Chrisco v. Scoleri

Decision Date13 August 2018
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 17-cv-00810-MEH
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Colorado

Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.

All Defendants other than Governor John Hickenlooper, Kimberly Weeks, Donald Gibson, and Staci Whitehead seek to dismiss Plaintiff Luke Chrisco's Amended Complaint in part pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and (6). Mr. Chrisco's claims arise out of his interactions with Defendants during his incarceration at San Carlos Correctional Facility ("SCCF"). To the extent Mr. Chrisco's claims address Defendants in their official capacities for monetary relief, they are barred by sovereign immunity. Defendants sued in their individual capacity are entitled to qualified immunity for ten of Mr. Chrisco's claims. Further, Claim Three fails to state a viable cause for action. However, at the motion to dismiss stage I cannot find that Claim Four is barred by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, I grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

I. Facts

The following are relevant factual allegations (as opposed to legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory allegations) made by Mr. Chrisco in his Amended Complaint, which are taken as true for analysis under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) pursuant to Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995) and under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

From July 2014 to April 2015, Mr. Chrisco consistently filed grievances against Colorado Department of Corrections ("CDOC") unit staff, supervisors, mental health staff, and the law library employees. Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF 17. As a result, he claims the staff retaliated against him, forced him to take psychoactive medication, and obstructed his access to the law library. Id. ¶¶ 1-5. According to Mr. Chrisco, Defendant Dr. Joan Koprivnikar instructed her staff to "keep track of every bad [thing] Chrisco does and if it comes down to it fib a little." Id. ¶ 4. These reports from her staff prompted Dr. Koprivnikar to eventually place Mr. Chrisco on long-term involuntary medication. Id. ¶ 5.

Mr. Chrisco first alleges Dr. Koprivnikar illegally forced him to take emergency medications after he engaged in a verbal altercation with another inmate in September 2014. Id. ¶ 2. He believes this was in retaliation for his litany of grievances. Id. Dr. Koprivnikarcontinued the retaliation by force medicating Mr. Chrisco without investigating the underlying allegations. Id. ¶ 9. On April 15, 2015, CDOC unit staff reported he "put feces in his vent, made a slurry of feces and urine in his toilet, refused to give back cuffs and was banging his head." Id. ¶ 5. However, Mr. Chrisco explains that another inmate left the feces and the mess in his toilet resulted from prison staff cutting off his water supply. Id. ¶¶ 7-8

On May 11, 2015, the Involuntary Medication Hearing Committee met to determine Mr. Chrisco's mental state. Id. ¶ 13. At the hearing, Defendant Donald Gibson, a mental health professional, reported on Mr. Chrisco's considerable criminal history; his attempted attacks on other inmates and prison staff; and his previous civil commitments or hospitalizations in Colorado, Florida, and Illinois. Id. ¶ 21. Defendant Dr. Pilgrim, a psychiatrist at the prison, stated Mr. Chrisco once declared he would "end up stabbing somebody if people [kept] making fun of [him]." Id. ¶ 23. Defendant Kimberly Weeks reported Mr. Chrisco previously had an altercation with another inmate and refused to stop fighting even after being sprayed with mace. Id. ¶ 26.

Additionally, Dr. Koprivnikar's report insinuated Mr. Chrisco's insanity and warned he may be a danger to himself and his surroundings. Id. Mr. Chrisco believes Dr. Koprivnikar also retaliated against him due to his unusual religious beliefs. Id. ¶ 31. He is the founder of Alchemical Christianity, a sexuality based religion devoted to "Kabbalistic Ritual Invocations and sexually prostrat[ing] himself in energetic connection to his divine God the Universal Architect." Id. ¶¶ 129-30. After discovering Mr. Chrisco's "Holy Creed of the Church of Alchemical Christianity," Dr. Koprivnikar reported his religion as psychotic and delusional thinking. Id. ¶ 29. Further, she described his religious beliefs as "manifestation[s] of 'Schizoaffective disorder.'" Id. ¶ 30.

The Hearing Committee decided to administer over thirty psychoactive medications for180 days. Id. ¶ 58. These orders continued from May 2015 to March 2017. Id. ¶ 84. Although he admits to cheating his medication most of the time, Mr. Chrisco received three muscular injections of Halidol and a few doses of Zyprexa. Id. ¶ 85. He claims he has an increased risk of diabetes and liver disease, reduced sex drive, sciatica-like nerve pain, anxiety, permanent brain damage, weight problems, and depression due to the involuntary medication. Id. ¶¶ 86-87.

II. Procedural History

Based on these factual allegations, Mr. Chrisco filed his Amended Complaint on August 28, 2017. Am. Comp., ECF No. 17. Mr. Chrisco brings nineteen claims for relief. Id. Only twelve of these claims are relevant to my present analysis, each of which relates to his involuntary medication. Claim Sixteen asserts Defendant Richard Raemisch violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. ¶¶ 117-22. Claims Fourteen and Fifteen allege infringements on his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Id. ¶¶ 106-15. Claims Two and Eleven assert behavior Mr. Chrisco alleges constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Id. ¶¶ 15, 84-87. Claims Eight, Twelve, Thirteen, Fifteen, and Seventeen assert equal protection violations. Id. ¶¶ 40-42, 89-104, 115, 124-31. Claim Seven addresses an infringement of the Establishment Clause. Id. ¶¶ 36-38. Claim Three asserts Dr. Koprivnikar violated his Ninth Amendment right to privacy. Id. ¶ 17. Lastly, Claim Four alleges an infringement of his Fourteenth Amendment due process right. Id. ¶ 23.

Defendants responded to the Amended Complaint by filing the present Motion to Dismiss in Part. Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 50. As to Mr. Chrisco's claims for monetary relief against Defendants in their official capacities, they assert entitlement to sovereign immunity. Id. at 9. Defendants claim they are entitled to qualified immunity to ten of Mr. Chrisco's claims. Id. at 9-25. They contend Claim Three is an improper Ninth Amendment claim. Additionally, Dr.Pilgrim argues the claim against her is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.1 Id. at 13. Mr. Chrisco responded to Defendants' motion on March 19, 2018. Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 82. Defendants filed their reply on April 2, 2018. Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 85

I. Dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)

Rule 12(b)(1) empowers a court to dismiss a complaint for "lack of subject matter jurisdiction." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) is not a judgment on the merits of a plaintiff's case, but only a determination that the court lacks authority to adjudicate the matter. See Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, 790 F.3d 1143, 1151 (10th Cir. 2015) (recognizing federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may only exercise jurisdiction when specifically authorized to do so). A court lacking jurisdiction "must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceeding in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking." Id. (citing Full Life Hospice, LLC v. Sebelius, 709 F.3d 1012, 1016 (10th Cir. 2013)). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss "must be determined from the allegations of fact in the complaint, without regard to mere [conclusory] allegations of jurisdiction." Groundhog v. Keeler, 442 F.2d 674, 677 (10th Cir. 1971). The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Pueblo of Jemez, 790 F.3d at 1151. Accordingly, Mr. Chrisco in this case bears the burden of establishing that I have the jurisdiction to hear his claims.

II. Dismissal Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plausibility, in the context of a motion to dismiss, means that the plaintiff pleaded facts which allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Twombly requires a two prong analysis. First, I must identify "the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth," that is, those allegations which are legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory. Id. at 679-80. Second, I must consider the factual allegations "to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Id. at 681. If the allegations state a plausible claim for relief, such claim survives the motion to dismiss. Id. at 680.

Plausibility refers "to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs 'have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008)). "The nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on context." Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2011). Thus, while the Rule 12(b)(6) standard does not require that a plaintiff establish a prima facie case in a complaint, the...

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