United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
H. Payne, Judge
action is before the Court on Defendants' motion to
dismiss or for summary judgment (Dkt. 18) and Plaintiff's
motion for class certification and for appointment of class
counsel (Dkt. 22). The Court has before it for consideration
Plaintiff's complaint (Dkt. 2-5); the parties motions;
the responses to the motions (Dkts. 23, 24); Defendants'
reply to Plaintiff's response (Dkt. 25); a special report
prepared by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) at
the direction of the Court, in accordance with Martinez
v. Aaron, 570 F.2d 317 (10th Cir. 1978) (Dkt. 16); and
Plaintiff's objection to the special report (Dkt. 21).
is a pro se state prisoner in the custody of DOC who is
incarcerated at Lawton Correctional Facility in Lawton,
Oklahoma, serving two sentences of life without parole. He
brings this action under the authority of 42 U.S.C. §
1983, seeking monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief
for alleged constitutional violations during his
incarceration at Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) in
McAlester, Oklahoma. The defendants are Kenneth Goodyear, OSP
Case Manager; Jessica Smith, OSP Warden's Assistant;
Kevin Duckworth, former OSP Warden; Mark Knutson, DOC
Director's Designee; Joe Allbaugh, DOC Director; and
“named and unnamed employees.” (Dkt. 2-5 at 1).
alleges that on December 15, 2008, he arrived at OSP from the
Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, where he had been
assigned to a class level upon initial entrance into the DOC.
OSP officials, however, failed to issue the appropriate
prison wages for his class level 2 assignment, as required by
DOC OP-060107. Plaintiff claims he continued to meet and
maintain the level criteria set forth in OP-060107 and was
promoted to class level 3 on June 1, 2009. He again, however,
did not receive the appropriate pay. On February 1, 2016, he
was promoted to class level 4, but OSP officials continued to
withhold his pay. On or about February 3, 2016, Plaintiff
discovered his prison wages were not being deposited into his
prison trust account. He asserts OP-060107 entitles
incarcerated offenders to receive the appropriate pay grade
commensurate with class level assignments while being
unemployed because of the unavailability of a facility job,
“if all other level criteria is [sic] met.” (Dkt.
2-5 at 3-4).
further alleges “violations of his constitutional
rights to a protected property interest, prohibition against
retaliation for exercising a protected right, and denial of
access to the courts.” (Dkt. 2-5 at 3). He claims
Defendants “unlawfully withheld [his] earned prison
wages without due process or other justification.”
Id. In addition, he allegedly has been denied the
following rights under the federal and state constitutions:
(1) the right to property interest, (2) the right to petition
the government for redress of grievances, and (3) the right
of free speech. Id. at 7. Motion for Class
Certification and Appointment of Class
initial matter, Plaintiff has asked the Court to certify this
case as a class action and to appoint class counsel. (Dkt.
22). Respondent has filed an objection, urging the Court to
deny Plaintiff's request. (Dkt. 23).
asserts in the motion that the complaint “alleges facts
that affect ‘numerous' prisoner's [sic] so that
non-joinder of all members would be impracticable” . .
. [and] “[t]here are questions of law and fact common
to the class[.]” Id. at 1. Plaintiff further
contends the alleged violation of withholding prison wages
“spans throughout a number of decades, thereby
affecting an innumerable amount of prisoner's [sic] that
were and are currently being housed at the Oklahoma State
Penitentiary during the years in question, with said injury
extending further back than plaintiff's own
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the
following requirements for a class action:
(a) Prerequisites. One or more members of a class may sue or
be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are
typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately
protect the interests of the class.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)
Wal-mart v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338 (2011), the Supreme
Court held that the district court has an independent
obligation to conduct a “rigorous analysis” into
the merits of the plaintiff's claims before concluding
that Rule 23's requirements have been satisfied.
Id. at 350-51. As set forth below, the Court
concludes that Plaintiff's claims lack merit.
his motion for class certification and class counsel (Dkt.
22) must be DENIED.
of Review for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is
such that “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Id. In making this
determination, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to
be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn
in his favor.” Id. at 255. However, a party
opposing a motion for summary judgment may not simply allege
there are disputed issues of fact; rather, the party must
support its assertions by citing to the record or by showing
the moving party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Thus, the inquiry for
this Court is “whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.
With these standards in mind, the court turns to the merits
of the defendants' motion.
Defendants allege Plaintiff's claims against them in
their official capacities, and thereby the State of Oklahoma,
must fail, because Oklahoma is immune from suit. The Oklahoma
Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA), Okla. Stat. tit. 51,
§ 151, is the exclusive remedy by which an injured
plaintiff may recover against a governmental entity for the
alleged torts of its agents and its employees. Fuller v.
Odom, 741 P.2d 449, 451-53 (Okla. 1987).
bring a claim under the GTCA, a plaintiff must comply with
procedural rules. Crockett v. Cent. Okla. Transp. &
Parking Auth., 231 P.3d 748, 752 (2010). A person with a
claim against the State or a political subdivision must
present notice of the claim within one (1) year of the date
the loss ...