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Shekhow v. Weincher

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 21, 2015

DAVID WINCHER, individually and as Sheriff of Arapahoe County, State of Colorado; DAVID JONES, individually and as the Director of the Medical Center at Arapahoe Detention Facility; ELAINE MAYER, individually and as Executive Director of ACDF Medical Center; ARAPAHOE COUNTY DETENTION FACILITY; AURORA CITY; AURORA POLICE DEPT.; and COLORADO DMV, Defendants.



Plaintiff initiated this action on September 14, 2015, by filing a Complaint (ECF No. 1) and an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepayment of Fees or Costs (ECF No. 3), which was granted by the Court on October 19, 2015 (ECF No. 5).

The Court must construe Plaintiff’s Complaint liberally because he is representing himself. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not be the pro se litigant’s advocate. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff will be directed to file an Amended Complaint.

In the Prisoner Complaint, Plaintiff makes rambling assertions without citing any specific Constitutional right that he asserts has been violated.

The Complaint further is deficient to the extent Plaintiff sues Defendants in their official capacities. Suits against Defendants in their official capacities are suits against the municipality that employees them. Municipalities are not persons subject to suit under § 1983. See Stump v. Gates, 777 F.Supp. 808, 814-16 (D. Colo. 1991) (citing Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978)), aff'd, 986 F.2d 1429 (10th Cir. 1993).

Moreover, a local government entity such as Arapahoe County, the City of Aurora and the City of Aurora Police Department are not liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 solely because its employees inflict injury on a plaintiff. Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Hinton v. City of Elwood, Kan., 997 F.2d 774, 782 (10th Cir. 1993). A plaintiff seeking to hold a county liable for his injuries under § 1983 must show that a policy or custom exists and that there is a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the injury alleged. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989); Myers v. Oklahoma County Bd. of County Comm'rs, 151 F.3d 1313, 1316-20 (10th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief under § 1983 merely by pointing to isolated incidents. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.

Similarly, a claim against the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles is a claim against the State of Colorado. The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against the states absent an express and unambiguous waiver or abrogation by Congress. See, e.g., Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). State sovereign immunity is more than immunity from liability-it actually deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at 678. Sovereign immunity is not confined to suits in which the State is named as defendant, Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663; state agencies are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity if they are “arms of the state, ” Ambus v. Granite Bd. of Educ., 995 F.2d 992, 994(10th Cir. 1993) (en banc) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Finally, under C.R.S. § 13-80-102(1)(h), a two-year statute of limitations applies to "[a]ll actions against any public or governmental entity or any employee of a public or governmental entity, except as otherwise provided in ... section 13-80-103." Thus, Plaintiff cannot file claims for actions that occurred on or before September 14, 2013.

It appears that Plaintiff may be asserting an Eighth Amendment claim concerning his medical treatment. It is not clear against which Defendant or Defendants Mr. James is asserting the medical treatment claims or what any particular Defendant did with respect to medical treatment that violated Mr. Herrera’s constitutional rights. The Eighth Amendment, through its prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, imposes a duty on prison officials to provide humane conditions of confinement, including adequate medical treatment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A violation occurs when: 1) a medical need is serious; and (2) the acts or omissions by prison officials demonstrate “deliberate indifference” to the inmate's health or safety. Id. at 106. Thus, first, a complaint must allege facts showing a sufficiently serious medical need. A “medical need is sufficiently serious if it is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.” Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d 1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000). “Delay in medical care only constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation where the plaintiff can show the delay resulted in substantial harm.” Id. at 1210. The substantial harm requirement “may be satisfied by lifelong handicap, permanent loss, or considerable pain.” Garrett v. Stratman, 254 F.3d 946, 950 (10th Cir. 2001). Under Estelle, deliberate indifference is present when prison officials intentionally deny or delay access to necessary medical treatment for non-medical reasons, or when they interfere with a course of treatment once prescribed. Id. at 104-05. Under the subjective component, Plaintiff “must show that the defendants knew he faced a substantial risk of harm and disregarded that risk, by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Martinez, 563 F.3d at 1089.

In the context of a medical treatment claim, he must state exactly what objectively serious medical need he was suffering from and what each specific Defendant did that amounted to deliberate indifference to that need. He must provide specific dates and provide a short statement as to each claim against each defendant. Plaintiff’s complaint provides a statement of facts that does not specify what constitutional claims he is asserting against each defendant. He merely identifies a defendant and makes rambling statements.

The complaint is deficient because it does not comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing parties fair notice of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond and to allow the Court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. American Cemetery Ass’n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). The requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 are designed to meet these purposes. See TV Communications Network, Inc. v. ESPN, Inc., 767 F.Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991), aff’d, 964 F.2d 1022 (10th Cir. 1992). Rule 8(a) provides that a complaint “must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, . . . (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought.” The philosophy of Rule 8(a) is reinforced by Rule 8(d)(1), which provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Taken together, Rules 8(a) and (d)(1) underscore the emphasis placed on clarity and brevity by the federal pleading rules. Prolix, vague, or unintelligible pleadings violate Rule 8.

Claims must be presented clearly and concisely in a manageable format that allows a court and a defendant to know what claims are being asserted and to be able to respond to those claims. New Home Appliance Ctr., Inc., v. Thompson, 250 F.2d 881, 883 (10th Cir. 1957). For the purposes of Rule 8(a), “[i]t is sufficient, and indeed all that is permissible, if the complaint concisely states facts upon which relief can be granted upon any legally sustainable basis.” Id.

The Court has reviewed the Complaint and finds that Plaintiff fails to provide a short and plain statement of his claims in compliance with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff fails to provide a short and plain statement of his claim showing he is entitled to relief because he fails to provide specific factual allegations with respect to each constitutional violation in support of his individual claims.

A decision to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 8 is within the trial court’s sound discretion. See Atkins v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 967 F.2d 1197, 1203 (8th Cir. 1992); Gillibeau v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969). The Court, however, will give Plaintiff an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in the ...

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