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Williams v. Hininger

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 14, 2019

KENTRELL WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
DAMON HININGER, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SHONT. ERWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kentrell Williams, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging various violations of his constitutional rights. (ECF No. 1). United States District Judge Robin J. Cauthron has 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). Based on that review, the Court should: (1) dismiss, with prejudice, the official capacity claims against Defendants Hininger, Hall, Plural, Battles, and Rashti; (2) dismiss, without prejudice, the individual capacity claims against Defendants Hall, Miller, Lite, Beaming, Thompson, Hininger, and Plural; and (3) dismiss, without prejudice, the claims against Defendant Core Civic.

         I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         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).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his 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).

         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).” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citation omitted). Bare legal conclusions in a complaint, however, 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); see also Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (noting that although courts construe pro se pleadings liberally, courts “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint”). 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).

         III. NAMED DEFENDANTS AND PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         Mr. Williams is incarcerated at Cimarron Correctional Facility (CCF) and has alleged various constitutional violations in connection with his incarceration. (ECF No. 1). As Defendants, Plaintiff names: (1) Damon Hininger, CEO of Core Civic, the company which operates CCF;[1] (2) Core Civic; (3) Lieutenant Hall, employee of CCF; (4) Sergeant Plural, employee of CCF; (5) Mrs. Miller, Case Manager at CCF; (6) Mr. Battles, Unit Manager at CCF; (7) CC Lite, Case Counselor at CCF; (8) Ms. Beaming, mental health physician at CCF; (9) Ms. Rashti, Health Services Administrator at CCF; and (10) Victoria Thompson, Case Manager at CCF. (ECF No. 1:2-4). Mr. Williams seeks damages: (1) against Defendants Hininger, Hall, and Plural in both their official and individual capacities; (2) against Defendants Core Civic, Battles, and Rashti, in their official capacities only; and (3) against Defendants Miller, Lite, Beaming, and Thompson in their individual capacities only. (ECF No. 1:2-4).

         In the Complaint, Mr. Williams alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by denying him:

• mental health treatment and medications;
• hygiene supplies;
• indigent postage;
• a single lunch tray; and
• cold water from his sink.

(ECF Nos. 1:5-9; 1-1; 1-3; 1-4; 1-5; 1-6).[2]

         IV. DISMISSAL OF OFFICIAL CAPACITY CLAIMS

         As stated, Plaintiff raises official capacity claims against Defendants Hininger, Hall, Plural, Battles, and Rashti. (ECF No. 1:2-4). But as employees of a private prison, these Defendants are not state officials, and official capacity claims cannot be asserted against them. See Jones v. Barry, 33 Fed.Appx. 967, 971, n.5 (10th Cir. 2002) (“the CCA defendants are not state actors, and they do not have an “official capacity.”); Alamiin v. Patton, No. CIV-13-1001-F, 2016 WL 7217857, at *6 (W.D. Okla. Dec. 13, 2016) (“As employees of a private prison, they are not state officials, and official capacity claims cannot be asserted against them.”). Thus, the Court should dismiss the official capacity claims against Defendants Hininger, Hall, Plural, Battles, and Rashti with prejudice. See Miskam v. Sherrod, No. CIV-14-0646-HE, 2015 WL 4717105, at *3 (W.D. Okla. Aug. 7, 2015) (dismissing official capacity claims against private prison employees with prejudice).[3]

         V. DISMISSAL OF INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS HALL, BEAMING, LITE, MILLER, AND THOMPSON

         Mr. Williams has alleged individual capacity claims against Defendants Hall, Miller, Lite, Beaming, and Thompson. (ECF No. 1:3-4) Specifically, Plaintiff has alleged that these Defendants have violated the Eighth Amendment by: (1) exhibiting deliberate indifference to his medical needs and (2) subjecting him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The Court should dismiss these claims without prejudice.

         A. General Requisites to State a Claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

          To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must sufficiently plead personal involvement, causation, and state of mind. Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dept., 717 F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013). Also, liability in a supervisory capacity may be found if a plaintiff demonstrates that any defendant: (1) promulgated, created, implemented, or possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a policy that (2) caused the complained of constitutional harm and (3) acted with the state of mind required to establish the alleged constitutional deprivation. Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1199 (10th Cir. 2010). To prove liability in a supervisory capacity, the plaintiff must also identify the specific policies over which the defendants possessed responsibility that led to the alleged constitutional deprivation. Pahls v. Thomas, 718 F.3d 1210, 1226 (10th Cir. 2013).

         B. Specific Requisites to State an Eighth Amendment Claim-Denial of Medical Care and Conditions of Confinement

         The Constitution, through the Eighth Amendment, imposes on state governments an “obligation to provide medical care for those whom [they are] punishing by incarceration. An inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical needs; if they fail to do so, those needs will not be met.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). However, “[b]ecause society does not expect that prisoners will have unqualified access to health care, ” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992), an inmate cannot hold a prison official liable unless the inmate shows that he or she suffered “acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to [the inmate's] serious medical needs, ” Gamble, 429 U.S. at 106. “It is only such indifference that can offend ‘evolving standards of decency' in violation of the Eighth Amendment.” Gamble, 429 U.S. at 106. Additionally, the Eighth Amendment “does not mandate comfortable prisons, ” ...


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