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Chrisco v. Koprivnikar

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 12, 2017



          Michael E. Hegarty United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint in Part Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (6) [filed February 27, 2017; ECF No. 74]. The Motion is adequately briefed, and the Court finds that oral argument will not assist in the adjudication of the Motion. Plaintiff's claims arise out of his interactions with Defendants during his incarceration at San Carlos Correctional Facility (“SCCF”). Defendants assert they are entitled to qualified immunity over Plaintiff's second, third, eighth, and ninth causes of action. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.[1]


         I. Facts

         The following are relevant factual allegations (as opposed to legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory allegations) made by Plaintiff in the Second Amended Complaint, which are taken as true for analysis under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         On September 3, 2014, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at SCCF, Defendant Martinez refused to provide Plaintiff with his nightly dinner tray. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Despite Plaintiff's repeated requests for the tray, Martinez stated that Plaintiff refused his meal. Id. Instead of reporting the refusal, as prison policy requires, Martinez falsified documents to represent that Plaintiff received his nightly meal. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 17. As a result, Plaintiff experienced significant hunger and had difficulty sleeping. Id. at ¶ 18.

         Just two weeks later, on September 15, 2014, Defendant Koprivinikar placed Plaintiff on an emergency mental health watch. Id. at ¶ 44. During the watch, Dr. Koprivinikar administrated a variety of medications involuntarily to Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 43-48.

         The next day, Plaintiff was brought out of his cell to be transported to a different facility pending his release to parole. Id. at ¶ 56. Plaintiff repeatedly requested that Defendants Larimore and Travis provide him with his prescription eyeglasses, because he could see no more than four inches without them. Id. at ¶¶ 56-57, 62. Instead of ensuring Plaintiff received his glasses, Larimore ordered that Plaintiff be given a spit mask. Id. at ¶ 57. Plaintiff did not receive his glasses until December 2014-over three months after the original incident. Id. at ¶ 59. During the time that Plaintiff was without his glasses, he prepared for and appeared in court without the benefit of his vision. Id. at ¶ 62. When Plaintiff eventually returned to SCCF on March 11, 2015, Travis told him that the glasses were in his desk drawer the entire time. Id. at ¶ 60.

         II. Procedural History

         Based on these factual allegations, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on February 13, 2017. ECF No. 69. Plaintiff alleges nine causes of action against Defendants in their individual capacities for violations of his constitutional rights. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 19, 23, 49, 54, 66, 69. However, only Plaintiff's second, third, eighth, and ninth claims are relevant to the Court's present analysis. Plaintiff's second cause of action asserts a First Amendment retaliation claim against Martinez for allegedly depriving Plaintiff of a food tray. Id. at ¶¶ 14-19. Plaintiff's third claim contends Martinez violated Plaintiff's substantive due process rights by covering up facts surrounding the food tray denial. Id. at ¶¶ 20-23. Plaintiff brings his eighth claim against Travis and Larimore for denying Plaintiff his prescription eyeglasses in violation of the First and Eighth Amendments. Id. at ¶¶ 55-66. Lastly, Plaintiff asserts his ninth cause of action against Dr. Koprivinikar for violating his Ninth Amendment right to privacy. Id. at ¶¶ 67-69.

         Defendants responded to the Second Amended Complaint by filing the present Motion to Dismiss in Part. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 74. Defendants claim they are entitled to qualified immunity over each of the four claims outlined above. Id. Defendants contemporaneously filed an Answer to the five claims not contested in the Motion to Dismiss. Answer, ECF No. 75. Plaintiff responded to Defendants' Motion on March 17, 2017. ECF No. 78. Defendants did not file a Reply.


         I. Dismissal Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plausibility, in the context of a motion to dismiss, means that the plaintiff pleaded facts which allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Twombly requires a two prong analysis. First, a court must identify “the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” that is, those allegations which are legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory. Id. at 679-80. Second, the court must consider the factual allegations “to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681. If the allegations state a plausible claim for relief, such claim survives the motion to dismiss. Id. at 680.

         Plausibility refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs ‘have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008)). “The nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on context.” Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2011). Thus, while the Rule 12(b)(6) standard does not require that a plaintiff establish a prima facie case in a complaint, the elements of each alleged cause of action may help to determine whether the plaintiff has set forth a plausible claim. Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191.

         II. Dismissal of a Pro Se Plaintiff's Complaint

         A federal court must construe a pro se plaintiff's pleadings “liberally” and hold the pleadings “to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings filed by lawyers.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009). “[The] court, however, will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on plaintiff's behalf.” Id. (citing Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997)). The Tenth Circuit interpreted this rule to mean:

[I]f the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.

Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, this interpretation is qualified in that it is not “the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant.” Id.; see also Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (“[W]e will not supply additional facts, nor will we construct a ...

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