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Ates v. Norsworthy

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

December 8, 2017





         The Magistrate Judge submits this Report and Recommendation to the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Rule 1(f) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Plaintiff is pro se and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Complaint (Docket Entry “DE” 1) and more definite statement (DE 7).


         Roy Edward Ates brings this section 1983 complaint based on events occurring during his pretrial detention in the Burleson County Jail. Named as Defendants are Burleson County Sheriff Thomas Norsworthy; Cathy Hutchenson, Jail Nurse; Dr. Stuart Yoffe, the medical doctor for the Burleson County Jail; Sam Davee, Jail Administrator; and retired Burleson County Sheriff Dale Stroud. Ates does not state whether he sues each defendant in their official or individual capacity. Ates alleges Defendants instructed and allowed uncertified jail staff to distribute prescribed medication to inmates, and that “on several occasions” he was given the wrong medication. Ates also asserts that from January 8, 2017, through April 25, 2017, he was forced to spend his recreation time in shackles and handcuffs. (DE 1 at 9).[1] Ates seeks injunctive relief, specifically, “[a] complete overhaul of the Burleson County Jail medical procedures.” (DE 1 at 4). Ates also seeks $200, 000 in relief from each Defendant. Id.

         Ates was ordered to file a more definite statement. (DE 6). In his more definite statement he avers Defendant Stroud and Defendant Norsworthy “allowed uncertified jail staff to continue to pass out both prescription and non-prescription meds” and that “on several occasions [he] refused the meds, because they were not [his] correct meds.” (DE 7 at 1). Ates alleges Defendant Hutchinson “being the only nurse working for Burleson County that is licensed to pass out meds” “would then give consent for Jailers who were not certified to pass out medications in her absence.” Id. Defendant Yoffe “would write med prescriptions to me and would not follow up on how meds were working with me, not giving me proper medical attention never following up on me, knew that medications were being passed by uncertified jails and did nothing.” Defendant Davee was “ordering non certified staff to pass prescription and non prescription meds.” (DE 7 at 2).

         Ates contends he was denied his constitutional rights “each and every time I was not giv[en] my correct meds. . . .” (DE 7 at 3). Ates asserts that because uncertified individuals were distributing medication and “on occasion” distributed the wrong medication, he did not get the correct medication for his severe anxiety, and would become anxious. (DE 7 at 5). Ates further asserts that, as a result of being shackled during his recreation time, his exercise was restricted and he has scars on his ankles. (DE 7 at 5-6). Ates alleges he was shackled during his non-contact visitation with his fiancee, who suffered mental anguish as a consequence. (DE 7 at 5).


         A. Review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Ates' claims must be screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, if a complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief, the Court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint. Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578 (5th Cir. 1998). When reviewing the complaint under § 1915A, a court must construe the allegations liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). However, a plaintiff's pro se status does not offer him “an impenetrable shield, for one acting pro se has no license to harass others, clog the judicial machinery with meritless litigation and abuse already overloaded court dockets.” Farguson v. MBank Houston, N.A., 808 F.2d 358, 359 (5th Cir. 1986).

         B. Merits

         1. Distribution of medications

         Ates implies that allowing non-certified jail employees to distribute prescription medication is against jail policy. This, however, is a far cry from showing that any such practice violates Ates' constitutional rights.

         Claims by pretrial detainees are analyzed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Alderson v. Concordia Parrish Corr. Facility, 848 F.3d 415, 419 (5th Cir. 2017). Like a convicted person, a detainee must be provided basic medical treatment by those who are responsible for his custody. Brown v. Callahan, 623 F.3d 249, 253 (5th Cir. 2010), citing Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss., 74 F.3d 633, 650 (5th Cir. 1996). To succeed in a § 1983 action based on “episodic acts or omissions” in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, a pretrial detainee must show subjective deliberate indifference by the defendants-that the defendant knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm. Alderson, 848 F.3d at 420; Domino v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752, 755 (5th Cir. 2001). ...

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