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Stephens v. Dillard

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

August 28, 2019

RODNEY D. STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHELLE DILLARD, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Ronald A. White United States District Judge

         Plaintiff is a pro se state prisoner in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) who is incarcerated at Jess Dunn Correctional Center (JDCC) in Taft, Oklahoma. He has filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking relief for alleged constitutional violations at his facility (Dkt. 1). The defendants are Michelle Dillard, JDCC Nurse; Jarrod Roberts, JDCC Medical Administrator; Cheri Atkinson, DOC Medical Services Manager; and the DOC.

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 19, 2018, he slipped and fell on a wet floor, injuring his right knee. He complains he has not received timely and appropriate treatment for the injury and requests monetary and other relief. After review of the complaint, the Court finds Plaintiff must file an amended civil rights complaint on the Court's form, as set forth below.

         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 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 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).

         Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         The State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment protects states from damages suits unless Congress has abrogated sovereign immunity or the state has waived it. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). Oklahoma has not consented to be sued in federal court, see Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 152.1, and § 1983 does not abrogate states' sovereign immunity, see Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989).

         The DOC is shielded by sovereign immunity, because it is an arm of the state. See Eastwood v. Dep't of Corr., 846 F.2d 627, 631-32 (10th Cir. 1988). “[T]he Eleventh Amendment also precludes a federal court from assessing damages against state officials sued in their official capacities because such suits are in essence suits against the state.” Hunt v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1263, 1267 (10th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Therefore, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and Defendants Michelle Dillard, Jarrod Roberts, and Cheri Atkinson in their official capacities are DISMISSED from this action, based on Eleventh Amendment immunity. Because the Eleventh Amendment involves sovereign immunity, the official-capacity claims are dismissed “without prejudice” rather than “with prejudice.” Rural Water Sewer & Solid Waste Mgmt., Dist. No. 1, Logan County, Okla. v. Guthrie, 654 F.3d 1058, 1069 n.9 (10th Cir. 2011).

         Defendant Nurse Michelle Dillard

          In his request for relief, Plaintiff asks for revocation of Defendant Dillard's nursing license. Plaintiff is advised that this proposed action is not available through a § 1983 civil rights complaint. Therefore, Plaintiff's amended complaint should not include this request.

         Amended Complaint

         Within twenty-one (21) days of the entry of this Order, Plaintiff must file an amended complaint on this 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”). Further, the names in the caption ...


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