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Aragon v. Salazar

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 21, 2017

CARLOS ARAGON, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTINE J. SALAZAR, CORIZON HEALTH CARE, CAPTAIN DEBERRY, LIEUTENANT ARNOLD ARAGON, SERGEANT CHAVIRA, AND JOHN DOE 1 - 100, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT

         Before the Court is Carlos Aragon's civil rights complaint and motion to appoint counsel (Docs. 1, 7, 12). Plaintiff is incarcerated, appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma pauperis. For the reasons set out below, the Court will dismiss the complaint without prejudice, grant Plaintiff leave to amend, and deny any additional relief.

         Standards Governing Sua Sponte Review

         The Court has discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte under § 1915(e)(2) “at any time if … the action … is frivolous or malicious; [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” The Court may also dismiss a complaint sua sponte under Rule 12(b)(6) if “it is patently obvious that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged, and allowing [plaintiff] an opportunity to amend [the] complaint would be futile.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991) (quotations omitted). The plaintiff must 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 Atlantic 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 a cause of action and conclusory allegations, without more, do not suffice. Id.

         Because Plaintiff is pro se, his “pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. 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, … confusion of various legal theories, … poor syntax and sentence construction, or … unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.” Id. At the same time, however, it is not “the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant.” Id.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and state tort law against his case manager and other prison officials for abuse, conspiracy, and deliberate indifference to his medical needs. The Court assumes the following facts taken from Plaintiff's pleadings (Docs. 1, 7) are true.

         In 2013, Plaintiff was an inmate at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (“CNMCF”). See Doc. 7, p. 2. Around January or February of that year, he was assigned to a new case manager, Christine Salazar. Id. For the next ten months, she told other inmates Plaintiff was a sex offender and allowed them access to his confidential files. Id.

         On December 20, 2013, Captain Deberry and Lieutenant Aragon took Plaintiff to the “strip cage” for his protection. Id. at p. 3. As he walked to the cage, Plaintiff noticed Sergeant Chavira was also nearby. Id. Plaintiff recalls entering the cage, but he cannot remember anything else. Id. He woke up on the floor in a pool of blood. Id. He believes he was struck on his forehead with an object. Captain Deberry, Lieutenant Aragon, and Sergeant Chavira were the only staff members in the area when he regained consciousness. See Doc. 7 p. 3. Plaintiff's original complaint states the perpetrators have not been identified, but in a later filing he states the three officers attacked him. Compare Doc. 1, p. 13 and Doc. 7, p. 4. Plaintiff believes Case Manager Salazar solicited inmates or coworkers to “silence [him]” and harm him in retaliation for some type of investigation, but the details are unclear. See Doc. 1, p. 13.

         After the incident, CNMCF officials escorted Plaintiff to the medical unit, where he received several stitches. See Doc. 7, p. 3. He was then transferred to the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility (“WNMCF”). Id. As a result of the attack, Plaintiff is permanently disfigured and experiences memory problems, paranoia, depression, anxiety, nightmares, and post-traumatic stress disorder. See Doc. 7, p. 4. He alleges medical staff at CNMCF and WNMCF refused to order a CAT scan or otherwise treat his mental and physical injuries. Id.; Doc. 1, p. 19-20.

         Around 2014 or 2015, Case Manager Salazar and several other prison officials intervened in Plaintiff's parole process. See Doc. 1, p. 14. He was consequently released to a halfway house instead of his family home, as he requested. Id. Plaintiff failed to comply with the terms of his parole. Id. He asserts the failure is attributable to Case Manager Salazar's interference. Id.

         Plaintiff initially sued 26 defendants based on the above occurrences. See Doc. 1. He later amended the complaint to proceed against Case Manager Salazar, Corizon Health Care, Captain Deberry, Lieutenant Aragon, Sergeant Chavira, and “John Doe 1-100.” See Doc. 7, p. 1.

         He seeks at least $2, 400, 000 in damages, a declaratory judgment that Defendants violated the Constitution, and a permanent injunction requiring Defendants to pay for his medical costs. See Doc. 7, p. 6-7.

         Analysis

         If Plaintiff's case manager exposed him as a sex offender and prison guards attacked him as a result, his claims against those individuals may survive initial review under § 1915(e). See, e.g., Northington v. Jackson,973 F.2d 1518, 1525 (10th Cir. 1992) (Guard who told other inmates the plaintiff was a “snitch” demonstrated a “wanton disregard for the inmate's safety”); Leary v. Livingston County Jail, 528 F.3d 438, 442 (7th Cir. 2008) (Plaintiff potentially had a constitutional claim against the guard who told ...


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