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Browne v. Maine Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 20, 2017



          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Albion Savage Browne, formerly an inmate in the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections, alleges that while he was incarcerated, the staff of the Maine Correctional Center, including corrections staff and medical staff, violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2), which application the Court granted. (ECF No. 4).

         On February 8, 2017, after a review in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claim against the Maine Department of Corrections, his claim against the Maine Correctional Center, and his claim based on his work assignments. (Order Affirming Recommended Decision, ECF No. 7; Recommended Decision, ECF No. 5.) The Court also afforded Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint to assert a claim against the parties Plaintiff believed were responsible for the medical care of his eye. (Id.)

         On March 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed a lengthy amended complaint (ECF No. 10) in which he provided additional facts regarding his vision. He also attempts to assert claims related to various other matters, including claims against State Defendants the Court previously dismissed because the claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. On March 16 and 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed additional documents, which have been entered on the docket as a motion to extend time to amend the complaint further (ECF Nos. 11 and 11-1) and a supporting memorandum. (ECF No. 12.)

         In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's amended complaint and supplemental pleadings is appropriate. After review of Plaintiff's amended complaint and the supplemental pleadings, I recommend the Court deny Plaintiff's motion to extend time to further amend his complaint, [1] and I recommend the Court dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint.

         Standard of Review

         The in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action. When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, however, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines, ” inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or malicious” or “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)(B). “Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

         When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), this is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim, Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). To allege a civil action in federal court, it is not enough for a plaintiff merely to allege that a defendant acted unlawfully; a plaintiff must affirmatively allege facts that identify the manner by which the defendant subjected the plaintiff to a harm for which the law affords a remedy. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Background Facts[2]

         In his filings, Plaintiff attempts to assert claims based on the following: (1) underlying criminal proceedings in Maine state court that resulted in Plaintiff's sentence of incarceration, which proceedings Plaintiff evidently maintains violated Maine's motor vehicle law; (2) Plaintiff's belief that he has a constitutional right to travel, which right was violated by Maine's licensure laws; and (3) Plaintiff's eye health and treatment during his approximate 24-month incarceration at the Maine Correctional Center.

         Prior to his incarceration, Plaintiff experienced a severe injury when he was shot in the eye with a frozen paintball. (Am. Compl. at 6, ECF No. 10.) Although “the components of vision were intact, ” the healing process extended for a period of months. (Id.) When Plaintiff was sentenced, apparently based on his status as a habitual offender, Plaintiff was continuing to recover from his injury.

         At the Maine Correctional Center, Plaintiff received care for his eye from employees of Correct Care Solutions (CCS), the Maine Department of Corrections' contract provider for medical services. According to Plaintiff, individuals responsible for the care denied and delayed access to prescribed care. (Id. at 5.) During his incarceration, physical activity that increased Plaintiff's heart rate caused “internal hemorrhaging and loss of vision, which took weeks to return.” (Id.)

         As the result of his condition, Defendants, including correctional staff, excluded Plaintiff from, or denied him access to, activities and programs such as woodshop, automotive repair, recreation and work release. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff also asserts that “the extreme consequences of any foreign body or even slight trauma to the eye” presented extremely serious challenges for him. (Id. at 7.) Moreover, Plaintiff regularly experienced nausea, dizziness, headaches, and poor depth perception due to his eye injury.[3] (Id.)

         Plaintiff maintains that given his injury, the state court's sentence of incarceration and the conditions of confinement amounted to “torture.” (Id.) Although Plaintiff states that the conditions were “not the result of a single person committing an act with [the] purposeful, deliberate intention of violating constitutional rights, ” Plaintiff asserts that the State of Maine, Department of Corrections, and the State's “agents” are liable for the combined effects because they incarcerated Plaintiff “for a victimless motor vehicle charge.” (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that incarceration, under the circumstances, served “no penological purpose.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff further asserts that corrections officers assigned Plaintiff to “exceedingly dangerous work assignments.” (Id. at 8.) In addition, other inmates occasionally caused injury to Plaintiff. (Id.) The work assignments evidently involved outdoor weeding activity and lawn care, which exposed Plaintiff to dust and debris, and kept him bent over so that pressure increased on his eye. (Id. at 10, 16 - 17.) Plaintiff also complains of exposure to winter ice and snow particles, which he encountered during some walks to the mess hall. (Id. at 10.)

         Plaintiff went a “few weeks” without prescribed eye drops, but CCS staff obtained the drops “ASAP after being told the seriousness of the condition by the surgeons.” (Id. at 11.) A member of CCS staff provided Plaintiff with a “keep on person” prescription for his eye drops, and restricted Plaintiff to a lower bunk after he fell from a ladder. (Id. at 12.) The prison eye doctor informed ...

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