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Chatmon v. West

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

December 21, 2016

P.A. WEST, et al., Defendants.



         Until recently, Plaintiff Carlton B. Chatmon was confined by the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) at the United States Penitentiary (“USP”)-McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky.[1" name="FN1" id= "FN1">1] In May 2016, while still confined at that location, Chatmon filed this pro se civil rights proceeding, asserting constitutional claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, pursuant to the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Chatmon alleges that, in 2015, the defendants[2] refused to provide him with prescribed medical shoes and were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         The Court conducts a preliminary review of Chatmon's Complaint because he asserts claims against government officials, and because he has been granted in forma pauperis status in this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B); 1915A. In such cases, a district court must dismiss any action which: (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. Further, the Court liberally construes Chatmon's claims and accepts his factual allegations as true because he is proceeding without an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 1 U.S. 89');">551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         As explained below, Chatmon will be allowed to proceed with some of his claims, while others will be dismissed.


         Chatmon alleges that he suffers from several medical conditions, including diabetes, neuralgia, and dermatophytosis of the toe nails. He claims that his diabetic condition has caused severe foot problems and varicose veins.

         Chatmon states that, in July 2015, while he was confined at USP-McCreary, an outside podiatrist prescribed special medical shoes to accommodate his various medical issues. [Record No. 1, pp. 2-3] Chatmon claims that, in disregard of the podiatrist's instructions, Defendants West, Jones, and Cimarosa refused to issue him the prescribed shoes, stating that BOP policy prevents inmates confined in the Segregated Housing Unit (“SHU”) from wearing such devices. [Id., p. 4][3] Chatmon alleges that, as result of the defendants' intentional denial of the prescribed medical shoes, his foot problems worsened and he has experienced severe pain, suffering, and various adverse permanent side-effects, including but not limited to gout, chronic calluses, and deep-vein thrombosis. [Id., pp. 3-5]

         Chatmon seeks compensatory and punitive damages from all defendants, and from the USP-McCreary officials in their official and individual capacities. [Id., p. 5] Additionally, he seeks injunctive relief in the form of an order directing the BOP to provide him with immediate medical treatment, and instructing Defendants West, Jones, and Cimarosa “… to cease their illicit style of performance, and their atrociusness [sic] towards the plaintiff and each and every inmate that housed in this Penitentiary.” [Id.] Chatmon also demands a jury trial, costs, and any other relief.


         The Court will require Defendants West, Jones, and Cimarosa, in their individual capacities, to respond to Chatmon's Eighth Amendment Bivens claims alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The United States Marshals Service (“USMS”) for the Eastern District of Kentucky will be directed to serve these defendants with the Summons, Complaint, and other necessary documents on Chatmon's behalf, in accordance with the instructions set forth below. Fed.R.Civ.p. 4(c)(3); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d).

         Chatmon's Eighth Amendment claims asserted against the individually-named defendants in their official capacities will be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A Bivens claim alleging a constitutional violation may not be asserted against federal officers in their official capacities. Instead, such claims may be asserted against a federal officials only in their individual capacities. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 10 U.S. 471');">510 U.S. 471, 484-86 (1994); Okoro v. Scibana, 63 F. App'x 182, 184 (6th Cir. 2003); Berger v. Pierce, 933 F.2d 393, 397 (6th Cir. 1991); Blakely v. United States, 276 F.3d 853, 870 (6th Cir. 2002) (federal employees sued in their official capacity are immune from suit unless sovereign immunity has been expressly waived).

         Chatmon's claim seeking compensatory and punitive damages under Bivens from both the BOP and USP-McCreary's “Health Service Administration” will be also dismissed because these entities are immune from liability for such claims. The United States is immune from suit unless it explicitly waives its immunity. United States v. Sherwood, 12 U.S. 584');">312 U.S. 584, 590-91 (1941). Congress defines the exact terms and conditions upon which the government and its agencies may be sued and the terms of its consent define the parameters of federal court jurisdiction to entertain suits brought against the United States. United States v. Orleans, 425 U.S. 807, 814 (1976); Honda v. Clark, 386 U.S. 484 (1967). A waiver of sovereign immunity must be strictly construed, unequivocally expressed, and cannot be implied. United States v. King, 395 U.S. 1, 4 (1969)

         Because the principle of sovereign immunity applies equally to agencies of the United States, the BOP is immune from suit in the absence of a waiver of sovereign immunity. Kentucky v. Graham, 159');">473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); Whittle v. United States, 1259');">7 F.3d 1259, 1262 (6th Cir. 1993). The United States has not waived sovereign immunity for itself or for any of its agencies for a Bivens action. See Meyer, 510 U.S. at 484-86; Okoro, 63 F. App'x at 184 (stating that a federal prisoner cannot bring a Bivens action against the BOP). Accordingly Chatmon's claim seeking money damages from both the BOP and USP-McCreary's “Health Services Administration” will be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).

         Finally, because Chatmon has been released from federal custody, his claims seeking various forms of injunctive relief will be denied. A prisoner's claim for injunctive relief becomes moot when he or she is no longer confined at the prison where the claim allegedly arose. Lyons v. Azam, 58 F. App'x 85, 87 (6th Cir. 2003); Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir.1996)); see also Sharpe v. Patton, No. 08-CV-58-HRW, 2010 WL 227702, at *7 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 19, 2010) (prisoner's release from custody mooted his request for injunction for release to outside medical provider for evaluation and treatment); Easely v. Cheatham County Jail, No. 3:09-0537, 2009 WL 2038139, at *2 (M. D. Tenn. Jul. 9, 2009) (“Given Plaintiff's release from custody, his claim for injunctive relief is moot.”). ...

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