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Soto v. Garfield County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

August 27, 2019

CURRY J. SOTO, Plaintiff,
v.
GARFIELD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Curry J. Soto, a state prisoner appearing pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violation of his constitutional rights. See Compl. (Doc. No. 1). Upon review of Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court finds that certain of the claims asserted by Plaintiff should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         I. Standard of Review and the Court's Screening Obligation

         The Court is obliged to conduct an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint to identify its cognizable claims and to dismiss the pleading, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). A pro se litigant's complaint must be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). The broad construction of a pro se plaintiff's allegations does not, however, “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).

         A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citation omitted). In evaluating whether a plaintiff has stated a valid claim, the Court “accept[s] as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Burnett v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 706 F.3d 1231, 1235 (10th Cir. 2013); see also Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007) (applying Rule 12(b)(6) standard to review of a dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). Bare legal conclusions in a complaint are not entitled to the assumption of truth; “they must be supported by factual allegations” to state a claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff's Complaint names seven Defendants: Sheriff Jerry Niles, Deputy Chance, Deputy Bishop, Supervisor Vanessa, and Assistant Jail Administrator Marcus (collectively, the “Individual Defendants”); and Garfield County Detention Facility (“GCDF”) and the Garfield County Sheriff's Department (collectively, the “County Defendants”). See Compl. at 1, 5-6, 9.[1] Liberally construing the complaint, the undersigned has assumed for purposes of preliminary review that the Individual Defendants are sued in both their official and individual capacities.[2] Plaintiff seeks the termination of the Individual Defendants from their employment, as well as money damages. See Id. at 9, 10, 12.

         Plaintiff's allegations present three § 1983 claims arising from a period when Plaintiff was housed at GCDF: (1) an excessive-force claim based on the Eighth Amendment (Claim 1); and (2) a conditions-of-confinement claim based on the Eighth Amendment (Claim 2); (3) a claim for deprivation of religious materials based on the First Amendment (Claim 3).

         Claim 1, asserted against the five Individual Defendants, is based on events alleged to have occurred on or about November 11, 2016. See Id. at 8-9, 11. According to the Complaint, Defendant Vanessa procured an order from Defendant Marcus to have Plaintiff removed from GCDF's medical unit, despite a previous instruction from the Jail Administrator to “‘NOT' . . . move [Plaintiff] out of Medical due to [p]rotective [c]ustody issues without calling [the Jail Administrator] first.” Id. at 9. Plaintiff alleges that, in response to the order, Defendants Chance and Bishop arrived at the medical unit and, “without giving any verbal commands, immediately apprehended [Plaintiff], . . . twist[ed] his arm behind his back [and] forc[ed] him to bend over a table” while “repeatedly punch[ing] [Plaintiff] in the ribs.” Id. at 11. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Chance “pinned [Plaintiff] against the table from behind by pressing his genitals against [Plaintiff's] buttocks [and] repeatedly grinding [and] pressing himself against [Plaintiff], ” resulting in “bruising on [Plaintiff] in the crotch area.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that after the attack, a GCDF nurse submitted an incident report and that photographs were taken of his injuries by a facility supervisor. See id.

         Claims 2 and 3 are asserted against the two County Defendants. See Id. at 9-10, 12. In Claim 2, Plaintiff alleges that, from July 7, 2016, to January 8, 2017, he was “repeatedly denied cleaning supplies while . . . house[d] in a cell in Medical Pod that was full of blood, used bandages, urine, [and] feces.” Id. at 10. He also alleges that from October to December of 2016 he “was repeatedly left in the cell with [another] inmate's blood” and was “forced to clean up the blood” himself without proper “cleaning supplies and material.” Id. at 11. Plaintiff further alleges that, when cleaning materials were ultimately provided, they were “issued to [him] through his eating slot (bean hole).” Id. at 11.

         Claim 3 is predicated on the allegation that, from December 24, 2016, to December 28, 2016, Plaintiff's “clothes, mattress, blanket, property, [and] Bible were physically removed from him by Garfield County Sheriff's Department [and] [GCDF] staff . . ., subjecting [Plaintiff] to concrete lock-down [and] denial of religious material.” Id. at 12.

         III. Discussion

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that he or she has been deprived of a federal right and that the person who deprived him or her of that right was a “person” acting under color of state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As an initial matter, the Court must determine whether the various Defendants are subject to suit.

         A. Claim 2 and 3: Claims Against ...


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