United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
DENTON W. GAGE, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN AFFAIRS / OKLAHOMA CITY VETERANS HOSPITAL, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. White United States District Judge
a pro se prisoner who is incarcerated at Cimarron
Correctional Facility in Cushing, Oklahoma, filed this civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking
monetary relief for alleged constitutional violations related
to his incarceration (Dkt. 1). He has named four defendants:
Department of Veterans Affairs/Oklahoma City Veterans
Hospital; Oklahoma Department of Corrections/State of
Oklahoma; Veterans Affairs Treatment Court; and Payne County
District Court. Id. at 2-3.
courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in
which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a). The Court must identify any cognizable
claims and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious,
fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. §
pleading standard for all civil actions was articulated in
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). To
avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must present factual
allegations, assumed to be true, that “raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must contain “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 570. A court must accept all the
well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, even if
doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at
se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly construed under
this standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
The generous construction to be given to the pro se
litigant's allegations, however, “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). Notwithstanding a pro se plaintiff's various
mistakes or misunderstandings of legal doctrines or
procedural requirements, “if a court can reasonably
read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the
plaintiff could prevail, it should do so . . . .”
Id. A reviewing court need not accept “mere
conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson
v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990).
alleges that from approximately June 1, 2014, to August 28,
2015, he was incarcerated at the following facilities:
LeFlore County Jail in Poteau, Oklahoma; Jim E. Hamilton
Correctional Facility in Hodgen, Oklahoma; Union City
Correctional Center in Union City, Oklahoma; Mangum Work
Center in Mangum, Oklahoma; Lexington Assessment and
Reception Center in Lexington, Oklahoma; and Tulsa County
Jail in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also served time related to the
Veterans Treatment Court in Tulsa. He complains about the
length of his conviction and his security level related to an
unspecified misconduct. He further states he is seeking
monetary damages for the time of his incarceration and for
violations of Department of Corrections administrative
procedures. (Dkt. 1 at 13).
asserts that after he was released from the LeFlore County
Jail, he was unable to find a job, and he attempted suicide
on multiple occasions when no agency or facility was able to
assist him in finding gainful employment. He claims he was
prescribed a placebo medication for anxiety at the Veterans
Affairs Hospital/Mental Health Facility in Oklahoma City,
which caused him stress and anxiety related to his
unemployment and resulted in his “attempted involuntary
suicide.” He alleges the sentence he presently is
serving for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon actually arose
from the “involuntary” attempt at
suicide. he was suicidal, he allegedly was denied
access to his Judgment and Sentence, forms, or writing
instruments with which to file an appeal, and his public
defender was ineffective. Plaintiff is asserting the acts of
the State of Oklahoma/Department of Corrections and the
Veterans Affairs administration denied him the right of
access to the courts. Id. at 13-14.
are not Proper Parties
initial matter, the Court finds the defendants named in the
complaint are not proper parties for a civil rights action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has sued numerous
state and federal agencies and facilities, a state district
court, and the State of Oklahoma. A § 1983 action,
however, provides a cause of action against state officials,
not federal agencies. See Pahls v. Thomas, 718 F.3d
1210, 1225 (10th Cir. 2013). To state a claim under §
1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and
must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a
person acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
(1988). See also Tarabishi v. McAlester Reg'l
Hosp., 827 F.2d 648, 651 (10th Cir. 1987) (“The
provisions of § 1983 apply only to persons who deprive
others of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the
United States and who act under color of state statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom or usage”). It is
well-established that absent an unmistakable waiver by the
State of its Eleventh Amendment immunity, or an unmistakable
abrogation of such immunity by Congress, the amendment
provides absolute immunity from suit in federal courts for
states and their agencies. Atascadero State Hosp. v.
Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 241, 243 (1985); Florida
Dep't of Health and Rehabilitative Servs. v. Florida
Nursing Home Ass'n, 450 U.S. 147, 150, 101 (1981)
(per curiam). See also Will v. Michigan Dep't of
State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (holding that
states and governmental entities considered arms of the state
for Eleventh Amendment purposes are not “persons”
within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Sutton v.
Utah State Sch. for the Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226,
1237 (10th Cir. 1999) (holding that “a cause of action
under § 1983 requires a deprivation of a civil right by
a ‘person' acting under color of state law”).
to the Courts
alleges he was denied access to the courts to file an appeal.
He, however, admits he was represented by counsel.
“[A]n inmate's right of access to the court is
adequately protected where the inmate is represented by
counsel, even if the inmate is not allowed access to legal
materials to personally conduct legal research.”
Smith v. Harvey County Jail, 889 F.Supp. 426, 431-32
(D. Kan. 1995) (citations omitted).