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Knight v. King

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 1, 2014

BRUCE L. KNIGHT, Plaintiff


LEWIS T. BABCOCK, Senior District Judge.

On February 7, 2014, Plaintiff, Bruce L. Knight, initiated this action by filing pro se a Letter that challenges the conditions of his confinement. Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland directed Plaintiff to submit his claims on a Court-approved form used in filing prisoner complaints. Plaintiff filed a complaint on February 24, 2014, but he did not use a current Court-approved form. He then filed a proper Court-approved complaint form on March 14, 2014. After review of the March 14 Complaint, Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland found Plaintiff had failed to provide a short and concise statement of his claims in compliance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. Magistrate Judge Boland directed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. On April 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed two amended complaints. The Court has reviewed both complaints and determined the claims in each complaint are the same and are asserted against the same defendants. The Court, however, will consider the supporting facts in both complaints.

Section 1915(e)(2)(B), 28 U.S.C., requires a court to dismiss sua sponte an action at any time if the action is frivolous, malicious, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. A legally frivolous claim is one in which the plaintiff asserts the violation of a legal interest that clearly does not exist or asserts facts that do not support an arguable claim. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989). Under ยง 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendants have violated his or her rights under the Constitution and laws of the United States while they acted under color of state law. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co, 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970). The Court will dismiss this action as legally frivolous, for the reasons stated below.

In each of the four complaints Plaintiff has submitted to the Court, he asserts three claims, including (1) Defendant Jannet King removed him from the GED list, which resulted in Plaintiff having to retake the GED test; (2) Defendant King denied Plaintiff access to legal services in retaliation for filing a grievance against her; (3) Defendant Nurse Rose denied Plaintiff medication and an X-ray on January 16, 2014; and (4) Correctional Health Care Companies denied Plaintiff medical care on two occasions, in December when Plaintiff fell down the stairs, and on August 25 through 26, 2013, when his blood pressure was elevated. Plaintiff seeks money damages.

First, Plaintiff's GED claim is legally frivolous. Plaintiff has no constitutional right to "educational or vocational opportunities during incarceration, " Joseph v. U.S. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 232 F.3d 901, *2 (10th Cir. Oct. 16, 2000) (unpublished) (citing Wishon v. Gammon, 978 F.2d 446, 450 (8th Cir.1992)).

Plaintiff's denial of legal services also is legally frivolous. Plaintiff does not have a per se constitutional right to a prison library. If Plaintiff is attempting to state a denial of court access, due to being denied access to the library on one occasion, he must plead he actually was impeded in his ability to conduct a particular case to state a violation of her rights. See Casey v. Lewis, 518 U.S. 343 (1996). The right of access to the courts extends only as far as protecting an inmate's ability to prepare initial pleadings in a civil rights action regarding his current confinement or in an application for a writ of habeas corpus. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 576 (1974); Carper v. DeLand, 54 F.3d 613, 617 (10th Cir. 1995). An inmate must satisfy the standing requirement of "actual injury" by showing that the denial of legal resources hindered his efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous claim. Casey, 518 U.S. at 349-353.

In Casey, the Supreme Court cited two examples of when an inmate's efforts to pursue a legal claim may be hindered. First, an inmate's efforts may be hindered when a complaint prepared by an inmate is dismissed for failure to satisfy a technical requirement due to deficiencies in a prison's legal assistance facilities. Casey, 518 U.S. at 351. Another example of hindering an inmate's efforts would be when an inmate is so stymied by inadequacies of the law library that he is unable to file a complaint. Id. Neither of the examples set forth in Casey are at issue in this case.

Finally, Plaintiff's retaliation claim is legally frivolous. "Mere allegations of constitutional retaliation will not suffice; plaintiff must rather allege specific facts showing retaliation because of the exercise of the prisoner's constitutional rights." Frazier v. Dubois, 922 F.2d 560, 562 n.1 (10th Cir. 1990); see Peterson v. Shanks, 149 F.3d 1140, 1144 (10th Cir. 1998) (a plaintiff must demonstrate that the "alleged retaliatory motives were the but for' cause of the defendants' actions"). Since Plaintiff does not have a per se constitutional right to a prison library and he has failed to assert a denial of access to the courts claim, he is not able to assert retaliation. Claim One, therefore, will be dismissed as legally frivolous.

Next the Court will address Claims Two and Three. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). "The 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). If allegations are "so general that they emcompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiff[] [has] not nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

In Claim Two, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Rose failed to provide him with his medication and an X-ray on one occasion. Plaintiff does not state specifically the injury he incurred from the one occasion; he only asserts that after Defendant Rose denied him his medication other nurses "had to give [him] double doses because of damaged [sic] cause from the delay." Am. Comp., ECF No. 19, at 5.

Plaintiff does not state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Rose based on the allegations he has presented. See Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986) (stating that cruel and unusual punishment involves more than ordinary lack of due care for a prisoner's interests and safety). To establish liability under the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must claim, in part, that Defendant Rose acted with deliberate indifference to his health or safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Deliberate indifference means that "a prison official may be held liable... only if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. at 847.

Plaintiff does not assert that Defendant Rose knew the denial of medication and an X-ray on one occasion would subject Plaintiff to a substantial risk of serious harm but yet disregarded that risk. Furthermore, the Court has reviewed Plaintiff's Letter submitted on February 7, 2014, and the complaints submitted on February 24, 2014, and March 14, 2014. In these pleadings, Plaintiff asserts that when he saw Defendant Rose on January 8, 2014, or possibly January 10, 2014, she indicated to him that she did not have Tums and if she gave him Zantac for his stomach issues she would have to take him off of his blood pressure medication, Tylenol, and antibiotics. Plaintiff asserts that he told Defendant Rose that he did not want to be removed from the blood pressure medication and that Defendant Rose placed him on a liquid diet, even though he preferred a soft diet, but the liquid diet was discontinued after he left medical.

Plaintiff, however, provides several different descriptions of the events that took place subsequent to his appointment with Defendant Rose on January 8 or 10 regarding the treatment of his stomach issues. Plaintiff asserts in the February 24 and March 14 complaints that after seeing Defendant Rose he was seen by medical until February 2014, and then was given Zantac plus Prilosec. Feb. 24 Compl., ECF No. 5, at 11; Mar. 14 Compl., ECF No. 11, at 14. However, in the Letter he first submitted to the Court Plaintiff asserts that as early January 12 or 14, 2014, "they" put him on Zantac and a week later on a soft Kosher diet but discontinued the Kosher diet a few days later. ECF No. 1 at 5. He further concedes that he was seen by medical, specifically Defendant Rose, soon after he reported he was vomiting blood as a result of taking Motrin, Mar. 14. 2014 Compl, ECF No. 11, at 12, and that within no more than six days after Defendant Rose denied him Zantac on January 8, 2014, he was given Zantac and when the Zantac did not resolve his stomach issues he was given Prilosec, Ltr., ECF No. 1, at 5-6. Plaintiff also states that Defendant Rose placed him on a liquid diet but once he was given the Zantac he requested and was given a Kosher diet. Feb. 24 Compl. at 23. Finally, Plaintiff concedes he has received "some medical attention" but the treatment is not adequate." Feb. 24, 2014 Compl., ECF No. 5, at 11.

A disagreement regarding treatment is not sufficient to maintain a deliberate indifference claim. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976)). Whether a course of treatment is appropriate "is a classic example of a matter for medical judgment, " that is insufficient to sustain a claim under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 107 (noting that medical decision to forego one form of treatment may be negligence but is not a constitutional violation). See also Perkins v. Kansas Dep't Corrs., 165 F.3d 803, 811 (10th Cir. 1999) ("[A] prisoner who merely disagrees with a diagnosis or a prescribed course of treatment does not state a constitutional violation."); Olson v. Stotts, 9 F.3d 1475, 1477 (10th Cir. 1993) ("a difference of opinion does not support a claim of cruel and unusual punishment") (citations omitted); Ledoux v. Davies, 961 F.2d 1536, ...

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