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Halliwell v. Allbaugh

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

January 15, 2019

JOE ALLBAUGH, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Phoebe Renee Halliwell, a/k/a Ronny Darnell, [1] a state inmate appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her constitutional rights. (ECF No. 1). Currently before the Court are three pleadings: (1) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11-1); (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 4); and (3) Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. (ECF No. 6). Chief United States District Judge Joe Heaton referred this matter to the undersigned magistrate judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C). A review of the complaint has been conducted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). On January 7, 2019, this matter was transferred to United States District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti. See ECF No. 14.

         Based on that review, the Court should: (1) dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety, without prejudice, for failure to state a claim, (2) deny Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of Counsel, and (3) deny Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.


         The Court must review each complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court likewise must review each case brought by a prisoner with respect to prison conditions and each case in which a plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court is required to dismiss the complaint or any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).


         The Court must accept Plaintiff's allegations as true and construe them, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). Since Ms. Halliwell is proceeding pro se, her Amended Complaint must be construed liberally. See id. at 1218. The Court “review[s] the complaint for plausibility; that is, to determine whether the complaint includes enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Young v. Davis, 554 F.3d 1254, 1256 (10th Cir. 2009) (quotations and citation omitted). “Plausible” in this context does not mean “likely to be true, ” but rather refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, ”[2] then the plaintiff has not “nudged (his) claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility requirement “serves not only to weed out claims that do not (in the absence of additional allegations) have a reasonable prospect of success, but also to inform the defendants of the actual grounds of the claim against them.” Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1248 (10th Cir. 2008).

         A complaint fails to state such a claim when it lacks factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” on the assumption “that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation and citation omitted). Bare legal conclusions in a complaint are not assumed to be true; legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations” to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         “[A] pro se plaintiff requires no special legal training to recount the facts surrounding his alleged injury, and he must provide such facts if the court is to determine whether he makes out a claim on which relief can be granted.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). As a result, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief.” Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Whether a complaint contains sufficient facts to avoid dismissal is context-specific and is determined through a court's application of “judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Gee v. Pacheco, 627 F.3d 1178, 1184-85 (10th Cir. 2010) (discussing Iqbal).


         Plaintiff's claims arise from Defendants' alleged failure to treat Plaintiff's Gender Dysphoria (GD) during Ms. Halliwell's incarceration at Cimarron Correctional Facility (CCF). Plaintiff asserts claims against eight Defendants: (1) Joe Allbaugh, Director of the DOC; (2) Joel McCurdy, DOC's Chief Medical Officer; (3) Buddy Honaker, DOC Medical Services Administrator and member of the Personal Identity Administrative Review Authority Review Board (PIARA); (4) Patricia Jones, psychiatrist who treated Plaintiff while she was incarcerated at Davis Correctional Facility (DCF); (5) Raymond Byrd, Warden at CCF; (6) FNU Rashti, Health Services Administrator at CCF; (7) FNU Paine, physician at CCF; and (8) FNU Beard, physician at CCF. (ECF No. 11-1:2-4).


         Plaintiff, a 50-year-old individual who was born male, has identified as female since age two, and began taking “Black Market” hormones at age 16. (ECF No. 11-1:4, 13-14). Ms. Halliwell was incarcerated on January 10, 2005, and arrived at Lexington Assessment and Reception Center on January 13, 2006, when Plaintiff contends DOC “took [her] hormones from her and told her that she would not be allowed to continue taking hormones while in prison.” (ECF No. 11-1:4). In June of 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to DCF where she was evaluated by Defendant Jones in July of 2017. (ECF No. 11-1:4-6). Dr. Jones allegedly diagnosed Plaintiff with a “severe case” of GD, and promised Plaintiff a follow-up visit in 3 weeks. (ECF No. 11-1:5-6). Three months passed with no word from Dr. Jones and Ms. Halliwell was transferred to CCF. (ECF No. 11-1:6). Plaintiff became aware that other inmates at CCF were receiving hormone therapy and Plaintiff began seeking the same. Id.

         In her efforts, Plaintiff saw Dr. Paine in December 2017, who stated that Dr. Jones had reported that Ms. Halliwell did not meet the criteria for GD. Id. Plaintiff requested a second opinion and Dr. Paine arranged an appointment for Plaintiff to see another psychiatrist, Dr. Hennenigan. Id. At the February 14, 2018 appointment with Dr. Hennenigan, Plaintiff states that the psychiatrist found that Plaintiff met all six criteria for GD. Id. Dr. Hennenigan told Plaintiff that she required treatment, and logged the GD diagnosis and request for treatment in Plaintiff's records. Id. Three months passed and Plaintiff sought a copy of her medical records by filing a request with Ms. Rashti. Id. Ms. Rashti informed Plaintiff that there was no diagnosis of GD in her medical records. Id.

         Plaintiff began seeing a new physician, Dr. Beard, who authorized: (1) a change of Plaintiff's medications-an elimination of HTCZ (a water pill) and an increase of a blood pressure medication, Spironolactone, from 25 mg per day to 100 mg per day and (2) a bra order for Plaintiff. (ECF No. 11-1:5). Plaintiff states that the increased medication helped treat her GD, but after 30 days, “DOC” told Defendant Beard to take Plaintiff off of Spironolactone and cancel the bra order. (ECF No. 11-1:6).

         Plaintiff attempted to contact Dr. Hennenigan, via a request to staff, but Defendant Rashti allegedly blocked the correspondence. Id. Plaintiff contends that “DOC” is erasing the GD diagnosis from her medical file and directing CCF to not treat Plaintiff's GD. Id. Plaintiff alleges that other transgender inmates at CCF are receiving hormone therapy and she is being discriminated against by failing to receive the same treatment. Id.

         In her Amended Complaint, Ms. Halliwell specifies three ...

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