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Steward v. Hodges

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 21, 2017




         This matter is before the Court sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A on Plaintiff Nathanial Steward's civil rights complaint (Doc. 1) and Memorandum of Law (Doc. 6). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for extension of time to pay the initial partial payment ordered by the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). (Doc. 13.) Plaintiff is incarcerated, appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma pauperis. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion for extension of time will be denied as moot, Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, and Plaintiff will be granted 30 days from the date of entry of this order to file an amended complaint.


         On December 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint against the following Defendants: (1) Deputy Warden Hodges; (2) Corizon Medical Department; (3) Nurse Fernando; (4) Officer Lozoya; and (5) Grievance Officer Robin Bruck. (Doc. 1) Plaintiff alleges that on July 2, 2016, he was “involved in an altercation” with another inmate, during which he was “shot by Officer Lozoya” with a “shotgun beanbag.” (Id. at 5.) After the shooting, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied “proper treatment for whatever is going on with him mentally as well as physically.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that he submitted multiple informal complaints and formal grievances, but his informal complaints and formal grievances were lost, unanswered, denied, or deemed resolved, even though they were not resolved to his satisfaction. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have acted in bad-faith and denied him access to the Court, because they “won't answer his last step in the grievance process.” (Id.)

         Attached to Plaintiff's complaint are various Inmate Informal Complaints and Grievances filed by Plaintiff, as well as Plaintiff's correspondence with multiple law firms. (Id. at 13-37.) With respect to relief, Plaintiff's complaint does not seek damages or injunctive relief, since such relief “would be premature at this time unless court stated exhaustion is complete.” (Id. at 11.) Rather, “at this time [Plaintiff] only wants to be heard fully in accordance to the D.O.C. state policy (CD Policy) in a good faith process, or answer the unanswered ones and take the process serious.” (Id.)

         On January 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Law, which reiterates Plaintiff's claim that “the corrections here are using the exhaustion requirement to defeat valid constitutional claims.” (Doc. 6 at 1.) Attached to Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law were three Inmate Grievances, which previously had been submitted to the Court as attachments to Plaintiff's civil rights complaint, with the notable difference that these Inmate Grievances reflect that Plaintiff completed the final part of the form entitled “Step 5 - Departmental Appeal.” (Compare Doc. 1 at 23-27, with Doc. 6 at 6-12.) There is no indication that Plaintiff's “Departmental Appeal” was submitted to the appropriate grievance officers and, if so, on what date the submission took place. (Doc. 6 at 6-12.)

         On January 18, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's Application To Proceed In District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and ordered Plaintiff to submit an initial partial payment in the amount of $40.83 pursuant to § 1915(b)(1)(A). (Doc. 7.) Plaintiff timely submitted his initial partial payment on February 21, 2017. (See Docs. 9, 10.) On March 9, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a motion for extension of time to submit the initial partial payment. (Doc. 13.)


         First the Court will address Plaintiff's motion for extension of time (Doc. 13), and then the Court will screen the merits of Plaintiff's civil rights complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A(b).

         A. The Court Will Deny Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time as Moot

         On March 9, 2017, Plaintiff moved for an extension of time in which to submit the initial partial payment of $40.83, because the necessary funds were not deposited into his inmate account until February 15, 2017. (Doc. 13.) The docket reflects that Plaintiff's initial partial payment was timely submitted to the Court on February 21, 2107. (Doc. 10.) Therefore, no extension of time is needed and Plaintiff's motion will be denied as moot. Plaintiff is reminded that he is “required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income” credited to his inmate account until the $350 filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).

         B. The Court Will Dismiss Plaintiff's Civil Rights Complaint without Prejudice

         The Court has the discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte under §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A at any time if the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b). “Dismissal of a pro se complaint for failure to state a claim is proper only where it is obvious that the plaintiff cannot prevail on the facts he has alleged and it would be futile to give him an opportunity to amend.” Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a complaint that contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for 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)). “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.” Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Id.

         Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and “[a] pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Therefore, “if 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 ...

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