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Martin v. New Mexico Corrections Department N.M.C.D.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 7, 2018

JAMES S. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW MEXICO CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT N.M.C.D., CENTURION INCORPORATED, and OTERO COUNTY PRISON FACILITY O.C.P.F. MEDICAL SCHEDULING COORDINATOR-NURSE HERNANDEZ, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING FEDERAL CLAIMS AND REMANDING CASE

         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 Complaint (Tort) filed by Plaintiff James S. Martin in New Mexico state court on May 24, 2017, and removed to this Court by Defendant Centurion, Inc., on July 26, 2017. (Doc. 1, 1-1). Also before the Court is Defendant Centurion's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4), Plaintiff Martin's Motion to Certify Cause as a Class Action Case (Doc. 6) and Motion to Sever and Remand (Doc. 7), and Defendants' Motion to Amend to Correct Plaintiff's Address (Doc. 33). The Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss, in part, and dismiss all federal claims. The Court also declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and remands any state law claims to New Mexico state court.

         At the time he filed his Complaint, Plaintiff James S. Martin was an inmate incarcerated at the Otero County Prison Facility (“OCPF”) in Chaparral, New Mexico. (Doc.1-1 at 4). Plaintiff Martin filed his Complaint (Tort) in the State of New Mexico, County of Santa Fe, First Judicial District Court on May 24, 2017 (“Complaint”). (Doc. 1-1). In his Complaint, Martin states that “[t]his is a tort suit authorized by the New Mexico Tort Claims Act” and asserts jurisdiction under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, Chapter 41 N.M.S.A. (Doc. 1-1 at 1-2). Martin's Complaint alleges violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article Two Section Thirteen and Article Eight of the New Mexico Constitution. (Doc. 1-1 at 2). Martin also sets out a claim that he is being denied hygiene items that the New Mexico Corrections Department (“NMCD”) is contractually obligated to provide. (Doc. 1-1 at 9-10). Martin names, as Defendants, NMCD, Centurion, Inc., and OCPF Medical Scheduling Coordinator, Nurse Hernandez. (Doc. 1-1 at 1-2).

         Defendant Centurion removed the case to this Court on July 26, 2017, asserting federal question jurisdiction based on Martin's allegations of violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Doc. 1-1 at 2). Centurion then filed a Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on August 2, 2017. (Doc. 4). Centurion seeks dismissal on the grounds that the Complaint fails to state an Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment claim against it. (Doc. 6 at 1). Although Plaintiff Martin received an extension of time to file a response to the Motion to Dismiss, Martin did not file any response to the Motion. (Doc. 28).

         Instead, Plaintiff Martin filed two motions. First, Martin filed a Motion to Certify Cause as a Class Action Case. (Doc. 6). Defendant Centurion responded in opposition to the Motion to Certify on August 22, 2017. (Doc. 16). Defendant Hernandez joined in Centurion's Response on August 25, 2017. (Doc. 21). Second, Martin filed a Motion to Sever and Remand. (Doc. 7). In his Motion to Sever and Remand, Martin argues that he is asserting claims under the New Mexico Constitution and laws, and that his New Mexico state law claims should be severed and remanded back to the First Judicial District Court. (Doc. 7). Defendant Centurion opposes the Motion to Sever and Remand (Doc. 16) and Defendant Hernandez joins in that opposition. (Doc. 21).

         Defendant New Mexico Corrections Department has also filed a Motion seeking to correct Plaintiff's address of record to reflect that Martin is currently incarcerated at the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman, New Mexico. (Doc. 33). On December 29, 2017, Plaintiff Martin filed a Notice of Change of Address, changing his address of record to the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman, mooting Defendant's Motion. (Doc. 37).

         DENIAL OF CLASS CERTIFICATION

         Plaintiff Martin has filed a pro se Motion to Certify Cause as a Class Action Case (Doc. 6). A court may not certify a class unless it determines the representative party will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(4). When a court reviews the adequacy of the representation under Rule 23(a)(4), it is required to consider not only the character and quality of the named representative party, but also the quality and experience of the attorneys for the class. 7A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 1769.1 (3d ed.2005).

         In Fymbo v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 213 F.3d 1320 (10th Cir.2000), the Tenth Circuit concluded that a litigant may bring his own claims to federal court without counsel, but not the claims of others because “the competence of a layman is ‘clearly too limited to allow him to risk the rights of others.' ” Id. at 1321 (quoting Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir.1975)); see also 7A Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 1769.1 (citing cases for the rule that class representatives cannot appear pro se).

         The rule against pro se representation of a putative class is particularly important because class litigation must comply with the complex requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 23(g) mandates appointment of class counsel, unless otherwise provided by statute. See also Rule 23(c)(1)(B) (requiring appointment of class counsel when district court certifies class). Importantly, a judgment in a class action may foreclose other class members from later bringing the same claims. See Rule 23(c)(3). The Tenth Circuit has stated that this Court may not entrust the claims of other class members to a non-lawyer. Ransom v. U.S. Postal Serv., 170 Fed.Appx. 525, 528-29 (10th Cir. 2006); see Pilots Against Illegal Dues v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, 938 F.2d 1123, 1134 (10th Cir.1991); Beierle v. Colorado Dep't of Corr., 79 Fed.Appx. 373, 375 (10th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff may not, acting pro se, maintain claims on behalf of a class. The Court will deny Martin's Motion to Certify Cause as a Class Action Case.

         DISMISSAL FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

         Plaintiff Martin 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 Fed.R.Civ.P. 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 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. 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. Oklahoma Dep't of Human Services, 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. § 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 v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir.1991). 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 County,32 F.3d 452, 455 (10thCir. 1994). The court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual allegations to ...


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