Pierce v. Skoinik

Filing 8

ORDER (SCREENING). IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff's claims against defendant Connor are DISMISSED. Joshua Connor is DISMISSED from this action. IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff's claims MAY PROCEED as to the remaining defendants. IT I S FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall electronically serve a copy of this order, including the attached Notice of Intent to Proceed With Mediation form, along with a copy of plaintiffs complaint, to the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Nevada (ack'd). The Attorney General shall advise the court within twenty-one (21) days of the date of entry of this order whether they can accept service of process for the named defendants and the last known address under seal of the defenda nts for which they cannot accept service. If the Attorney General accepts service of process for any of the defendants, such defendant(s) shall file and serve an answer or other response to the complaint within thirty (30) days following the date of the early inmate mediation. If the Court declines to mediate this case, the answer/response shall be due thirty (30) days following the order declining mediation. The parties SHALL DETACH, COMPLETE, AND FILE the attached Notice of Intent to Proceed with Mediation form on or before thirty (30) days from the date of the entry of this order. FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff shall serve upon defendants a copy of every pleading. FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall file plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction [1-3] (ack'd). FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's temporary restraining order/preliminary injunctive relief [1-3] and motion for temporary restraining order 7 are DENIED. (See Order for specifics). Signed by Judge Edward C. Reed, Jr on 11/09/2010. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - MLC)

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Pierce v. Skoinik Doc. 8 1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 This is a prisoner civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. On July 6, 2010, the court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend (docket #3). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (docket #5) as well as two motions for temporary restraining order (docket #1-3 and #7). The court first reviews the amended complaint. I. Screening Standard Pursuant to the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), federal courts must dismiss a prisoner's claims, "if the allegation of poverty is untrue," or 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." 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Nietzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a vs. HOWARD SKOLNIK, et al., Defendants. SPENCER PIERCE, #61639 Plaintiff, ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) / 3:10-cv-00239-ECR-VPC ORDER Dockets.Justia.com 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989). Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the court applies the same standard under Section 1915(e)(2) when reviewing the adequacy of a complaint or amended complaint. Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Laboratory Corp. of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Allegations in a pro se complaint are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (per curiam); see also Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). All or part of a complaint filed by a prisoner may be dismissed sua sponte, however, if the prisoner's claims lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g. claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g. fantastic or delusional scenarios). See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). To sustain an action under section 1983, a plaintiff must show (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 deprived the plaintiff of a federal constitutional or statutory right." Hydrick v. Hunter, 466 F.3d 676, 689 (9th Cir. 2006). II. Instant Complaint Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Ely State Prison ("ESP"), has sued Nevada Department of Corrections ("NDOC") Director Howard Skolnik, NDOC Medical Director Robert Bannister, ESP medical staff Dr. David Mar, Dr. Michael Koehn, Gregory Martin, Nursing Director Joseph Brackbill, ESP corrections officer Joshua Connor and ESP warden E.K. McDaniel, alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff claims that all defendants (with the exception of Connor) have either treated (or refused to treat) plaintiff or been personally informed of his suffering via grievances and letters. Plaintiff claims that he has suffered from severe back pain dating back to 2006 that also causes pain, numbness and spasms in his lower extremities. Plaintiff asserts that the constant pain makes it difficult to sleep and leads to frequent falls, but that defendants repeatedly have refused to treat his chronic pain or send him to a specialist. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments and "embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). A detainee or prisoner's claim of inadequate medical care does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment unless the mistreatment rises to the level of "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Id. at 106. The "deliberate indifference" standard involves an objective and a subjective prong. First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, "sufficiently serious." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). Second, the prison official must act with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind," which entails more than mere negligence, but less than conduct undertaken for the very purpose of causing harm. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. A prison official does not act in a deliberately indifferent manner unless the official "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Id. 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Connor. In applying this standard, the Ninth Circuit has held that before it can be said that a prisoner's civil rights have been abridged, "the indifference to his medical needs must be substantial. Mere `indifference,' `negligence,' or `medical malpractice' will not support this cause of action." Broughton v. Cutter Laboratories, 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980), citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06. "[A] complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 106; see also Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1316 (9th Cir. 1995); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1050 (9th Cir. 1992) (overruled on other grounds), WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997)(en banc). Even gross negligence is insufficient to establish deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. See Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1334 (9th Cir. 1990). A prisoner's mere disagreement with diagnosis or treatment does not support a claim of deliberate indifference. Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). Delay of, or interference with, medical treatment can also amount to deliberate indifference. See Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006); Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 905 (9th Cir. 2002); Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 744 (9th Cir. 2002); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 1996); Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992) overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc); Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 394 (9th Cir. 1988). Where the prisoner is alleging that delay of medical treatment evinces deliberate indifference, however, the prisoner must show that the delay led to further injury. See Hallett, 296 F.3d at 745-46; McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060; Shapley v. Nev. Bd. Of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985) (per curiam). Plaintiff states Eighth Amendment medical claims against all defendants except officer With respect to defendant Connor, plaintiff alleges that Connor came to plaintiff's cell to take him to a medical appointment. Plaintiff contends that he was unable to wake up his cellmate, 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 as directed by Connor, apparently to handcuff plaintiff, and that Connor ultimately left, stating that plaintiff had refused his medical visit. These allegations are insufficient to state an Eighth Amendment medical claim against Connor, and such claim is dismissed. Defendant Connor is dismissed from this action. With respect to the motions for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunctive relief, injunctive relief, whether temporary or permanent, is an "extraordinary remedy, never awarded as of right." Winter v. Natural Res. Defense Council, 129 S. Ct. 365, 376 (2008). The standard for issuing a temporary restraining order is identical to the standard for preliminary injunction. Depasquale v. Nevada Dept. of Corrections, 2009 WL 2973484. "A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Am. Trucking Ass'ns, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 559 F.3d 1046, 1052 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Winter, 129 S. Ct. at 374). The standard for a permanent injunction is essentially the same as for a preliminary injunction, with the exception that the plaintiff must show actual success, rather than a likelihood of success. See Amoco Prod. Co. v. Village of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 546 n.12 (1987). However, the Ninth Circuit has recently revived the "serious questions" sliding scale test, and ruled that a preliminary injunction may be appropriate when a plaintiff demonstrates serious questions going to the merits and the balance of hardships tips sharply in plaintiff's favor. Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 613 F.3d 960 (9th Cir. 2010). In the instant case, plaintiff seeks an order directing prison officials to immediately refer him to a specialist (docket #1-3 and #7). Although plaintiff has made allegations in the amended complaint to state cognizable medical claims, he has not established that he is likely to succeed on the merits of such claims. Nor has plaintiff shown that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunction. The court notes that while plaintiff initiated this action in April 2010, he claims that he has been suffering back pain and related pain dating back to 2006. As such, plaintiff's motions for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunctive relief are denied. 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 III. Conclusion IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff's claims against defendant Connor are DISMISSED. Joshua Connor is DISMISSED from this action. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's claims MAY PROCEED as to the remaining defendants. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED as follows: 1. The Clerk shall electronically serve a copy of this order, including the attached Notice of Intent to Proceed with Mediation form, along with a copy of plaintiff's complaint, on the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Nevada, to the attention of Pamela Sharp. 2. The Attorney General's Office shall advise the Court within twenty-one (21) days of the date of entry of this order whether it can accept service of process for the named defendants. As to any of the named defendants for which the Attorney General's Office cannot accept service, the Office shall file, under seal, the last known address(es) of those defendant(s). 3. If service cannot be accepted for any of the named defendant(s), plaintiff shall file a motion identifying the unserved defendant(s), requesting issuance of a summons, and specifying a full name and address for said defendant(s). Plaintiff is reminded that, pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, service must be accomplished within one hundred twenty (120) days of the date the complaint was filed. 4. If the Attorney General accepts service of process for any named defendant(s), such defendant(s) shall file and serve an answer or other response to the complaint within thirty (30) days following the date of the early inmate mediation. If the court declines to mediate this case, an answer or other response shall be due within thirty (30) days following the order declining mediation. 5. The parties SHALL DETACH, COMPLETE, AND FILE the attached Notice of Intent to Proceed with Mediation form on or before thirty (30) days from the date of entry of this order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that henceforth, plaintiff shall serve upon defendants, or, if an appearance has been made by counsel, upon their attorney(s), a copy of every pleading, motion, or 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 other document submitted for consideration by the court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper submitted for filing a certificate stating the date that a true and correct copy of the document was mailed to the defendants or counsel for defendants. If counsel has entered a notice of appearance, the plaintiff shall direct service to the individual attorney named in the notice of appearance, at the address stated therein. The court may disregard any paper received by a district judge or a magistrate judge that has not been filed with the Clerk, and any paper which fails to include a certificate showing proper service. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall file plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction (docket #1-3). IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunctive relief (docket #1-3) and motion for temporary restraining order (docket #7) are DENIED. DATED this 9th day of November, 2010. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 3. ____________________________ Name ____________________________ Prison Number ____________________________ Address ____________________________ ____________________________ UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEVADA _________________________________, Plaintiff, ) ) ) v. ) ) _________________________________ ) ) _________________________________ ) Defendants. ) ____________________________________) Case No. _______________________ NOTICE OF INTENT TO PROCEED WITH MEDIATION This case may be referred to the District of Nevada's early inmate mediation program. The purpose of this notice is to assess the suitability of this case for mediation. Mediation is a process by which the parties meet with an impartial court-appointed mediator in an effort to bring about an expedient resolution that is satisfactory to all parties. 1. 2. Do you wish to proceed to early mediation in this case? ____ Yes ____ No If no, please state the reason(s) you do not wish to proceed with mediation? ___________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ List any and all cases, including the case number, that plaintiff has filed in federal or state court in the last five years and the nature of each case. (Attach additional pages if needed). ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 4. List any and all cases, including the case number, that are currently pending or any pending grievances concerning issues or claims raised in this case. (Attach additional pages if needed). ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ 5. Are there any other comments you would like to express to the court about whether this case is suitable for mediation. You may include a brief statement as to why you believe this case is suitable for mediation. (Attach additional pages if needed). ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ This form shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court on or before thirty (30) days from the date of this order. Counsel for defendants: By signing this form you are certifying to the court that you have consulted with a representative of the Nevada Department of Corrections concerning participation in mediation. Dated this ____ day of _______________________, 20____. _________________________________________ Signature _________________________________________ Name of person who prepared or helped prepare this document 9

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