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Watson v. Evans

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 17, 2014

PIERRE WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSH EVANS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Pierre Watson proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis on an amended complaint he filed while incarcerated in the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages alleging violations of his constitutional rights under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. [1] Three of the four named Defendants-USP Leavenworth Warden Lisa Hollingsworth, Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") Regional Counsel Richard Schott, and BOP Regional Director Michael Nalley-have filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, Or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34), which is presently before the Court. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion.

I. Factual and Procedural Background[2]

Plaintiff Pierre Watson is a former federal inmate who was previously incarcerated at USP Leavenworth. Plaintiff served a seventy month sentence for bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1344 & 2, which was imposed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Plaintiff was first incarcerated with the BOP on September 30, 2009. He was incarcerated at USP Leavenworth from June 8, 2011, through September 14, 2011. On December 27, 2013, he transferred to a halfway house, and was released from his federal sentence on May 8, 2014, via good-conduct time.

Plaintiff asserts that on June 27, 2011, Senior Correctional Officer Defendant Evans physically assaulted him causing severe face and head trauma. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hollingsworth conspired with Defendant Schott and Defendant Nalley by failing to discipline Defendant Evans for his actions against Plaintiff; by keeping Plaintiff in the Special Housing Unit after the alleged assault; and by failing to answer grievances, letters, and correspondence from other agencies. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Hollingsworth refused to answer Plaintiff's initial administrative remedy claim, covered up medical reports, attempted to discard security cameras that contained footage of the alleged assault, and refused to answer grievances.

Plaintiff alleges he took the following actions in filing an administrative claim with the BOP regarding the alleged assault and Defendants' subsequent conduct: Plaintiff claims that on June 29, 2011, he filed an informal resolution form at USP Leavenworth concerning medical attention that went unanswered; Plaintiff claims that on July 16, 2011, he filed an institution-level administrative remedy concerning being assaulted and not receiving adequate medical attention; on August 3, 2011, Plaintiff allegedly filed an appeal to the Regional Director that was unanswered; and on August 25, 2011, Plaintiff allegedly filed a Central Office appeal that was unanswered.

The BOP has a four-part administrative remedy program designed to address a federal inmate's concerns regarding any aspect of his or her confinement. Since July 1990, the BOP has maintained information regarding inmate administrative complaints filed under the BOP's Administrative Remedy Program in a national database called "SENTRY." This database tracks administrative grievances filed by prisoners and allows a search of claims and their subject matters. The administrative records in the SENTRY database are not purged and can be searched as far back as inception of the system.

A review of Plaintiff's administrative remedy data shows that Plaintiff filed twenty-seven administrative remedy claims during his incarceration. The data states that Plaintiff filed Administrative Remedy No. 654097-R1 on August 29, 2011, to the North Central Region concerning an "Assault by Staff."[3] This claim was rejected because (1) it was submitted to the wrong level or office; (2) it should have been filed at the institution level before filing at the region; and (3) Plaintiff did not attempt information resolution before submission of an administrative remedy and/or Plaintiff did not provide necessary evidence of attempt at informal resolution. Plaintiff also filed Administrative Remedy No. 654441-F1 on August 31, 2011, to the institution. The claim was rejected because (1) Plaintiff did not submit his remedy through his counselor or other authorized person; (2) Plaintiff did not submit a complete set (4 carbonized copies) of the request or appeal form; (3) Plaintiff did not attempt information resolution before submission of an administrative remedy and/or Plaintiff did not provide necessary evidence of attempt at informal resolution; (4) Plaintiff may only submit one letter-sized continuation page; and (5) Plaintiff's request was untimely. The rejection also informed Plaintiff that that the matter was referred to an appropriate department for review.

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on February 28, 2013. He subsequently filed an amended complaint on January 21, 2014, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights and seeking compensatory and punitive damages as authorized by Bivens. The Court issued summons for all four Defendants. Although Defendants Schott and Nalley were properly served, the process packets for Defendants Hollingworth and Evans were returned unexecuted. Defendant Hollingsworth, however, still sought and obtained authority for representation in this suit by the Department of Justice.[4] Defendants Hollingsworth, Schott, and Nalley then filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35).

II. Analysis

Plaintiff brings this action under Bivens alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. In Bivens, the Supreme Court recognized an implied private right of action for money damages by victims seeking relief against federal agents who committed constitutional violations in the performance of their official duties.[5] A Bivens action is the federal counterpart to actions brought against state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[6] "A plaintiff asserting a claim under Bivens must show the violation of a valid constitutional right by a person acting under color of federal law."[7]

Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendants Hollingsworth, Schott, and Nalley in both their official and individual capacities. Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims against them in their official capacity should be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants also contend that Plaintiff's claims against them in their individual capacity should be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, the Court should grant summary judgment in their favor. The Court first will address Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacity and then Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacity.

A. Official Capacity Claims

1. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

Under Rule 12(b)(1), a court may dismiss a complaint based on lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint. Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, they presume a lack of jurisdiction.[8] Plaintiffs bear the ...


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