Johnson v. Vangala et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that his action is DISMISSED without prejudice. All pending motions are DENIED as moot.An Order of Dismissal will be filed forthwith. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on August 8, 2017. (MCB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
SEKHAR VANGALA, et al.,
No. 4:17-CV-1538 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before me on review of plaintiff’s amended complaint under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Upon review, I find that the case must be dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Standard of Review
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed
in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than
“legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action
[that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is
more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. “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. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense. Id. at 679.
Plaintiff is a civil detainee in Missouri’s Sex Offender Rehabilitation and
Treatment Services Program. He brings this action against Dr. Sekhar Vangala, his
psychiatrist, and Diana Keevin, a nurse, in their official capacities.
Plaintiff says Vangala falsely accused him of threatening to sexually assault
staff and other patients. As a result, the team leader restricted his movements to a
single ward. Plaintiff asked Vangala to see the videotapes showing him making
the threats, but Vangala refused the request.
Plaintiff claims that Keevin falsely recorded the alleged threats in his
Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent
of naming the government entity that employs the official, in this case the State of
Will v. Michigan Dep=t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacity are ‘persons’
under § 1983.” Id. As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, and it must be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
Moreover, plaintiff’s allegations do not show that he was impermissibly
punished in violation of the Constitution.
To demonstrate unconstitutional
punishment in the civil confinement setting, a plaintiff must show that the given
imposition rises above “a de minimis level . . . with which the Constitution is not
concerned. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 539 n. 21 (1979). If shown, the next
question is “whether there is punishment in the constitutional sense . . . because
detention always involves some loss of freedom and of life’s ordinary comforts.”
Id. (emphasis in original). In this case, plaintiff’s restriction to a single ward does
not constitute punishment because it is a normal loss of freedom in the civil
commitment setting. Further, plaintiff has not alleged any facts showing that the
conditions in the ward were unconstitutional.
Plaintiff also says that his legal mail is being opened or delayed in retaliation
for filing lawsuits.
However, plaintiff does not allege that defendants were
personally involved in this matter, and so, these allegations do not state a plausible
claim for relief. E.g., Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990).
Finally, “[q]ualified immunity may protect government officials from
liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but not if their conduct violated clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would
have known.” Nelson v. Corr. Med. Servs., 583 F.3d 522, 527 (8th Cir. 2009) (en
banc) (quotation omitted); see Maness v. Dist. Court, 495 F.3d 943, 944 (8th Cir.
2007) (analyzing qualified immunity on 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) review). The
tests for whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity are: (1) whether the
facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the injured party, show that the
officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right; and (2) whether the constitutional
right was clearly established at the time of the deprivation so that a reasonable
officer would understand his conduct was unlawful. Pearson v. Callahan, 555
U.S. 223, 231 (2009). Here, the restriction on plaintiff’s movement did not violate
clearly established law that a reasonable person should have known. Therefore,
defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that his action is DISMISSED without
prejudice. All pending motions are DENIED as moot.
An Order of Dismissal will be filed forthwith.
Dated this 8th day of August, 2017.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?