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Szczygiel v. State

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 12, 2015

STAN E. SZCZYGIEL, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF KANSAS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Stan Szczygiel filed this suit pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Plaintiff names as Defendants the State of Kansas and the Kansas Department of Corrections ("KDOC") as well as the following Kansas officials: Ray Roberts, Secretary of Corrections, Douglas Burris, KDOC Facility Manager, Jay Shelton, Warden Norton Correctional Facility ("NCF"), Hazel Peterson, Classification Administrator NCF, and Joel Hrabe, Deputy Warden NCF. Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. 45) and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37). Because the Court finds that Plaintiff's proposed amendments to his complaint would not be futile, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion and denies Defendants' motion as moot.

I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Kansas Department of Corrections at Norton Correctional Facility. In 1998, the KDOC Mental Health Unit diagnosed Plaintiff with post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), which manifests itself as an acute form of claustrophobia. According to Plaintiff, the claustrophobia is triggered when he is housed or confined in small rooms or cells with other persons.

Plaintiff alleges that in May 2013, the KDOC Prisoner Review Board conducted a parole hearing and determined that Plaintiff was eligible for placement in KDOC's work release program. In August 2013, NCF staff prepared and submitted a classification review on Plaintiff's behalf. The review requested that Plaintiff's classification be changed from medium custody to minimum custody by exception so that Plaintiff could participate in the program. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hrabe denied this request and notified Plaintiff of the denial in September 2013. Defendant Hrabe's cited reason for denying the request was "NCF MH issues not suitable multi-occupancy housing."[2] Plaintiff, however, alleges that KDOC only operates open dormitory living at its work release facilities and that his claustrophobia does not apply to these facilities. On September 20, 2013, Plaintiff appealed his classification review to Defendant Shelton, who denied the appeal on September 24, 2013.

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit pro se on January 13, 2014. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendants violated his Fourteenth, Eighth, and First Amendment rights as well as his rights under the ADA as a result of Defendant Hrabe's denial of his request to be classified minimum custody by exception. Plaintiff seeks, in part, an injunction requiring Defendants to transfer Plaintiff to a "work release/private industry program" and compensatory damages for lost wages from September 16, 2013-the date Defendants' alleged discrimination began-to March 3, 2014-the date that Plaintiff became eligible for participation at a Wichita work release facility.[3]

On October 3, 2014, Defendants[4] filed a Martinez Report. Later that month, on October 31, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. These motions are currently before the Court.

II. Analysis

A. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 45)

1. Legal Standard

Parties may amend pleadings "once as a matter of course" before trial if they do so within (A) twenty-one days of serving the pleading or (B) "if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, " twenty-one days of service of a responsive pleading or a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.[5] Other amendments before trial are allowed "only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave."[6] Courts "should freely give leave when justice so requires."[7] Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 is intended "to provide litigants the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on its merits rather than on procedural niceties.'"[8]

Courts, however, may deny leave to amend based on "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment." Whether to allow a proposed amendment, after the permissive period, addresses the sound discretion of the court.[9] "In exercising its discretion, the court must be mindful that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are designed to facilitate decisions on the merits rather than on pleading technicalities."

2. Plaintiff's Proposed Amendments Are Not Futile.

Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint does not differ greatly from his original complaint. Like his amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims under § 1983 for violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and under the ADA.[10] Plaintiff continues to assert that Defendants violated his rights when they denied his request to be classified as minimum custody by exception thereby preventing him from participating in the work release program. Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint does contain, however, additional statements regarding Kansas statutory law, KDOC regulations, Defendant Peterson's housing restrictions on Plaintiff, correspondence between Plaintiff and Defendant Hrabe regarding the requirements for participating in the work release program, and alleged inaccuracies in the Martinez Report. ...


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