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Martinez v. Argyres

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 22, 2017

MARTY JOSEPH MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTINA ARGYRES, JULIE GALLARDO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter is before the Court, sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, on Plaintiff Marty Joseph Martinez's Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights (Prisoner Complaint) [Doc. 1], filed on January 12, 2017. Also before the Court is a letter from Plaintiff docketed on February 2, 2017, in which Plaintiff requests permission to “amend [his] case by add[ing] the Healthcare provider Centurion L.L.C” and “Dr. Bailey” as defendants. [Doc. 5] Plaintiff is incarcerated, appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma pauperis. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint will be denied as moot, Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 will be dismissed, and Plaintiff will be granted thirty (30) days from the date of entry of this order to file an amended complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint For Violation of Civil Rights (Prisoner Complaint) against Defendant Christina Argyres, the judge who presided over his criminal case in the Second Judicial District of the State of New Mexico, and Julie Gallardo, the Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted Plaintiff's criminal case. [Doc. 1] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Argyres and Gallardo violated his constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy by “giving two sentences for the same crime.” [Doc. 1 at 4] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the imposition of a two-year term of parole, after the service of a three-year sentence of incarceration, “exceed[s] the maximum sentence” in violation of the double jeopardy clause. [Doc. 1 at 5] As a result of the constitutional violation, Plaintiff alleges that he has lost wages and incurred emotional suffering and anguish. [Doc. 1 at 5] In his request for relief, Plaintiff asks the Court to “terminate [his] sentence” and order his “immediate release.” [Doc. 1 at 5]

         On February 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed a letter, which was docketed as a motion to amend the complaint. [Doc. 5] In his letter, Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to add claims against Centurion L.L.C. and Dr. Bailey for the alleged violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. [Doc. 5] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Centurion L.L.C. and Dr. Bailey deprived him of adequate medical care and that this deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment “in violation of both constitutional and civil rights.” [Doc. 5]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Court first will address Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint and then will screen Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.

         A. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Will Be Denied As Moot

         Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to add civil rights claims against Centurion L.L.C. and Dr. Bailey for the alleged violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. [Doc. 5] Federal Rule 15(a)(1) governs the amendment of pleadings and it provides, in relevant part, that “[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within . . . 21 days of serving it” or within “21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e) or (f), whichever is earlier.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(A), (B). Plaintiff's civil rights complaint has not yet been served and neither a responsive pleading nor a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f) has been filed. Accordingly, Plaintiff has the right under Rule 15(a)(1) to amend his complaint “once as a matter of course.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint will be denied as moot.

         Plaintiff did not attach a proposed amended complaint to his motion to amend the complaint. See D.N.M.LR-Civ. 15.1 (“A proposed amendment to a pleading must accompany the motion amend.”). It appears that Plaintiff intended the factual allegations in his motion to amend to be treated as an amendment to the complaint. Therefore, the Court will direct the Clerk of the Court to add Centurion, L.L.C. and Dr. Bailey to the caption as Defendants in this case.

         Ordinarily, the filing an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Mink v. Suthers, 482 F.3d 1244, 1254 (10th Cir. 2007) (noting that “an amended complaint supercedes an original complaint and renders the original complaint without legal effect”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In this case, however, it appears that Plaintiff intended to augment his original complaint by adding additional constitutional claims against additional defendants. Mindful of the Court's obligation to construe pro se pleadings liberally, see Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991), the Court will construe Plaintiff's original and amended complaints [Docs. 1, 5] collectively as the operative pleading.

         B. The Court Declines To Recharacterize This Civil Rights Action As a Habeas Proceeding

         As a preliminary matter, the Court must determine the proper characterization of Plaintiff's pro se civil rights complaint, as amended. “Federal law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1981, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 1983.” Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004) (per curiam). “[W]hen a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). However, when a prisoner “is making a constitutional challenge to the conditions of his prison life, but not the fact or length of his custody, ” a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is the “proper remedy.” Id. at 499; see Palma-Salazar v. Davis, 677 F.3d 1031, 1035 (10th Cir. 2012) (“In this circuit, a prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate release or a shortened period of confinement, must do so through an application for habeas corpus. . . . In contrast, a prisoner who challenges the conditions of his confinement must do so through a civil rights action.”) (citation omitted).

         Plaintiff's complaint, as amended, seeks immediate release from state custody and makes a constitutional challenge to the conditions of his prison life. “A single complaint may seek relief partly under § 2254 and partly under § 1983.” Richards v. Bellmon, 941 F.2d 1015, 1018 n.3 (10th Cir. 1991). Furthermore, this Court has the discretion to recharacterize Plaintiff's civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 381 (2003) (recognizing that federal courts may recharacterize pro se pleadings “to avoid an unnecessary dismissal” or to “create better correspondence between the substance of a pro se motion's claim and its underlying legal basis”). “But recharacterization involves potential consequences with respect to any § 2254 claim [a petitioner] may file in the future” because “AEDPA places strict limitations on second or successive claims.” Yellowbear v. Wyoming Attorney Gen., 525 F.3d 921, 924 (10th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b).

         The Court declines to recharacterize Plaintiff's civil rights complaint as a § 2254 petition. First, recharacterization of Plaintiff's pro se pleading has potential adverse consequences to any § 2254 claim that Plaintiff may file in the future. Cf. United States v. Lowe, 6 F.App'x 832, 836 (10th Cir. 2001) (“We have generally disfavored the recharacterization of non-§ 2255 motions filed by prisoners as § 2255 motions, even where the prisoner may be entitled to relief under § 2255 but is clearly not entitled to relief under whatever cause of action he has asserted, because of the concern that such recharacterization might inadvertently result in a waiver of the prisoner's other claims for habeas relief.”) (unpublished). Second, and more importantly, the state court docket reflects that a § 2254 petition likely would be barred by the 1-year limitation period in § 2244(d)(1) and that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his state court remedies as required by § 2254(b)(1)(A).[1]See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) (requiring a § 2254 petition to be filed within 1 year of “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review”); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A) (“An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that-the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State”); see also State of New Mexico v. Martinez, D-202-CR-201305597 ...


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