United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CHAD A. COBURN, Plaintiff,
CHAD MILLER, Warden, et al., Defendants.
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Chad A. Coburn, an Oklahoma prisoner appearing pro se and
proceeding in forma pauperis, has filed suit under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that several private
correctional employees violated Plaintiff's Fourteenth
Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.
See Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 1-6; Am. Br. (Doc. No.
48) at 1-9; Am. Br. Exs. 1-11 (Doc. Nos. 48-1 to
48-11). Specifically, Plaintiff contends that
these employees of a company operating private correctional
facilities in Oklahoma failed to deliver Plaintiff's
private property to Plaintiff after he was transferred from
one such facility to another. On September 6, 2018, the Court
denied Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 58), in
which the four remaining Defendants had argued that Plaintiff
failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing
suit. See Order (Doc. No. 62) at 1-3 (Heaton, J.).
Following the opportunity for discovery and dispositive
motions,  Plaintiffs' claims would appear to be
ready for trial. The Court, however, remains obligated to
screen Plaintiff's pleading and dismiss any claim that
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 1915A(b).
Exercising that obligation, the Court determines that
Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed.
Obligation and Standard of Review
Court is required by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act to
screen Plaintiff's pleading in order to identify its
cognizable claims and to dismiss the pleading, or any portion
thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks damages from
a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 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). 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.
Id.; see Burnett v. Mortg. Elec. Registration
Sys., Inc., 706 F.3d 1231, 1236 (10th Cir. 2013). A pro
se plaintiff's complaint must be “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 “sufficient facts on which
a recognized legal claim could be based, ”
id., and district courts cannot “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).
of Plaintiff's Pleading
claims arise from events that transpired around the time of
Plaintiff's transfer from Cimarron Correctional Facility
(“CCF”), a facility in Cushing, Oklahoma,
operated by a company formerly known as Corrections
Corporation of America (“CCA”), to Davis
Correctional Facility (“DCF”) in Holdenville,
Oklahoma, which is also operated by CCA. Plaintiff alleges
that CCF failed to send certain personal property items to
DCF when Plaintiff was transferred on January 8, 2014.
See Compl. at 6; Am. Br. at 5-8. Plaintiff asserts
that in failing to deliver to him his television, watch, and
“commissary, ” Defendants deprived Plaintiff of
his personal property without due process and violated his
right to equal protection. See Compl. at 4; Am. Br.
at 4, 6, 8. Plaintiff asserts these claims against five CCF
employees: Warden Chad Miller,  Chief Unit Manager Hilligoes, and
Property Officers Anmin, Battles, and Mayhem. See
Compl. at 1-3; Am. Br. At 2-3. Plaintiff seeks compensatory
and punitive damages against each Defendant. See
Compl. at 6; Am. Br. at 9.
contends that on October 1, 2013, he was put in disciplinary
segregation at CCF after he was caught with a cell phone in
his possession. See Am. Br. at 3. Two days later,
Defendant Anmin gave Plaintiff a property inventory form
that, according to Plaintiff, did not list his wristwatch.
See Id. at 4. Plaintiff was transferred from CCF to
DCF on January 8, 2014. Id. at 5. Within a few days,
Plaintiff realized that his television, wristwatch, and
packaged food had not been transferred with him. Id.
at 5-6. Plaintiff alleges that on January 15, 2014, he sent a
Request to Staff to Defendants Mayhem, Anmin, and Miller
regarding the property items but received no response.
See Id. 5. Plaintiff then submitted a 14-6D Claim
Form pursuant to the CCA Property Policy on January 29, 2014.
Am. Br. Ex. 7, at 1 (identifying lost items as surge
protector, television, watch, phone book, Koran, boots,
canteen, headphones, and headphone extension). Plaintiff
asserts that this claim was not investigated or answered by
prison officials. See Am. Br. Ex. 1, at 2.
February 7, 2014, however, CCF sent Plaintiff some of the
items listed on the 14-6 Claim Form. See Am. Br. Ex.
11 (identifying returned items as electrical power bar,
headset, shower shoes, and personal hygiene items). According
to Plaintiff, Defendant Anmin “packed and inventoried
[Plaintiff's] property” at CCF, but one or more
unidentified CCF staff members intentionally withheld his
television because Plaintiff “had prior problems with
prison officials at CCF.” Am. Br. at 6-8.
point between February 7, 2014, and March 6, 2014,
Plaintiff's mother contacted CCF regarding the
whereabouts of Plaintiff's television but was told that
all of Plaintiff's remaining property, including his
television, had been sent to DCF. Am. Br. at 6-7; Am. Br. Ex.
10, at 1. Plaintiff contacted DCF's property officer, who
told Plaintiff that his television had not yet arrived and
that he needed to pursue the issue with CCF rather than DCF.
Am. Br. Ex. 10, at 1; Am. Br. at 6-7. Plaintiff does not
allege that he took any further steps authorized by the CCA
Property Policy or that he pursued the matter in state court.
See Am. Br. Ex. 1, at 2.
plaintiff seeking to hold a state-actor defendant personally
liable under § 1983 must ultimately prove that such
defendant, “through the official's own individual
actions, has violated” a right secured to the plaintiff
by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676.
Plaintiff's Equal Protection Claim
alleges that the circumstances described in his pleading and
summarized above constitute a violation of his right to equal
protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. See
Compl. at 4. In support, Plaintiff states only that
Defendants “had a chance to correct the problem”
but neglected to do so. Id.
state an equal protection claim, Plaintiff must allege that
he has intentionally been treated differently than similarly
situated individuals. See Barney v. Pulsipher, 143
F.3d 1299, 1312 (10th Cir. 1998). Further, Plaintiff must
allege facts in the Complaint plausibly showing that he is a
member of a protected class, or that he asserted a
fundamental right, or that any distinction in his treatment
compared to other prisoners' treatment was not reasonably
related to a legitimate penological purpose. See City of
Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439
(1985); SECSYS, LLC v. Vigil, 666 F.3d 678, 688
(10th Cir. 2012) (“[The Equal Protection Clause] seeks
to ensure . . . that those who appear similarly situated are
not treated differently without, at the very least, a