Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Owens v. San Juan County

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 31, 2018

ELLIE HUE OWENS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
SAN JUAN COUNTY; SAN JUAN COUNTY DETENTION CENTER and SAN JUAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

          Ellie Hue Owens, Jr. Albuquerque, New Mexico Plaintiff pro se

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, on Plaintiff's Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights, filed May 30, 2018 (Doc. 22) (“Amended Complaint”). Owens is incarcerated, appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma pauperis. For the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss Owens' Amended Complaint without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b) for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, but will grant Owens thirty days from the date of this Memorandum Opinion and Order's entry to file a second amended complaint.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 4, 2017, Owens filed a civil rights complaint against Defendants San Juan County, San Juan County Detention Center, and San Juan County Sheriff's Department, alleging civil rights violations under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States of America. See Civil Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 at 1, filed August 4, 2017 (Doc. 1)(“Complaint”). Owens' Complaint sought compensatory damages for injuries he suffered during a physical assault at the San Juan County Courthouse and the alleged subsequent deprivation of medical care. See Complaint at 2-3; id. ¶¶ 1-6, at 6.

         On May 3, 2018, the Court reviewed Owens' Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, and determined that it failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See Memorandum Opinion and Order at 5, filed May 3, 2018 (Doc. 19)(“MOO”). Specifically, the Court dismissed Owens' claims against Defendants San Juan County Detention Center and San Juan County Sheriff's Department, because “governmental sub-units are not separate suable entities that may be sued under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983.” MOO at 3 (quoting Hinton v. Dennis, 362 Fed.Appx. 904, 907 (10th Cir. Jan. 25, 2010)(unpublished)). With respect to Owens' claims against Defendant San Juan County, the Court determined that his Complaint was deficient, because it failed to allege that “the Board of County Commissioners of the County of San Juan had an official policy or custom that caused the alleged violation of his constitutional rights” in accordance with Monell v. Dep't of Social Serv. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978)(“Monell”). MOO at 4. The Court afforded Owens thirty days in which to file an amended complaint that states a claim on which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         See MOO at 5. The Court notified Owens that his

amended 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 claims against him or her.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1250 (10th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original). “[T]o state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to him or her; when the defendant did it, how the defendant's actions harmed him or her; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007). Failure to timely file an amended complaint may result in the dismissal of this action without prejudice without further notice. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) (providing for involuntary dismissal “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order”).

MOO at 4-5.

         On May 30, 2018, Owens filed his Amended Complaint. See Amended Complaint at 1. Owen's Amended Complaint, like his original Complaint, raises constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising out of the physical assault at the San Juan Courthouse and the subsequent alleged deprivation of medical care. See Amended Complaint at 3-6. Additionally, Owens alleges that his trial counsel, Defendant Corey Stackhouse, denied him adequate representation, because he failed to help Owens “in anyway including arraignment, sentencing, appeal.” Amended Complaint at 5. Lastly, Owens alleges that the Defendants have deprived him of access to the grievance process, tampered with his mail, and wrongfully convicted and sentenced him. In his Amended Complaint, Owens seeks $8, 500, 500.00 in monetary damages. See Amended Complaint at 6.

         ANALYSIS

         As previously explained to Owens, the Court has the discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A at any time if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b). “Dismissal of a pro se complaint for failure to state a claim is proper only where it is obvious that the plaintiff cannot prevail on the facts he has alleged and it would be futile to give him an opportunity to amend.” Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). Although “[a] pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” the liberal rule of construction “does not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). It is well established that “conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim on which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1110.

         The Court will dismiss Owens' § 1983 claims against San Juan Detention Center, and San Juan Sheriff's Department, because, as previously explained, “governmental sub-units are not separate suable entities that may be sued under § 1983.” MOO at 3 (quoting Hinton v. Dennis, 362 Fed.Appx. at 907). Additionally, the Court will dismiss Owens' claims against San Juan County because the Amended Complaint fails to allege that San Juan County had an official policy or custom that caused the alleged violation of his constitutional rights. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 (holding that a county cannot “be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor -- or, in other words, [it] cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory” (italics in original)); Starrett v. Wadley, 876 F.2d 808, 818 (10th Cir. 1989)(noting that counties “are subject to liability [under § 1983] only for their official policies or customs”).

         Owens' Amended Complaint also names Mr. Stackhouse, a private attorney appointed or retained to represent Owens in his state criminal proceeding, as a defendant in his Amended Complaint. “A prerequisite to any relief under section 1983 is that the defendant has acted under color of state law.” Barnard v. Young, 720 F.2d 1188, 1188-89 (10th Cir. 1983)(footnote omitted). Owens' Amended Complaint does not allege any facts indicating that Mr. Stackhouse, a private citizen, acted under color of state law. See Beedle v. Wilson, 422 F.3d 1059, 1071 (10th Cir. 2005)(holding that a private citizen “can be held liable under § 1983 only if she was a ‘willful participant in joint action with the State or its agents'” (quoting Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 27 (1980))); Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981)(holding that “a public defender does not act under color of state law when performing a lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding” (footnote omitted)). The Court will, therefore, dismiss Owens' § 1983 claims against Mr. Stackhouse.

         To the extent that Owens is challenging the constitutional validity of his state conviction and sentence, Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) bars Owens' ยง 1983 claims. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.