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Ellis v. Bryant

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

October 7, 2019

MIKE ELLIS, Plaintiff,
JASON BRYANT, et. al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a state prisoner appearing pro se, brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Joe Gwynn. Doc. No. 22. For the following reasons, it is recommended Defendant Gwynn's Motion be granted. The undersigned further recommends Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Jason Bryant be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at James Crabtree Correctional Center (“JCCC”) located in Helena, Oklahoma. Doc. No. 1 (“Comp.”) at 4. Plaintiff's Complaint asserts an Eighth Amendment claim against former JCCC Warden, Jason Bryant, and Unit Manager Joe Gwynn alleging that JCCC was infested with bedbugs and JCCC staff did not take sufficient action to remedy the problem. Id. at 7, 11-12. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts a First Amendment claim against Defendant Gwynn alleging that after Plaintiff complained about the bedbugs to an auditor visiting JCCC, Defendant Gwynn retaliated against him by directing JCCC employees to confiscate Plaintiff's personal property. Id. at 6, 9-11.

         Defendant Gwynn has filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that Plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege personal participation in violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights and that his allegations do not rise to the level of a First or Eighth Amendment violation. See generally Doc. No. 22. In his Motion, Defendant Gwynn relies on documents and other materials outside of the pleadings. Plaintiff was advised that when a dispositive motion is supported by affidavits and/or other documentary evidence, the motion may be converted to one for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Doc. No. 23 at 1. Moreover, in his Response, Plaintiff presented several exhibits relevant to Defendant Gwynn's Motion. Doc. Nos. 24-1, 24-2. Thus, it is evident from Plaintiff's responsive submission that he was on notice to present materials pertinent to Defendant's Motion and that he intended for the Court to consider materials outside the pleadings in ruling on this Motion. Accordingly, the Court will treat the motion as seeking summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), 56(c)(1); Whitesel v. Sengenberger, 222 F.3d 861, 866 (10th Cir. 2000) (holding that district court may convert motion to dismiss into motion for summary judgment to consider matters outside the complaint).

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts and inferences drawn from the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Burke v. Utah Transit Auth. & Local 382, 462 F.3d 1253, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006) (quotation omitted). While the court liberally construes a pro se plaintiff's complaint, such a plaintiff must adhere to the same rules of procedure that are binding on all litigants. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007). Thus, strict adherence by a pro se plaintiff to the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is required. With respect to those requirements, the Supreme Court has determined that

the plain language of Rule 56[] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact, ” since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         B. Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         A federal district court must review complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). After conducting an initial review, the court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it presenting claims that 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).

         In conducting this review, the reviewing court must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe them, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from the allegations, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Kay, 500 F.3d at 1217. Although a pro se litigant's pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), “[t]he burden is on the plaintiff to frame a ‘complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). The allegations in a complaint must present “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Further, a claim is frivolous “where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact” or is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 327 (1989).

         III. Uncontroverted Facts

         The undersigned determines the uncontroverted facts herein to be:

         1. Plaintiff has been incarcerated at JCCC for over ten years. Doc. No. 24 at 4.

         2. Plaintiff alleges that he first noticed bedbugs in JCCC in June 2017. Comp. at 9.

         3. Plaintiff notified Joseph Tindale, Case Manager (“CM”), who instructed Plaintiff to take all of his clothes and bedding to laundry and wash them. Id.

         4. Plaintiff alleges that over the following month, six other inmates in his living area found bedbugs and CM Tindale also directed them ...

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