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Clark v. Oklahoma Department of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

February 27, 2019

DAVID GEORGE CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES H. PAYNE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner who is incarcerated at Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Oklahoma, has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Dkt. 1). He alleges he suffered constitutional violations while incarcerated at numerous Oklahoma prisons and names five defendants: Oklahoma Department of Corrections, FNU Sparks, Warden Braggs, Nurse Billie, and Case Manager Gray. He states the individual defendants are located in Lexington, Oklahoma, but does not set forth the facilities where they are employed. As discussed below, Plaintiff must file a proper amended complaint before this case may proceed.

         Screening/Dismissal Standards

         Federal 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. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         The 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 also 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 555-56. “So, when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, ” the cause of action should be dismissed. Id. at 558. The Court applies the same standard of review for dismissals under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) that is employed for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007).

         A pro 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, however, need not accept “mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, 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 (quotations and citations omitted). 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).

         Defendant Oklahoma Department of Corrections

         Plaintiff has named the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) as a defendant. This agency, however, is entitled to dismissal under the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment bars suits in federal court against a state. When a state agency is named as a defendant, the Eleventh Amendment continues to bar the action “if the state is the real, substantial party in interest.” An exception exists when the state waives Eleventh Amendment immunity or it is abrogated by Congress.

         In this case, the State of Oklahoma has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Furthermore, Congress did not abrogate the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity through the enactment of Section 1983. Because the DOC is a state agency, the Eleventh Amendment applies regardless of the relief sought. Therefore, if Plaintiff names the DOC as a defendant in his amended complaint, the agency will be dismissed without prejudice by the Court.

         Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges in his Statement of Claim in the complaint that the “Tulsa County Police Dept. has harass [sic] and threatened me before, during, and after my arrest.” (Dkt. 1 at 4). He also asserts he was threatened at Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, Dick Conner Correctional Center, and Lawton Correctional Facility. Id. Further, he allegedly was beaten and sexually assaulted by other inmates. Id. He, however, makes no specific allegations about any of the named defendants.

         Amended Complaint

         Within twenty-one (21) days of the entry of this Order, Plaintiff must file an amended complaint on the Court's form. The amended complaint must set forth the full name of each person he is suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 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”). In ...


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