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Huddleston v. State

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 28, 2015

DALE JUSTIN HUDDLESTON, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF COLORADO, ANDREW MARTINEZ, D.O.C. Officer, in His Official and Individual Capacities, SUSAN TIONA, D.O.C. Chief Medical Officer, in Her Official and Individual Capacities, JEFF ARCHAMBEAU, C.E.O. Correctional Health Partners, in His Official and Individual Capacities, JASON LENGERIGH, Warden, Buena Vista Correctional Facility, in His Official and Individual Capacities, DOUGLAS ROBERTS, B.V.C.F. Health Service Administrator, in His Official and Individual Capacities, MARSHALL GRIFFITH, B.V.C.F. Administrator, in His Official and Individual Capacities, TRACY COLEMAN, B.V.C.F. Captain, in His Official and Individual Capacities, ED MAHALA, C.D.O.C. Captain, B.V.C.F., in His Official and Individual Capacities, SIMON DENWALT, B.V.C.F. Head Manager, in His Official and Individual Capacities, CHRISTINE STURGEON, B.V.C.F. Medical P.A., In Her Official and Individual Capacities, DEBORAH BORREGO, C.D.O.C. B.V.C.F. Medical, in Her Official and Individual Capacities, MEGHAN REED, B.V.C.F. Medical Provider, in Her Official and Individual Capacities, BETTY KASPAR, B.V.C.F. Medical Employee, in Her Official and Individual Capacities, KERRY BARONI, B.V.C.F. Medical Provider, Health Service Administrator, in Her Official and Individual Capacities, CINDY NOLD, B.V.C.F. Medical Provider, in Her Official and Individual Capacities, NANCY DAVIS, BVCF Grievance Coordinator, In Her Official and Individual Capacities, NORENE ANDERSON, BVCF Grievance Coordinator, In Her Official and Individual Capacities, RICK RAEMISCH, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, in His Official and Individual Capacities, and ANTHONY DECESARO, C.D.O.C. Step III Grievance Officer, in His Official and Individual Capacities. Defendants.

ORDER TO DISMISS IN PART AND TO DRAW CASE

LEWIS T. BABCOCK, SENIOR JUDGE.

Plaintiff, Dale Justin Huddleston, is in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) at the Correctional Facility in Buena Vista, Colorado (BVCF). He has filed pro se a Complaint (ECF No. 1), asserting a deprivation of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

On November 30, 2015, Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher reviewed the Complaint and determined that it was deficient because the State of Colorado is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit and Plaintiff failed to allege specific facts to show each Defendant’s personal participation in a deprivation of his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care. (ECF No. 6). Magistrate Judge Gallagher ordered Mr. Huddleston to file an Amended Complaint, on the court-approved Prisoner Complaint form, within 30 days. (Id.).

On December 7, 2015, Mr. Huddleston filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 7). The Amended Complaint is not on the court-approved form, as directed in the November 30, 2015 Order. However, because the form used by Plaintiff follows a format substantially similar to the Court’s Prisoner Complaint form, the Court will review the pleading as submitted. Mr. Huddleston is reminded that the Local Rules 1.2 and 5.1(c) of the Local Rules of Practice-Civil for this Court require litigants to use the Court-approved forms found on the Court's website.

Mr. Huddleston has been granted leave to proceed pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), the Court must dismiss the action if Plaintiff’s claims are frivolous or malicious. 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. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Subsection (e)(2)(B)(iii) of § 1915 requires a court to dismiss at any time an action that seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

The Court must construe Mr. Huddleston’s filings liberally because he is not represented by an attorney. 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 act as an advocate for pro se litigants. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. The Court has reviewed the Complaint and has determined that it is deficient. For the reasons discussed below, this action will be dismissed in part, and the remainder drawn to a presiding judge and, if applicable, to a magistrate judge.

I. The Amended Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that during his 15-year incarceration, he has developed a severe degenerative condition of the spinal column, joints and ligaments. While in CDOC custody, surgeries have been performed on his spine, knee and ankle. In 2013, an x-ray and MRI revealed “bulging disks between the L3-L4 and L4-L5 vertebra indicating ‘spinal canal narrowing’ and ‘nerve root compression.’” (ECF No. 1 at 11). Mr. Huddleston alleges that he has not received any medical treatment for these conditions. He further states that he is presently suffering from a slipped disk that is causing him severe pain and loss of mobility. According to Plaintiff, one or more of the Defendants have denied him steroid injections to reduce the swelling in his lower back, and have denied him a thicker mattress to alleviate the pressure on his spine, both of which were recommended by the operating surgeon in April 2014, and ordered by the attending CDOC physician. He alleges that Defendants have denied him a thicker mattress, even though there are several available at the facility. He further states that he has not been given a more recent MRI or any physical therapy. Instead, he has been prescribed “a multitude of pain medications to suppress the symptoms but no treatment to address the problem.” (Id. at 12). Plaintiff alleges that he is suffering from continuing spinal degeneration and chronic pain. He asserts that the Defendants have acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Mr. Huddleston requests monetary and prospective injunctive relief.

II. Analysis

A. Eleventh Amendment

Plaintiff’s claims against the State of Colorado are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, absent a waiver. See Griess v. Colorado, 841 F.2d 1042, 1044-45 (10th Cir.1988); Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1525 (10th Cir. 1988) (the immunity conferred by the Eleventh Amendment extends to the state and its instrumentalities); Congress did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity through § 1983, see Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979), nor has Colorado expressly waived its sovereign immunity. See Griess, 841 F.2d at 1044-45. The Eleventh Amendment prohibits suit against a state, regardless of the relief sought. See Higganbotham v. Okla. Transp. Com'n, 328 F.3d 638, 644 (10th Cir. 2003); see also Hunt v. Colorado Dep’t of Corrections, No. 07-1400, 271 F. App’x 778, 780-81 (10th Cir. March 28, 2008) (unpublished).

Mr. Huddleston states that he is suing the Defendants in both their official and individual capacities. (ECF No. 1 at 19). Claims against state officials in their official capacities for monetary damages are construed as claims asserted against the State of Colorado, see Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991), and are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169-70 (1985). However, to the extent the Complaint asserts a cognizable claim for relief under § 1983, Plaintiff is not precluded from seeking prospective injunctive relief against the individual Defendants in their official capacities. See Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908); see also Branson Sch. Dist. RE-82 v. Romer, 161 F.3d 619, 631 (10th Cir.1998) (“[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity seeking prospective injunctive relief is not . . . against the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes.”).

B. Personal Participation

Mr. Huddleston fails to allege specific facts to show each Defendant’s personal participation in the ...


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