Thompson v. New Mexico Corrections Department et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Robert C. Brack granting in part and denying in part 6 MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM and denying 9 PLAINTIFF'S MOTION to Amend Plaintiff Civil Complaint and Plaintiff's Request for Removal by Ryan Thompson; Case is remanded to the First Judicial District Court for adjudication of Plaintiff Thompson's state law claims. (jn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. CV 17-00757 RB/SMV
NEW MEXICO CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT; and
RICARDO MARTINEZ, WARDEN,
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 Civil Complaint (Tort) filed by Plaintiff
Ryan Thompson in New Mexico state court on June 12, 2017, and removed to this Court by
Defendant Ricardo Martinez, on July 21, 2017. (Docs. 1; 1-1.) Also before the Court is
Defendant Martinez’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6), and Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Plaintiff
[sic] Civil Complaint and Plaintiff’s Request for Removal (Doc. 9). The Court will grant the
Motion to Dismiss, in part, and dismiss all federal claims. The Court declines to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction and remands any state law claims to New Mexico state court.
Plaintiff is an inmate incarcerated at the Otero County Prison Facility (“OCPF”) in
Chaparral, New Mexico. (Doc. 1-1 at 1–2.) Plaintiff filed his Civil Complaint (Tort) in the State
of New Mexico, County of Santa Fe, First Judicial District Court on June 12, 2017
(“Complaint”). (Id.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that “[t]his is a tort authorized by the New
Mexico Tort Claims Act” and asserts jurisdiction under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act,
Chapter 41 N.M.S.A. (Id. at 2.) Although he labels his claims as Eighth Amendment claims, he
alleges that, by failing “to comply with appropriate medical protocol,” the prison facility has not
provided him with adequate medical care. (Id. at 4.) Thompson names the New Mexico
Corrections Department and OCPF Warden, Ricardo Martinez, as Defendants. (Id. at 1–2.)
Defendant Martinez removed the case to this Court on July 21, 2017, asserting federal
question jurisdiction based on Thompson’s allegations of violation of his Eighth Amendment
rights. (Id. at 2). Martinez filed his Answer to the Complaint on July 25, 2017. (Doc. 2.)
Martinez then filed a Motion to Dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) on September 8, 2017.
(Doc. 6.) Martinez seeks dismissal on the grounds that the Complaint fails to state an Eighth
Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at 1.)
Plaintiff filed his Response to the Motion to Dismiss on October 25, 2017. (Doc. 8.) In
his Response, Plaintiff states that “this is a case of simple negligence” and asks that the case be
sent back to the First Judicial District Court. (Doc. 8.)
Defendant Martinez replies that the
Complaint raises only federal Eighth Amendment claims and the Court should dismiss the case,
in its entirety, and not remand any claims back to state court. (Doc. 10.)
Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Amend Plaintiff [sic] Civil Complaint and Plaintiff’s
Request for Removal. (Doc. 9.) In his Motion, Plaintiff again asserts that the case is one of
“simple negligence” and asks for remand of the case to the First Judicial District Court. (Id.)
Defendant Martinez opposes Plaintiff’s request to amend and remand. (Doc. 12.)
DISMISSAL FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM
Plaintiff 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 Rule 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 Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Under Rule 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. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6); 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. Okla. Dep’t of Human Servs., 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. 28 U.S.C. §
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, 935 F.2d at
1109. 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 Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir.
1994). The court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual
allegations to support the plaintiff’s claims. Nor may the court assume the role of advocate for
the pro se litigant. Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.
ANALYSIS OF PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS
In his Complaint, Thompson alleges claims for violation of his constitutional rights under
the Eighth Amendment. He claims his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment has
been violated by alleged indifference to his serious medical needs. (Doc. 1-1 at 2–5).
Thompson’s Complaint does not expressly allege causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
However, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is the exclusive vehicle for vindication of substantive rights under
both the Constitution and § 1981. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979); Albright
v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (Section 1983 creates no substantive rights; rather it is the
means through which a plaintiff may seek redress for deprivations of rights established in the
Constitution); Bolden v. City of Topeka, 441 F.3d 1129 (10th Cir. 2006) (claims against state
actors for violation of § 1981 must be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Therefore, the Court
construes Thompson’s claims for violation of rights under the Eighth Amendment as civil rights
claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must assert acts by
government officials acting under color of law that result in a deprivation of rights secured by the
United States Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). There must
be a connection between official conduct and violation of a constitutional right. Conduct that is
not connected to a constitutional violation is not actionable under Section 1983. See Trask v.
Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998).
Further, a civil rights action against a public official or entity may not be based solely on
a theory of respondeat superior liability for the actions of co-workers or subordinates. A plaintiff
must plead that each government official, through the official’s own individual actions, has
violated the Constitution. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Plaintiff must allege some
personal involvement by an identified official in the alleged constitutional violation to succeed
under § 1983. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008). In a Section 1983
action, it is particularly important that a plaintiff’s complaint “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
claim against him or her.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1249–50 (10th Cir. 2008).
The Eighth Amendment protects against the infliction of cruel and unusual punishments.
U.S. Const. Amend. VIII. The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment encompasses deliberate indifference by prison officials. Howard v. Waide, 534 F.3d
1227, 1235 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976)). Deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. Deliberate indifference may be
manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner’s needs, or by prison guards in
intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the
treatment once prescribed. Regardless of whether it is evidenced by conduct of prison medical
officials or prison guards, deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury may
state a cause of action under § 1983. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104–05.
Determining the sufficiency of an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference
involves a two-pronged inquiry, comprised of an objective component and a subjective
component. Self v. Crum, 439 F.3d 1227, 1230 (10th Cir. 2006); Kikumura v. Osagie, 461 F.3d
1269, 1291 (10th Cir. 2006). With respect to the objective component, a medical need is serious
if it is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so
obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.”
Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 575 (10th Cir. 1980) (internal quotation and citation omitted).
The question is not limited to whether the inmate’s symptoms render a medical need sufficiently
serious, but also extends to whether the potential harm to the inmate is sufficiently serious. Mata
v. Saiz, 427 F.3d 745, 752 (10th Cir. 2005).
Under the subjective component, the defendant must have a sufficiently culpable state of
mind. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); see also Self, 439 F.3d at 1230–31. In other
words, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant “knew he faced a substantial risk of harm
and disregarded that risk, by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Hunt v. Uphoff, 199
F.3d 1220, 1224 (10th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). With regard to
the subjective component, the question for consideration by the Court is: “were the symptoms
such that a prison employee knew the risk to the prisoner and chose (recklessly) to disregard it?”
Martinez v. Beggs, 563 F.3d 1082, 1089 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Mata, 427 F.3d at 753). An
official responds to a known risk in an objectively unreasonable manner if he knew of ways to
reduce the harm but knowingly or recklessly declined to act. Prison officials violate the Eighth
Amendment when they are deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of prisoners in
their custody. Howard, 534 F.3d at 1239–40.
However, prison officials who actually knew of a substantial risk to inmate health or
safety may be found free from liability if they responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm
ultimately was not averted. Howard, 534 F.3d at 1239 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844–45).
Accidental or inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care, or negligent diagnosis or
treatment of a medical condition does not constitute a medical wrong under the Eighth
Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105–06. Moreover, a difference of opinion between the
prison’s medical staff and the inmate as to the diagnosis or treatment that the inmate receives
does not support a claim of cruel and unusual punishment. See, e. g., Smart v. Villar, 547 F.2d
112, 114 (10th Cir. 1976); Self, 439 F.3d at 1231; Thompson v. Gibson, 289 F.3d 1218, 1222
(10th Cir. 2002). A prisoner who merely disagrees with a diagnosis or a prescribed course of
treatment does not state a constitutional violation. Taylor v. Ortiz, 410 F. App’x 76, 79 (10th Cir.
The Complaint fails to state any federal claim for relief against either the New Mexico
Corrections Department or Warden Martinez. First, the New Mexico Corrections Department is a
state agency. As such, the claims against it are claims against the State of New Mexico. The
State is not a “person” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and, therefore, there is no remedy
against the State under § 1983. The federal claims against the New Mexico Corrections
Department will be dismissed. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63–64 (1989).
Second, the Complaint does not allege a factually plausible § 1983 claim against
Defendant Martinez. The Complaint does not allege any individualized conduct by Defendant
Martinez in violation of Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights. Fogarty, 523 F.3d at 1162. The
alleged facts in this case do not show that Defendant Martinez knew of any serious medical need
and deliberately chose to disregard it, nor do they demonstrate any culpable state of mind on the
part of Martinez. Martinez, 563 F.3d at 1089. The Complaint fails to state any Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Martinez.
Last, the Complaint alleges that Defendant Martinez has failed to ensure that the staff
under his supervision is providing Plaintiff with adequate medical care. (Doc. 1-1 at 4). To state
a claim for supervisory liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must show an affirmative link between
the supervisor and the alleged constitutional violation through (1) personal involvement,
(2) sufficient causal connection, and (3) a culpable state of mind. Cox v. Glanz, 800 F.3d 1231,
1248 (10th Cir. 2015). The allegations of the Complaint fail to show the requisite affirmative
link between Martinez and the alleged Eighth Amendment violation.
Plaintiff concedes that his Complaint does not assert federal Eighth Amendment claims
and, instead, raises state law tort claims. (Docs. 8; 9.) The Complaint does not state a plausible §
1983 claim for relief against either Defendant. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The Court will grant
Defendant Martinez’s Motion to Dismiss, to the extent it seeks dismissal of the Eighth
Amendment claims in this case, and it will dismiss all federal claims.
REMAND OF STATE LAW CLAIMS
Plaintiff originally filed his Complaint in the First Judicial District Court of the State of
New Mexico. He alleges that he is proceeding under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, N.M.
Stat. Ann. 41-4-1–30 (1978). (Doc. 1-1 at 1.) Defendant Martinez claims that the Complaint fails
to state any New Mexico tort law claims and should be dismissed in its entirety. Thompson
asserts that his claims are in the nature of medical negligence claims under state law and should
be remanded to state court. (Docs. 8; 9.)The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
and will not reach the question of whether the case states a substantive claim for relief under
New Mexico state law. Instead, the Court will remand any state law claims to the First Judicial
Within the supplemental jurisdiction granted by 28 U.S.C. § 1367, a federal court has
subject-matter jurisdiction over certain state-law claims. A district court’s decision whether to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction after dismissing all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction is discretionary. See § 1367(c). Under § 1367(c), a district court may decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim if the court has dismissed all claims over which it
has original jurisdiction. Osborn v. Haley, 549 U.S. 225, 245 (2007); Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp.,
546 U.S. 500, 514, (2006).
The Supreme Court has stated that needless decisions of state law should be avoided both
as a matter of comity and to promote justice between the parties, by procuring for them a surerfooted reading of applicable law. United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 715, 726
(1966). When all federal claims have been dismissed, a district court may, and usually should,
decline to exercise jurisdiction over any remaining state claims. Koch v. City of Del City, 660
F.3d 1228, 1248 (10th Cir. 2011); Smith v. City of Enid ex rel. Enid City Comm’n, 149 F.3d
1151, 1156 (10th Cir. 1998); Young v. City of Albuquerque, 77 F. Supp. 3d 1154, 1185 (D.N.M.
This Court is dismissing all federal claims in this case. The Court declines to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff Thompson’s remaining state law claims, and will remand
this proceeding to state court for adjudication of those state law claims.
IT IS ORDERED:
(1) Defendant Ricardo Martinez’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6) is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part;
(2) Plaintiff Ryan Thompson’s Motion to Amend Plaintiff Civil Complaint and Plaintiff’s
Request for Removal (Doc. 9) is DENIED as moot in light of the Court’s dismissal of all federal
claims and remand of any state law claims;
(3) All federal claims in Plaintiff Ryan Thompson’s Civil Complaint (Tort) (Doc. 1-1) are
DISMISSED for failure to state a claim for relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6);
(4) The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims
and this case is REMANDED to the State of New Mexico, County of Santa Fe, First Judicial
District Court for adjudication of Plaintiff Thompson’s state law claims.
ROBERT C. BRACK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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