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Dangim v. FNU LNU

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

June 2, 2017

CHRISTOPHER SCOTT DANGIM, Plaintiff,
v.
FNU LNU, USA Law Enforcement; FNU LNU, Rio Rancho Police; FNU LNU, Sandoval County Sheriffs; FNU LNU, Docs and Mental Health, and FNU SALAZAR, Officer, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), on the Plaintiffs Prisoner's Civil Rights Complaint, filed on July 11, 2016 (Doc. l)("Complaint"). Plaintiff Christopher Scott Dangim was incarcerated at the time of filing, appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma pauperis. For the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss Dangim's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 without prejudice for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1), and will afford Dangim thirty days in which to file an amended complaint that complies with this Memorandum Opinion and Order's standards.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Dangim's Complaint is not clear, but it appears to raise multiple constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various unidentified defendants. First, Dangim appears to allege that police officers employed by the City of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and by the County of Sandoval, New Mexico, racially profiled him, tazed him, and falsely arrested him in 2008 and 2012. See Complaint at 2-5. Second, Dangim alleges that he was deprived of his right under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America “to appear at the grand jury in sound state of mind.” Complaint at 4. Third, Dangim contends that he “was jumped in prison by two guards who twisted my arm and said I was resisting and jumped and burned me.” Complaint at 4. Last, Dangim alleges that his right under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when he was physically assaulted in county jail, and denied “outside hospital treatment, ” even though his “finger was severed at the [cuticle].” See Complaint at 1. In his request for relief, Dangim requests to be exonerated of all criminal charges, released from state custody, preliminary injunctive relief “against officers [for] racist tactics, ” and compensatory damages in the amount of five million dollars. Complaint at 6.

         Attached to Dangim's Complaint is a state court complaint, which appears to raise claims under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 41-4-1, et seq. Complaint at 8. Dangim alleges that, in November, 2016, Officer FNU Salazar, a guard at the Sandoval County Detention Center, placed an unhygienic substance in his food and slammed his hand in the feed port, severing his finger at the cuticle. See Complaint at 8-9. Dangim further alleges that he was denied medical treatment, resulting in an infection in his finger and causing him to be “permanently maimed.” Complaint at 9. In his prayer for relief, Mr. Dangim requests “charges of assault” to be filed against the guard and compensatory damages in the amount of $300, 000.00. Complaint at 10.

         After certain mailings to Dangim were returned as undelivered, the Honorable Steven C. Yarbrough, United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court of the District of New Mexico, ordered Dangim to show cause why the Court should not dismiss his complaint for failure to inform the Court of his current mailing address as D.N.M. LR-Civ. 83.6 requires. See Order to Show Cause at 1-2, filed July 26, 2016 (Doc. 6). In response, Dangim explained that he was unexpectedly released from state custody and informed the Court of his new mailing address. See Response to Order to Show Cause at 1, filed August 10, 2016 (Doc. 8)(“First Response”); Response to Cure Defects at 1, filed August 10, 2016 (Doc. 9)(“Second Response”); Second Response to Order to Show Cause at 1, filed August 10, 2016 (Doc. 10)(“Third Response”); Second Response to Cure Defects at 1, file August 10, 2016 (Doc. 11)(“Fourth Response). Dangim also requested a change of venue to an African-American judge. See First Response at 1; Second Response at 1; Third Response at 1; Fourth Response at 1.

         On August 22, 2016, Judge Yarbrough quashed the Order To Show Cause and liberally construed Dangim's request for a change of venue as a motion to disqualify under 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). See Order Quashing Order to Show Cause Granting Leave to Proceed Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and Denying Motion to Disqualify at 1, filed August 22, 2016 (Doc. 13)(“Quash Order”). Judge Yarbrough denied Dangim's motion, because “unsupported and speculative assertions of bias or prejudice are insufficient to merit disqualification under § 455(a).” Quash Order at 3.

         On September 1, 2016, Dangim submitted 191 pages of exhibits, which included medical and mental health records as well as various documents from his state court criminal proceedings. See Sealed Notice, filed August 23, 2016 (Doc. 19)(“Medical Records”). Judge Yarbrough determined that the information in these records triggered the obligation under rule 17(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “to inquire into the current status of [Dangim's] mental health to determine whether the appointment of a guardian ad litem, or other appropriate order, is required.” Sealed Order Requiring Supplemental Documentation Regarding Plaintiff's Mental Competency at 3, filed March 15, 2017 (Doc. 20)(“Supplemental Documentation Order”).[1] Judge Yarbrough ordered Dangim to submit, on or before April 14, 2017, “supplemental documentation regarding the current status of his mental health, including, but not limited to, court records, updated medical records, and statement from treating physicians or psychiatrists.” Supplemental Documentation Order at 3 (emphasis in original). The deadline for the submission of supplemental documentation has expired, and Dangim has not complied or otherwise responded to Judge Yarbrough's Supplemental Documentation Order.

         ANALYSIS

         As a preliminary matter, the Court must determine which obligation it has a duty to fulfill first: (i) screening of the complaint under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915(A); or (ii) determination of Dangim's mental competency to represent himself pro se under rule 17(c)(2). The Court will first screen the Complaint under §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The Court will next address Dangim's mental competency under rule 17(c)(2).

         I. THE COURT FIRST WILL SCREEN THE COMPLAINT UNDER §§ 1915(E) AND 1915A BEFORE ADDRESSING DANGIM'S MENTAL COMPETENCY UNDER FED. R. CIV. P. 17(c)(2).

         Rule 17(c)(2) provides, in relevant part, that “[t]he court must appoint a guardian ad litem -- or issue another appropriate order -- to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(c)(2). “[T]he language of the Rule makes the obligation mandatory, ” but it does not indicate “which factors should trigger the district court's duty of inquiry as to whether the individual at issue is incompetent.” Powell v. Symons, 680 F.3d 301, 303 (3d Cir. 2012). Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has not addressed the issue in a published opinion, the Courts of Appeal generally apply the standard that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit articulated in Ferrelli v. River Manor Health Care Center, 323 F.3d 196 (2d Cir. 2003). In that case, the Second Circuit held that Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(c)(2) does not obligate “a district court to monitor a pro se litigant's behavior for signs of mental incompetence.” Ferrelli v. River Manor Health Care Center, 323 F.2d at 201. The duty to appoint a guardian ad litem or issue another appropriate order arises, however, when a court is

presented with evidence from an appropriate court of record or a relevant public agency indicating that the party had been adjudicated incompetent, or if the court received verifiable evidence from a mental health professional demonstrating that the party is being or has been treated for mental illness of the type that would render him or her legally incompetent.

Ferrelli v. River Manor Health Care Center, 323 F.2d at 201.

         Title 28 of the United States Code, § 1915(A) also imposes a mandatory obligation on district courts to screen “before docketing, if feasible, or in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner[2] seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A)(a). See Plunk v. Givens, 234 F.3d 1128, 1129 (10th Cir. 2000)(holding that “§ 1915A applies to all prison litigants, without regard to their fee status, who bring civil suits against a governmental entity, officers, or employee”). On review, the court is required to “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, ” if it “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or if it “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Furthermore, where a litigant such as Dangim has been granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis, the district court “shall dismiss ...


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