Martinez v. Bureau of Prisons et al
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AS MODIFIED (Written Opinion). Signed by Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright on 05/23/17. (TJB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Jose Monserrato Martinez, Jr.,
Case No. 15-cv-2636 (WMW/TNL)
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION AS MODIFIED
Bureau of Prisons, Warden FPC Duluth,
and Warden FMC Rochester,
This matter is before the Court on the March 2, 2017 Report and Recommendation
(R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung.
recommends granting Defendants’ December 13, 2016 motion to dismiss.
reasons addressed below, the Court adopts the R&R as modified herein.
Plaintiff Jose Monserrato Martinez, Jr., commenced this action by filing a habeas
petition, but he does not seek habeas relief.
Rather, Martinez seeks damages for
Defendants’ “deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical problem” and challenges the
administrative denial of a claim brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act. When
considering Martinez’s request for in forma pauperis status, the magistrate judge
observed that a habeas petition is not the proper procedural vehicle by which to bring a
medical indifference claim.
But the magistrate judge opined that, with Martinez’s
permission, the district court may construe Martinez’s habeas petition as a civil
complaint. Martinez subsequently confirmed via letter that he intends to pursue this
matter as a civil action. But Martinez did not clarify the legal basis for his civil claims.
A district court may liberally construe a pro se plaintiff’s habeas petition as a civil
complaint when, as here, the plaintiff does not challenge a conviction or seek a remedy
that would result in an early release from prison. Spencer v. Haynes, 774 F.3d 467, 46971 (8th Cir. 2014). Typically, in such circumstances, the habeas petition is construed as a
constitutional claim challenging conditions of confinement.
See, e.g., id. at 471
(observing that a pro se plaintiff’s habeas petition may be liberally construed as a civil
action asserting a constitutional violation).
Here, Martinez’s habeas petition and supporting documents do not expressly refer
to the United States Constitution. Instead, Martinez seeks monetary damages based on
what appears to be a challenge to the administrative denial of a Federal Tort Claims Act
claim based on the medical care he has received. Thus, Defendants and the Court have,
to date, construed Martinez’s habeas petition as a civil complaint claiming medical
Dismissal of Martinez’s medical-malpractice claims with prejudice is
required for the reasons addressed in the R&R. Martinez’s objections to the R&R—on
the basis that he has “attempted” and “intended” to comply with the statutory
requirements and has had difficulty doing so—do not alter the merit of the R&R’s
conclusion. For these reasons, the Court adopts the R&R’s conclusion that Martinez’s
medical-malpractice claims must be dismissed with prejudice.
An alternate construction of Martinez’s habeas petition is that it is a challenge to
the conditions of his confinement under the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Indeed, Martinez’s habeas petition references Defendants’ alleged
“deliberate indifference to [a] serious medical problem.”
This assertion appears to
invoke the deliberate-indifference standard that applies to alleged violations of a
prisoner’s Eighth Amendment rights. See Reynolds v. Dormire, 636 F.3d 976, 979 (8th
Cir. 2011). A claim of deliberate indifference to a medical need in violation of the Eighth
Amendment requires proof of the presence of objectively serious medical needs, that
prison officials actually knew of those needs, and that the officials deliberately
disregarded those needs. Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997).
This type of constitutional claim also must be dismissed—but without prejudice—for the
reasons addressed below.
A federal prisoner in a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility may bring a constitutional
claim against an individual federal officer, subject to the defense of qualified immunity,
but the prisoner may not bring such a claim against “the officer’s employer, the United
States, or the BOP.” Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 72 (2001). “With
respect to the alleged constitutional deprivation, [the prisoner’s] only remedy lies against
the individual.” Id.; see also Buford v. Runyon, 160 F.3d 1199, 1203 (8th Cir. 1998) (“It
is well settled that a Bivens action cannot be prosecuted against the United States and its
agencies because of sovereign immunity.”). These principles of sovereign immunity
present a threshold question as to this Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. See Amerind
Risk Mgmt. Corp. v. Malaterre, 633 F.3d 680, 686 (8th Cir. 2011). Thus, Martinez’s
claim against the BOP challenging the conditions of his confinement on constitutional
grounds is barred by sovereign immunity and must be dismissed without prejudice for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Hart v. United States, 630 F.3d 1085, 1091 (8th
Cir. 2011) (explaining that dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on
sovereign immunity must be without prejudice).
Martinez also names as defendants “Warden FPC Duluth” and “Warden FMC
Rochester.” When, as here, a complaint asserting a constitutional violation “does not
specifically name the defendants in their individual capacities, [courts] presume that [the
plaintiff] sued them only in their official capacities.” Zajrael v. Harmon, 677 F.3d 353,
355 (8th Cir. 2012). Moreover, a suit against a public officer in the party’s official
capacity is a suit against the entity for which that official is an agent. Elder-Keep v.
Aksamit, 460 F.3d 979, 986 (8th Cir. 2006); accord Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159,
166 (1985). Although Martinez has sued “Warden FPC Duluth” and “Warden FMC
Rochester,” the United States is the real party in interest; and sovereign immunity bars
those claims as well. Thus, Martinez’s claims against Warden FPC Duluth and Warden
FMC Rochester challenging the conditions of his confinement on constitutional grounds
also must be dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the Court adopts the R&R but modifies it such that Martinez’s
constitutional challenges to the conditions of his confinement are dismissed without
prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
Based on the March 2, 2017 Report and Recommendation, the foregoing analysis
and all the files, records and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
Plaintiff Jose Monserrato Martinez, Jr.’s objections to the March 2, 2017
Report and Recommendation, (Dkt. 63), are OVERRULED;
The March 2, 2017 Report and Recommendation, (Dkt. 61), is ADOPTED
AS MODIFIED, as outlined herein;
Plaintiff Jose Monserrato Martinez, Jr.’s motion for extension of time, (Dkt.
49), is DENIED;
Defendants’ motion to dismiss, (Dkt. 50), is GRANTED;
Plaintiff’s constitutional claims challenging the conditions of his
confinement are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of subject-matter
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
Dated: May 23, 2017
s/Wilhelmina M. Wright
Wilhelmina M. Wright
United States District Judge
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