United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING
PLAINTIFF'S CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT
Robert Pipkin filed this action after Defendants allegedly
failed to protect him from attack while he was detained at
the San Juan County Detention Center. See COMPLAINT
FOR VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS (Doc. No. 1) (Complaint).
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis. See ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED
PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (Doc. 4). After
reviewing the matter sua sponte under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court will dismiss
the Complaint but grant leave to amend.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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.
Plaintiff is acting 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. Further, if
the initial pleading is defective, pro se plaintiffs
should be given a reasonable opportunity to file an amended
pleading, unless amendment would be futile. Reynoldson v.
Shillinger, 907 F.2d 124, 126 (10th Cir.
1990); Hall, 935 F.2d at 1109.
is a pretrial detainee at the San Juan County Detention
Center (SJCDC). Compl. p. 1. The confinement began on or
about September 28, 2016, when the Hon. John Dean revoked
Plaintiff's bail for failing to appear for trial in State
Court. Compl. p. 5. Plaintiff asserts his lawyer was forced
to withdraw when the district attorney threatened to subpoena
the lawyer to testify that he had informed Plaintiff of the
time for trial. Id.
is a sex offender and was originally housed with similar
offenders. Id. On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff had a
fight with another inmate. Id. He was sent to a
23-hour lockdown unit and was permitted one hour per day of
recreation time. Id. During the recreational hour,
Plaintiff was placed among “a mixed classification
group.” Id. When the other inmates learned he
was a sex offender, they beat him until he lost
consciousness. Id. He spent three days in the
medical unit. Id. SJCDC officials denied his request
for outside medical treatment. Compl. P. 7. When Plaintiff
was released from the medical unit, he refused his hour of
recreation time because of fear for his safety. Compl. p. 6.
He was eventually transferred back to the pod housing sex
on these events, Plaintiff asserts claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and the Eighth Amendment against SJCDC and its
Warden, Assistant Warden, and various “unknown
employees of” SJCDC. Compl. p. 2-3. Plaintiff also
appears to assert the same constitutional claims against
Judge Dean, who ordered his confinement. Compl. p. 3. He
seeks between $100, 000 and $1 million in damages. Compl. p.
cause of action under section 1983 requires the deprivation
of a civil right by a ‘person' acting under color
of state law.” McLaughlin v. Bd. of Trustees,
215 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff must
allege that each government official, through the
official's own individual actions, has personally
violated the Constitution. See Trask v. Franco, 446
F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998). There must also be a
connection between the official conduct and the
constitutional violation. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523
F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008); Trask, 446 F.3d at
complaint does not meet this standard. SJCDC is not a proper
defendant because “state-operated detention facilities
…. are not ‘persons' who have the capacity
to be sued under § 1983.” Buchanan v.
Okla., 398 F. App'x 339, 342 (10th Cir. 2010)
(unpublished). It is also well settled that judges have
absolute judicial immunity from suits when acting in their
official capacity as a judge. See Stein v. Disciplinary
Bd. of Sup. Ct. of N.M., 520 F.3d 1183, 1195 (10th Cir.
2008). This includes “§ 1983 claims
… alleg[ing] that [the judge] caused [plaintiff] to be
unlawfully confined.” Quintana v. Adair, 673
Fed. App'x 815, 818 (10th Cir. 2016) (unpublished). Any
claims against Judge John Dean are therefore barred.
Warden Havel and Assistant Warden Webb could potentially face
liability, but the allegations against them are deficient.
“Under § 1983, government officials are not
vicariously liable for the misconduct of their subordinates,
” and “it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to
show a defendant was in charge of other state actors who
actually committed the violation.” Serna v.
Colorado Dep't of Corr., 455 F.3d 1146, 1151 (10th
Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). “Instead,
… the plaintiff must establish a deliberate,
intentional act by the supervisor to violate constitutional
rights” Id. To “demonstrate an
affirmative link between the supervisor and the violation,
” the plaintiff must satisfy “three related
prongs: (1) personal involvement, (2) sufficient casual
connection, and (3) culpable state of mind.” Dodd
v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1195 (10th Cir. 2010)
(internal citations omitted). The Complaint does not allege
Defendants Havel or Webb were personally involved in
Plaintiff's “mixed classification” placement,
nor does it allege that they adopted a “plan or policy
… showing [their] authorization or approval of
such” decision. Id. at 1201 (internal
Plaintiff's reference to “unknown named
employees” of SJCDC is insufficient to bring any
particular person into this action. Compl. p. 3. A successful
§ 1983 complaint must “make clear exactly
who is alleged to have done what to whom,
to provide each individual with fair notice as to the basis
of the claim against him or her.” Robbins v.
Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1249-50 (10th Cir. 2008)
(emphasis in the original).
foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint and
will permit Plaintiff to file an amended complaint by
December 29, 2017. The Court notes that even if Plaintiff
correctly identifies the individuals who may be subject to
suit, the allegations must still state a claim under §
1983. To demonstrate the failure to protect, “the
inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions
posing a substantial risk of serious ...