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Phillips v. Austin Police Department

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

January 10, 2020

AMANDA KAYE PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CLAIRE V. EAGAN IJNITI'D STATUS DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Amanda Kaye Phillips, who appears pro se, initiated this action on January 3, 2020, by filing a civil complaint (Dkt. # 2) and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. # 3). Based on representations in Phillips' motion, the Court grants her request to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Phillips nonetheless remains obligated to pay the $350 filing fee in full when she is able to do so. See Brown v. Eppler, 725 F.3d 1221, 1231 (10th Cir. 2013) (noting that authorization to proceed in forma pauperis only excuses prepayment of the filing fee). However, for the reasons further discussed below, the Court finds the complaint shall be dismissed.

         I. Complaint and allegations

         Phillips, who currently resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma, brings this action against 26 defendants, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Dkt. # 1, at 1; Dkt. # 2, at 1-3. Sixteen defendants reside in, or have some connection to, Texas: (1) the Austin Police Department, (2) the Travis County Sheriff's Office, (3) the Travis County District Attorney Office, (4) Gustavo Garcia, Jr., a prosecutor with the Travis County District Attorney Office, (5) the Texas Board of Nursing, (6) the Texas State Bar, (7) the City of Austin, Texas, (8) Katherine Thomas, President of the Texas Board of Nursing, (9) Travis County, Texas, (10) Austin police officer C. Pierce, (11) Christopher Born, CEO of Dell Children's Hospital, (12) the Seton Family of Hospitals, (13) the Austin Community College District, (14) Brittany Garrett, Dell Children's Hospital RN recruiter, (15) Deb Brown, former Chief Nurse Officer at Dell Children's Hospital, and (16) Ascension, a corporation based in St. Louis, Missouri, that owns the Seton Family of Hospitals, in Austin, Texas. Dkt. # 2, at 1-3, 7, 9. The Court will hereafter refer to these defendants as the “Texas defendants.”

         Ten defendants reside in, or have some connection to, Oklahoma: (1) the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center (DLMCJC), a.k.a., the Tulsa County Jail, [1] (2) the Tulsa Emergency Medical Services Authority, (3) Male Paramedic, (4) Female Paramedic, (5) the Oklahoma Board of Nursing, (6) Carmen Nickel, MS, RN, President of the Oklahoma Board of Nursing, (7) the U.S. Marshals Service located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, (8) Male U.S. Marshal 1, (9) Male U.S. Marshal 2, and (10) Male U.S. Marshal 3. Dkt. # 2, at 1-2. The Court will hereafter refer to the first six defendants as the “Oklahoma defendants, ” and the last four defendants as the “federal defendants.”

         Phillips describes her complaint as one asserting claims for “retaliation, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, abuse of discretion, fraudulent misrepresentation, extortion by color of official right, RICO racketeering, [and] negligence.” Dkt. # 2, at 1. In her civil cover sheet, Phillips also refers to “Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, RICO, fraud” and 18 U.S.C. § 241, a criminal statute prohibiting “conspiracy against rights.” Dkt. # 1, at 1. In support of her request for $5 million damages, Phillips recites a litany of abuses allegedly perpetrated against her by defendants (and others) in Texas and Oklahoma between December 2016 and December 2019. Dkt. # 2, at 3-10. Her factual allegations are disjointed, but generally appear to relate to Phillips' employment, legal, housing and health issues.[2]

         A. Employment issues

         Phillips claims several of the Texas defendants and some of the Oklahoma defendants have prevented, or are preventing, her from finding employment as a nurse, both in Austin, Texas and in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dkt. # 2, at 3-4, 7-10.

         According to Phillips, sometime before January 2017, the Seton Family of Hospitals, owned by Ascension, retaliated against her and failed to rehire her after she quit her job. Id. at 3, 7. Phillips filed a complaint against Seton with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in January 2017. Id. at 3, 7. The EEOC offered mediation, but Seton declined to participate. Id. at 3. Phillips filed a lawsuit against Seton in March 2017, but Seton's attorneys persuaded her to dismiss the lawsuit “in the hopes that the lawyers would negotiate a job at Dell Children's Hospital, ”—a job that never materialized. Id. at 4. When Phillips filed complaints against Seton's attorneys (neither of whom are defendants in this case) in June 2018 and again in August 2019, the Texas State Bar “found no wrongdoing.” Id. at 4, 7.[3] Phillips filed a second EEOC complaint against Seton in December 2019, adding allegations of age discrimination, continued retaliation and fraudulent misrepresentation. Dkt. # 2, at 7.

         Phillips filed complaints and reports with various federal and state agencies, against Seton and Ascension, alleging both defendants (1) commit “charity fraud, ” because Seton's CEO is overpaid while Seton's nurses are underpaid, (2) commit HIPAA violations because Seton employees' disclose patient information in emails, (3) abuse the immigrant visa system by hiring nurses from overseas, and (4) hire nurses from out of state when nurses living in Austin are available for hire. Dkt. # 2, at 4, 7-9.

         Phillips also filed reports with federal and state agencies alleging that Seton, Ascension, the Austin Community College District, the Texas Board of Nursing, and the Oklahoma Board of Nursing commit “immigration abuse, charity fraud, general frauding of individuals like [Phillips], Hobbs Act Extortion by color of official right, RICO act racketeering, and defrauding federal programs.” Dkt. # 2, at 8. Phillips specifically alleges both nursing boards “perpetuat[e] the widespread charity fraud” by “continu[ing] to allow new nursing schools to open; allow existing schools to increase their enrollments and graduations; [and] allow out of state and international applica[nts] to obtain licensure, thus drowning out job opportunities for nurses.” Id. at 9. Phillips appears to allege that Travis County and the City of Austin are implicated in the charity fraud because they “have joint financial partnerships” with Ascension, Seton, and Dell Children's Hospital (which is owned by Seton), as well as other large hospitals in Austin. Id.

         Though entirely unclear from the complaint, Phillips appears to assert some or all of her employment-related, fraud, and conspiracy claims against Christopher Born, the CEO of Dell Children's Hospital; Deb Brown, Dell's former Chief Nurse Officer; and Brittany Garrett, Dell's RN Recruiter. Dkt. # 2, at 1-4, 7-10.

         Finally, Phillips appears to fault the Texas Board of Nursing and its president, Carmen Nickel, for not renewing her nursing license, and the Oklahoma Board of Nursing and its president, Katherine Thomas, for not issuing her a nursing license, thereby making it difficult for her to find a job as a nurse. Id. at 9-10.

         B. Legal issues

         Phillips claims that the federal defendants, some of the Texas defendants, and some of the Oklahoma defendants mistreated her (1) when she filed a police report in Austin, Texas, (2) when she was arrested in by federal authorities in Tulsa, Oklahoma on a criminal charge filed against her in Travis County, Texas, (3) when she was briefly incarcerated at the DLMCJC, (4) when she was transported to the Travis County Jail in Texas, and (5) when the Travis County prosecutor took certain actions regarding her Texas criminal case. Dkt. # 2, at 3-9. The specific allegations relating to each of these incidents require some unpacking.

         1. Police report in Austin

         Phillips appears to assert an unspecified claim or claims against the City of Austin, the Austin Police Department, and Austin police officer C. Pierce based on their failure to follow up on a police report she filed in December 2016. Dkt. # 2, at 1-3. Phillips alleges that she called police and filed a report against a former neighbor who kicked in her car door and left a note on her windshield, that she later “declined to press charges, ” and that “no charges were ever filed.” Id. at 3.

         2.Arrest in Tulsa

         Phillips appears to assert one or more claims against the federal defendants and some of the Oklahoma defendants arising from her August 2018 arrest in Tulsa. Dkt. # 2, at 4-5.

         According to the complaint, at some point in time, the Travis County District Attorney Office and Gustavo Garcia, Jr., a prosecutor with that office, charged Phillips, in Travis County, Texas, with “[m]aking a terroristic threat and trying to influence the government.” Id. at 1, 4, 6. Sometime thereafter, Phillips moved to Tulsa. Id. at 4. In August 2018, the U.S. Marshals Service in Tulsa arrested Phillips on the Travis County charge. Id. Phillips fainted and fell, hitting her head against the side of the U.S. Marshal's truck. Id. Two defendants, identified as Male U.S. Marshal 1 and Male U.S. Marshal 2, made fun of her for hitting her head but called an ambulance.[4] Id. at 5.

         After the ambulance arrived, Male Paramedic made fun of Phillips when she told him about her medical and dental history; he also told her she did not need to go to the hospital. Dkt. # 2, at 4-5. Female Paramedic found that Phillips had tachycardia but failed to treat that condition before releasing Phillips from care so that she could be transported to jail.[5] Id. at 5. After the paramedics released her, Phillips was taken to the DLMCJC and “placed on a federal hold for one week.” Id.

         Phillips filed a complaint with the “Oklahoma State Department of Health Emergency Systems” against the Tulsa Emergency Medical Services Authority and Male Paramedic. Dkt. # 2, at 8. She alleges that she has not received “any notice” regarding the status of her complaint. Id. She further alleges that the Department of Health contacted her by phone to ask questions, but she declined to answer them on advice from her former attorney. Dkt. # 2, at 8.

         3.Conditions at the DLMCJC

         Phillips appears to assert one or more unspecified claims against the DLMCJC relating to the conditions of her brief confinement at the DLMCJC in August 2018. Dkt. # 2, at 1, 5-6.

         Phillips alleges she told the jail intake coordinator about the head injury she sustained when she was arrested and her pre-existing health conditions. Id. at 6. She also told the coordinator that she was depressed, anxious and fearful. Id. The coordinator told Phillips she would receive a psychiatric visit, but that visit “never happened.” Id.

         During her one-week confinement, Phillips noticed that the intake area and bathrooms at the DLMCJC were “filthy, ” the sink did not work, inmates had no soap or sanitizer, inmates were fed “slop” (i.e., hot dogs and bologna sandwiches), and inmates had no toilet paper for one or two days. Dkt. # 2, at 6. Phillips alleges she may have fallen one day in the medication line, but she is unsure if she hit her head. Id. In any event, she was taken to the medical unit, where she received substandard care, before being “escorted back to the pod, where the inadequate diet ...


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