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Sedlmeier v. South Dakota State Penitentiary Health Services

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

August 13, 2014

MICHAEL SEDLMEIER, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE PENITENTIARY HEALTH SERVICES; and DARREN YOUNG, Warden, Defendants.

ORDER

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Michael Sedlmeier, is an inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary (SDSP) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sedlmeier filed a pro se civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Dockets 1, 2. On January 7, 2014, the court directed service of Sedlmeier's complaint. Docket 9. Now pending before the court are defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket 14), plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (Docket 16), plaintiff's request for copies of medical records (Docket 16), plaintiff's motion to schedule a hearing (Docket 19), and plaintiff's motion to amend complaint (Docket 24). For the reasons set forth herein, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket 14), grants plaintiff's motion to amend complaint (Docket 24), and denies plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (Docket 16), motion for copies of medical records (Docket

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "the court must accept all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, and all reasonable inferences therefrom must be construed favorably to the pleader." McCormack v. Citibank, N.A., 979 F.2d 643, 646 (8th Cir. 1992) (citing Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986)). "The court may consider the pleadings themselves, materials embraced by the pleadings, exhibits attached to the pleadings, and matters of public record." Mills v. City of Grand Forks, 614 F.3d 495, 497-98 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); see also 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1371, at 276 (2004) ("Conversion... will not occur with regard to all matters subject to judicial notice and things that are central or integral to the nonmoving party's pleading."). The court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim when the plaintiff fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

Pro se complaints, "however inartfully pleaded, ' [are] held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must comply with the minimal requirements set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which specifically require pleadings to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although a pro se complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A pro se complaint must "allege facts sufficient to support the claims advanced." Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004). The court is not required to "supply additional facts, nor will [it] construct a legal theory that assumes facts that have not been pleaded." Id. (citing Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989)). If the complaint does not contain these bare essentials, dismissal is appropriate. Beavers v. Lockhart, 755 F.2d 657, 663 (8th Cir. 1985).

DISCUSSION

Sedlmeier claims that defendants acted with deliberate indifference toward his serious medical need. Docket 1. Sedlmeier further represents that, as a result of defendants' deliberate indifference toward his serious medical need, he experiences bad headaches, loss of memory, and speech problems. Id. To remedy this alleged constitutional violation, Sedlmeier requests $4 million in damages. Id. Defendants argue, however, that Sedlmeier has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Docket 14.

More specifically, defendant South Dakota State Penitentiary Health Services (SDSPHS) argues that it is not a "person" amenable to suit brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but rather a state agency, protected from suit by the Eleventh Amendment. Under § 1983,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law....

(emphasis added). Thus, "[b]y its terms, § 1983 applies to persons, ' and it is well settled that state agencies... are not persons' for purposes of § 1983." Mills v. Iowa Bd. of Regents, 770 F.Supp.2d 986, 992 (N.D. Iowa 2011) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63-71 (1989)).

In other words, although "[s]ection 1983 provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil liberties, ... it does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged deprivation of civil liberties." Will, 491 U.S. at 66. Furthermore, absent a waiver of immunity, the Eleventh Amendment bars claims against the state and its agencies. Id. (citation omitted); see also Murphy v. State of Ark., 127 F.3d 750, 754 (1997). In the instant case, SDSPHS has not waived its immunity. Accordingly, the court finds that Sedlmeier has failed to state a claim against SDSPHS upon which relief may be granted.

Defendant Darren Young also argues that Sedlmeier has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, but based on separate grounds. More specifically, Young asserts that Sedlmeier has failed to allege that Young was personally involved in Sedlmeier's medical care, or that Young personally interfered with prescribed treatment. Accordingly, Young maintains that he cannot be held accountable for the alleged violation of Sedlmeier's constitutional rights.

The United States Supreme Court has held that vicarious liability does not apply in § 1983 actions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009). Consequently, "each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct." Id. Alleging that a defendant was personally involved in violating a plaintiff's constitutional rights is, therefore, an essential element in a § 1983 action. Furgeson v. Bisbee, 932 F.Supp. 1185, 1188 (D.S.D. 1996). The court has reviewed Sedlmeier's complaint in this action and finds that Sedlmeier has failed to allege that Young was personally involved in decisions ...


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