. 2001); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). In the interest of presenting a fair and complete reading, the undersigned has reproduced most of Plaintiff's factual allegations and demands for relief exactly they appear in the Amended Complaint. Cf. Windsor, 9 Fed.Appx. at 968-70 (noting with approval the district court's warnings to pro se plaintiffs that it is their “responsibility to edit and organize their claims and supporting allegations into a manageable format” and that “neither the Court nor Defendants are obligated to search through the Complaint and its voluminous exhibits in order to glean a clear and succinct statement of each claim for relief” (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted)). In relevant part, Plaintiff's handwritten allegations (in italics below) state:

         Claims

         List the federal rights that you believe have been violated, and describe what happened. Each alleged violation of a federal right should be listed separately as its own claim.

         1. Claim 1:

(1) List the right that you believe was violated:
Discrimination because of disabilities; religious discrimination; negligent medical services and care. 8th Amendment violation - denial of adequate medical care and to be free from cruel & unusual punishment. See Attached.
(2) List the defendant(s) to this claim: (If you have sued more than one defendant, specify each person or entity that is a defendant for this particular claim.)
1. Joe Allbaugh, 2. Dan Grogan, 3. Nurse Nina, 4. Dr. Troutt, 5. Buddy Honaker, 6. Carol Montolvo, 7. Mr. Denton.
(3) List the supporting facts:
Each Defendant denied Plaintiff access to his 1st &/or 8th Amendment rights and thus access to adequate medical care and/or his religio[n] as an Orthodox Jew in violation [of the] Americans with Disabilities Act.
(4) Relief requested: (State briefly exactly what you want the court to do for you.)
(1) Change OP-030112 by injunctive order to accommodate disabled, handicapped prisoners and stop religious and medical discrimination (2) declaratory judgment on each claim, and monetary compensation for cost of this case.

         Am. Compl. at 6-7. Plaintiff also appears to be seeking monetary relief from these Defendants. See Am. Compl. Ex. 1, at 1.

         2. Claim II

         (1) List the right that you believe was violated:

Psychological, physical, and emotional damages by deliberate indifference to serious religious and medical needs, and reckless disregard for Plaintiff's religious & medical rights & serious medical needs.
(2) List the defendant(s) to this claim: (If you have sued more than one defendant, specify each person or entity that is a ...

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