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Thompson v. New Mexico Corrections Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 6, 2018

RYAN THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW MEXICO CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT; and RICARDO MARTINEZ, WARDEN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING FEDERAL CLAIMS AND REMANDING CASE

          ROBERT C. BRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2) and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the Civil Complaint (Tort) filed by Plaintiff Ryan Thompson in New Mexico state court on June 12, 2017, and removed to this Court by Defendant Ricardo Martinez, on July 21, 2017. (Docs. 1; 1-1.) Also before the Court is Defendant Martinez's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6), and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Plaintiff [sic] Civil Complaint and Plaintiff's Request for Removal (Doc. 9). The Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss, in part, and dismiss all federal claims. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and remands any state law claims to New Mexico state court.

         Plaintiff is an inmate incarcerated at the Otero County Prison Facility (“OCPF”) in Chaparral, New Mexico. (Doc. 1-1 at 1-2.) Plaintiff filed his Civil Complaint (Tort) in the State of New Mexico, County of Santa Fe, First Judicial District Court on June 12, 2017 (“Complaint”). (Id.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that “[t]his is a tort authorized by the New Mexico Tort Claims Act” and asserts jurisdiction under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, Chapter 41 N.M.S.A. (Id. at 2.) Although he labels his claims as Eighth Amendment claims, he alleges that, by failing “to comply with appropriate medical protocol, ” the prison facility has not provided him with adequate medical care. (Id. at 4.) Thompson names the New Mexico Corrections Department and OCPF Warden, Ricardo Martinez, as Defendants. (Id. at 1-2.)

         Defendant Martinez removed the case to this Court on July 21, 2017, asserting federal question jurisdiction based on Thompson's allegations of violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. (Id. at 2). Martinez filed his Answer to the Complaint on July 25, 2017. (Doc. 2.) Martinez then filed a Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on September 8, 2017. (Doc. 6.) Martinez seeks dismissal on the grounds that the Complaint fails to state an Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at 1.)

         Plaintiff filed his Response to the Motion to Dismiss on October 25, 2017. (Doc. 8.) In his Response, Plaintiff states that “this is a case of simple negligence” and asks that the case be sent back to the First Judicial District Court. (Doc. 8.) Defendant Martinez replies that the Complaint raises only federal Eighth Amendment claims and the Court should dismiss the case, in its entirety, and not remand any claims back to state court. (Doc. 10.)

         Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Amend Plaintiff [sic] Civil Complaint and Plaintiff's Request for Removal. (Doc. 9.) In his Motion, Plaintiff again asserts that the case is one of “simple negligence” and asks for remand of the case to the First Judicial District Court. (Id.) Defendant Martinez opposes Plaintiff's request to amend and remand. (Doc. 12.)

         DISMISSAL FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

         Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. The Court has the discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under either Rule 12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A claim should be dismissed where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if “it is ‘patently obvious' that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting McKinney v. Okla. Dep't of Human Servs., 925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         Under § 1915(e)(2)(B) the court may dismiss the complaint at any time if the court determines the action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(2). The authority granted by § 1915 permits the court the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); see also Hall, 935 F.2d at 1109. The authority to “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations” means that a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). The court is not required to accept the truth of the plaintiff's allegations but, instead, may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other materials filed by the parties, as well as court proceedings subject to judicial notice. Denton, 504 U.S. at 32-33.

         The Court liberally construes the factual allegations in reviewing a pro se complaint. See Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff must abide by the applicable rules of court. Ogden v. San Juan Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). The court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual allegations to support the plaintiff's claims. Nor may the court assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         ANALYSIS OF PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         In his Complaint, Thompson alleges claims for violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment. He claims his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment has been violated by alleged indifference to his serious medical needs. (Doc. 1-1 at 2-5). Thompson's Complaint does not expressly allege causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is the exclusive vehicle for vindication of substantive rights under both the Constitution and § 1981. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979); Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (Section 1983 creates no substantive rights; rather it is the means through which a plaintiff may seek redress for deprivations of rights established in the Constitution); Bolden v. City of Topeka, 441 F.3d 1129 (10th Cir. 2006) (claims against state actors for violation of § 1981 must be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Therefore, the Court construes Thompson's claims for violation of rights under the Eighth Amendment as civil rights claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must assert acts by government officials acting under color of law that result in a deprivation of rights secured by the United States Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). There must be a connection between official conduct and violation of a constitutional right. Conduct that is not connected to a ...


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