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Jones v. Clement

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

August 24, 2017

TOMMY EARL JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
BERNARD CLEMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         On May 20, 2016, Plaintiff Tommy Earl Jones, a pro se prisoner, filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2]. Over the course of the next nine months, Jones filed numerous amendments and supplements to his Complaint [Docs. 6, 8, 10-12, 14, 17-19, 21-23]. On February 22, 2017, the Court entered an Order granting Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and screening Plaintiff's pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A [Doc. 24].[1] The Court dismissed numerous defendants and proposed claims, but it concluded that Plaintiff had stated plausible claims for Eighth Amendment medical deliberate indifference against several doctors and nurses who had treated him during his period of incarceration at Northeast Correctional Complex (“NECX”) - Amy Bowen, Bernard Clement, and Heather Ollis - based on their alleged denial of pain medication for Plaintiff's chronic medical condition, Crohn's disease [Id.].[2]

         Defendants Bowen, Clement, and Ollis thereafter filed their “Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment” [Doc. 52].[3] Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and the time for filing a response in opposition has now expired. Instead, Plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel on June 23, 2017 [Doc. 56], and a supplemental brief [Doc. 57], which the Court construes as a motion for leave to amend his complaint to add claims against a new defendant Sidney Ballard, a nurse practitioner at NECX, related to medical care rendered on June 22, 2017.

         These matters are now ripe for the Court's review.

         I. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         In their Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment and memorandum in support, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief against them for refusal to prescribe pain medication [Doc. 52].[4] Defendants specifically argue that, when Plaintiff's allegations are considered in conjunction with his medical records and grievance records, it is clear that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a constitutional claim for medical deliberate indifference, as he merely disputes the adequacy of his treatment - specifically, the decision of the Defendants that narcotic pain medication should not be prescribed as part of Plaintiff's treatment for Crohn's disease. Defendants maintain that the Court may consider Plaintiff's grievances and medical records in ruling on their motion without converting it to a motion for summary judgment because these documents are “central to his claim[s]” [Doc. 53 at 8-9].

         However, even if the Court were to accept Defendants' argument that the Court may consider these documents without converting the Motion to one for summary judgment, Defendants have failed to provide such documents to the Court.[5] Although Defendants filed “placeholder” exhibits in conjunction with their supporting memorandum [Docs. 53-1, 53-2], noting that the relevant records would be “filed concurrently with Defendants' Motion” for leave to file records under seal. Defendants did file a Motion for leave to file documents under seal [Doc. 54]; however, they failed to file any attachment in conjunction with their Motion. In failing to either file a redacted version of the exhibit or submit the document to be “temporarily placed in the court record under seal pending a ruling on the motion, ” Defendants failed to comply with Eastern District of Tennessee Local Rule 26.2(b).[6] The Motion for Leave to File Under Seal [Doc. 54] must accordingly be DENIED based on Defendants' failure to comply with the required procedures for filing documents under seal.

         Additionally, the Court clearly cannot review documents that have not been submitted into evidence. Given that the substance of Defendants' arguments for dismissal or summary judgment required consideration of such documents, the Court is unable to review Defendants' Motion on the merits at this time. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion [Doc. 52] will be DENIED WITH LEAVE TO REFILE.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S PROPOSED AMENDMENT

         Without seeking leave of Court to leave to file an amended complaint, Plaintiff filed an additional “supplemental brief” on June 26, 2017 [Doc. 57]. Plaintiff purports to name a new defendant to this action, NECX nurse practitioner Sidney Ballard [Id.]. Plaintiff alleges that, on June 22, 2017, he was seen for “chronic care” by Ballard, who asked about the status of Plaintiff's Crohn's disease [Id.]. Plaintiff responded that his intestines were “swollen” due to an infected area of his ileum, that he had noticed the swelling “three weeks [prior] while in the kitchen, ” and that he had been scheduled for surgery in 2009 [Id.]. Ballard advised Plaintiff that she “would give [Plaintiff] the prednisone for 14 days 10 mg that the doctor here took me off of” [Id.]. Additionally, he advised Ballard that he had a constant headache due to stress, as well as neck, shoulder, back, and stomach pain, and asked her for ibuprofen [Id.]. Ballard advised Plaintiff to “see a psychiatrist” for his stress and informed Plaintiff that “there is no pain medication for Crohn's disease, ” as pain medications make the symptoms of the disease worse [Id.]. He then asked if there was anything that he could take for pain; Ballard had another employee check a list of indigent inmates, found that Plaintiff's name was not on the list, and advised him that he could “buy something for [his] headaches or get something from mental health” [Id.]. Plaintiff maintains that Ballard is “uphold[ing] the conspiracy of silence regarding [Plaintiff's] need for surgery” for his Crohn's disease and that he was improperly denied free pain medication even though he is indigent [Id.].

         Because this supplement seeks to add new claims against a new defendant, the Court construes it as a motion to amend the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). Although leave to amend should be “freely given where justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a district court has discretion to deny a motion for leave to amend where the proposed claims are “simply not related to [the] original claims, ” Hetep v. Warren, 27 F.App'x 308, 309 (6th Cir. 2001).

         Upon review of the Motion, the Court finds insufficient similarities between the claims currently being litigated in this action and Plaintiff's proposed new claims. Plaintiff has asserted Eighth Amendment claims against the current defendants, alleging that their individual medical decisions to deny his requests for pain medication constituted deliberate indifference to his medical needs. In his proposed amendment, Plaintiff alleges that Ballard was involved in a “conspiracy” to prevent him from obtaining surgery and that Ballard denied his request for ibuprofen based on her erroneous view that Plaintiff was not indigent.[7] The allegations and claims set forth in the proposed amendment are not related to Ballard's medical determination regarding Plaintiff's need for pain medication and are thus unrelated to the claims currently before the Court in this action. Further, the events are unconnected in time: the central facts in the original Complaint allegedly occurred in early 2016, whereas the events involving Ballard did not transpire until June 26, 2017. The fact that each cause of action is tangentially related to Plaintiff's medical care while incarcerated is insufficient to create a meaningful connection between these two pleadings. The Court concludes that the substance of the proposed amendment is “simply unrelated” to the defendants, facts, and claims in the original Complaint, and Plaintiff's construed Motion to Amend [Doc. 57] will be DENIED.

         III. MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL

         In his motion for appointment of counsel, Plaintiff argues that he is unable to obtain an expert witness to testify, to adequately investigate, or to defend himself in this case involving “complex legal issues” [Doc. 56].[8] As the Court advised Plaintiff in denying his prior motion to appoint counsel in this action, “there is no ‘automatic' constitutional right to counsel in a civil rights suit and, typically, counsel is only appointed in an exceptional case” [see Doc. 24 at 21-22 (quoting Glover v. Johnson, 75 F.3d 264, 268 (6th Cir. 1996)]. The Court has once again carefully considered Plaintiff's motion and apparent ability to represent himself; based on the issues involved and the complexity of this case, as well as a review of the record as a whole, the Court concludes that no exceptional circumstances are present so as to justify appointment of counsel. See, e.g., Lavado v. Keohane, 992 F.2d 601 (6th Cir. 1993); Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636 (6th Cir. 1986). Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel [Doc. 56] is DENIED.

         IV. ...


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