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Sardakowski v. Lish

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 19, 2018

DARREN LISH, Doctor, Chief of Psychiatry, in his official capacity, and JONATHAN THIELE, Doctor, in his official capacity, Defendants.



         Plaintiff James Sardakowski (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, alleges that Defendants Colorado Department of Corrections' Chief of Psychiatry Dr. Darren Lish and Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Thiele (jointly, “Defendants”), violated his Eighth Amendment rights by changing his treatment plan. (ECF No. 6 at 3.) Defendants filed a Combined Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 17 (“Motion”).) Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion (ECF No. 30 (“Response”)) and Defendants did not timely file a Reply.

         United States Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya filed a Report and Recommendation recommending that Defendants' Motion be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). (ECF No. 36 (“Recommendation”).) Plaintiff filed an Objection to Judge Tafoya's Recommendation. (ECF No. 37.) Defendants did not timely respond to Plaintiff's Objection. Upon review, the Court adopts Judge Tafoya's recommended disposition, although for reasons different than those relied upon by Judge Tafoya. As a consequence, Defendants' Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”), currently incarcerated at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (“CTCF”) in Cañon City, Colorado. Plaintiff was previously prescribed Wellbutrin and Neurontin for unspecified mental health problems. Plaintiff claims that while he was on these medications, “he was functioning well in all areas.” (ECF No. 6 at 4.) Indeed, according to Plaintiff, he was “well enough to be removed from CDOC Residential Treatment Program (RTP)-a program for the seriously mentally ill prisoners-to General Population.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants discontinued his prescriptions for Wellbutrin and Neurontin because of “a potential abuse hazard by all prisoners” and because Wellbutrin and Neurontin are “not approved for [h]is symptoms.” (Id. at 3, 4.) In lieu of Wellbutrin and Neurontin, Defendants prescribed Effexor to Plaintiff. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that since his medication was changed, he has failed college courses, cannot participate in mental health groups, and has high anxiety. (Id.) Plaintiff argues that in thus changing his treatment plan, Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights.[1](Id. at 4.)


         When a magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive matter, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3) requires that the district court judge “determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's [recommendation] that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). In conducting its review, “[t]he district court judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id. An objection is proper if it is filed within fourteen days of service of the magistrate judge's recommendations and is specific enough to enable the “district judge to focus attention on those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.” United States v. 2121 East 30th Street, 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985)). “When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) advisory committee's note; see also Summers v. Utah, 927 F.2d 1165, 1167 (10th Cir. 1991) (“In the absence of timely objection, the district court may review a magistrate's report under any standard it deems appropriate.”).

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Henderson v. Inter-Chem Coal Co., Inc., 41 F.3d 567, 569 (10th Cir. 1994). Whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact depends upon whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or, conversely, is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); Stone v. Autoliv ASP, Inc., 210 F.3d 1132 (10th Cir. 2000).

         A fact is “material” if it pertains to an element of a claim or defense; a factual dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is so contradictory that if the matter went to trial, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court must resolve factual ambiguities against the moving party, thus favoring the right to a trial. Houston v. Nat'l Gen. Ins. Co., 817 F.2d 83, 85 (10th Cir. 1987).

         In reviewing a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) the Court will “assume the truth of the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). Thus the Court “must accept all allegations as true and may not dismiss on the ground that it appears unlikely the allegations can be proven.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008). “[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (“Twombly”)).

         “[T]o withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). This means that “[t]he 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. ‘Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545 & 556). Plaintiff “does not need detailed factual allegations” but must plead more than merely “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id.

         Further, the Court is mindful of Plaintiff's pro se status, and accordingly reads his pleadings and filings liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Trackwell v. United States Gov't, 472 F.3d 1242, 1243 (10th Cir. 2007). The Court, however, cannot act as advocate for Plaintiff, who still must comply with the fundamental requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991); see also Ledbetter v. City of Topeka, Kan., 318 F.3d 1183, 1188 (10th Cir. 2003).

         III. ...

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