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Stephens v. Director of Oklahoma Department of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

October 23, 2019

RODNEY DOUGLAS STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
v.
DIRECTOR OF OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James H. Payne, United States District Judge Eastern District of Oklahoma.

         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 the DOC Director; J. Kevin Stitt, the Governor of Oklahoma; and Cheri Atkinson, DOC Medical Services Manager.

         Plaintiff alleges his facility is overcrowded and understaffed, resulting in inhumane and unsafe conditions. Id. at 4, 18-21. He further claims there are inadequate medical and food services. Id. at 20-22. Plaintiff asserts the events giving rise to his claims occurred around 11 a.m. on August 21, 2015, when he was taken to the Lexington A&R facility. Id. at 5. The facts underlying his claim are as follow:

When I got to Jess Dunn correctional Center and the warden started to make this minimum to a medimun and keep us lock down true count 2-3 hr a day then I started to get meatal and emotional distress this happen in 2016.

Id. (errors in original). Plaintiff also has submitted copies of grievance documents dated April - June 2019. Id. at 12-17.

         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.

         Statute of Limitations

         As stated above, Plaintiff contends the unconstitutional conditions of his confinement began in 2015. The statute of limitations for a civil rights cause of action in Oklahoma, however, is two years. Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1522 (10th Cir. 1988). Therefore, the Court cannot consider any claims of constitutional violations occurring more than two years before the filing of the complaint on September 9, 2019.

         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).

         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 of the amended complaint must be identical to those contained in the body of the amended complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). Plaintiff is responsible for providing sufficient information for service of process. See Lee v. ...


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