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Ornelas v. Houston

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

August 26, 2013

FRANCISCO ORNELAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT HOUSTON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOSEPH F. BATAILLON, District Judge.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter on April 12, 2013. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff has previously been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 12.) Also pending are several Motions filed by Plaintiff. The court now conducts an initial review of the Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.

I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on April 12, 2013, against the Director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services ("NDCS") Robert Houston ("Houston"), NDCS Deputy Director Frank Hopkins ("Hopkins"), NDCS Medical Director Randy Kohl ("Kohl"), Omaha Correctional Center ("OCC") Warden Mike Kenny ("Kenny"), OCC Medical Doctor Mary Flearl ("Flearl"), and OCC Physician's Assistant Margaret Antley ("Antley"). (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 1-3.) Plaintiff sues Houston, Hopkins, Kohl, and Kenny in both their individual and official capacities. ( Id. ) Plaintiff sues Flearl and Antley in their individual capacities only. ( Id. ) Plaintiff is currently confined at OCC in Omaha, Nebraska. ( Id. ; See Docket Sheet.)

Condensed and summarized, Plaintiff alleges that in 2007, Dr. R. James Sorrell diagnosed him with a benign inflammatory polyp and recommended that Plaintiff follow up to complete removal in six months. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 4.) Plaintiff did not receive this follow-up care. ( Id. ) In 2009, Dr. Matthew R. Goede ("Goede") examined Plaintiff for a "very large ventral hernia." ( Id. ) Goede stated that in order to facilitate repair of the hernia, Plaintiff needed to lose about 50 pounds. ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 23.) Goede recommended a high-protein diet limited to 1200-1500 kilocalories per day, and two hours of exercise per day. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 4, 23.)

Plaintiff alleges Defendants have knowledge of his medical needs, including his dietary needs, but have failed to provide him with his prescribed care. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 1-38.) Plaintiff seeks an order that directs Defendants to provide him with his prescribed care, including placing him on a 1200-1500 kilocalorie, high-protein diet. ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 16.) Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages for Defendants' failure to provide him with adequate medical care. ( Id. )

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

A pro se plaintiff must set forth enough factual allegations to "nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, " or "their complaint must be dismissed" for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) ("A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."). Regardless of whether a plaintiff is represented or is appearing pro se, the plaintiff's complaint must allege specific facts sufficient to state a claim. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985). However, a pro se plaintiff's allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-44 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS

A. Sovereign Immunity

The Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages by private parties against a state, state instrumentalities and an employee of a state sued in the employee's official capacity. See, e.g., Egerdahl v. Hibbing Cmty. Coll., 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995); Dover Elevator Co. v. Ark. State Univ., 64 F.3d 442, 446-47 (8th Cir. 1995). Any award of retroactive monetary relief payable by the state, including for back pay or damages, is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment absent a waiver of immunity by the state or an override of immunity by Congress. See, e.g., Dover Elevator Co., 64 F.3d at 444; Nevels v. Hanlon, 656 F.2d 372, 377-78 (8th Cir. 1981). Sovereign immunity does not bar damages claims against state officials acting in their personal capacities, nor does it bar claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 that seek equitable relief from state employee defendants acting in their official capacity.

Here, Plaintiff sues Houston, Hopkins, Kohl, and Kenny, who are state employees, in both their individual and official capacities.[1] (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 1-3.) As set forth above, the Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages by private parties against a state, state instrumentalities, and employees of a state sued in their official capacities. Consequently, Plaintiff's monetary damages claims against Houston, Hopkins, Kohl, and Kenny in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. However, the Eleventh Amendment does not ...


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