Law School Case Brief
Gee v. Pacheco - 627 F.3d 1178 (10th Cir. 2010)
Generally, the sufficiency of a complaint must rest on its contents alone. There are exceptions to this restriction on what the court can consider, but they are quite limited: (1) documents that the complaint incorporates by reference; (2) documents referred to in the complaint if the documents are central to the plaintiff's claim and the parties do not dispute the documents' authenticity; and (3) matters of which a court may take judicial notice. "Martinez" reports by prison officials are not within the exception unless the plaintiff challenges a prison's policies or established procedures and the Martinez report's description of the policies or procedures remains undisputed after plaintiff has an opportunity to respond. If a district court intends to rely on other evidence, it must convert the Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)motion to a motion for summary judgment, giving proper notice to the parties. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).
Plaintiff-Appellant Donald Gee, a prisoner in the Wyoming State Penitentiary (WSP), filed in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming a pro se civil-rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants WSP officials. Mr. Gee alleged that the WSP officials violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He alleged that the confiscation and destruction of letters just to harass the inmate "under the guise" of banned items sufficiently stated a First Amendment claim: harassment was not a legitimate penological reason to restrict mail. Most retaliation claims were deficient, but alleging a transfer to an out-of-state supermax prison in retaliation for filing grievances and a habeas petition was not an implausible claim. Gee further alleged denial of food or water for 24 hours during transport, that officials stated they didn't care when the inmate complained, and that he was restrained so he could not access food and water provided to other inmates sufficiently stated an Eighth Amendment claim. The WSP officials moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Concluding that Mr. Gee had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that his complaint was frivolous, the district court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The inmate appealed.
Did the federal district court err in dismissing plaintiff inmate's 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 civil-rights action, in which he claimed violations of his Eighth Amendment rights that allegedly occurred while he was being transported between prisons?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the time-barred and precluded claims. The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment claims as to a deprivation of liberty in connection with disciplinary proceedings were precluded because they were adjudicated in another suit. Nevertheless, the remainder of the district court's judgment was reversed. Because Gee's complaint alleged sufficient facts to establish both elements of an Eighth Amendment claim—the objective prong of sufficiently serious deprivation and the subjective prong of deliberate indifference, they stated a plausible claim for relief. Accordingly, the Court ruled that some of the allegations sufficiently alleged § 1983 claims and should have been allowed to proceed. The case was remanded for further proceedings, with instructions to allow the inmate to seek leave to file an amended complaint as to those claims that had not been sufficiently pleaded and to determine if equitable tolling was available on one Eighth Amendment claim.
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