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Clarence Thomas v. David F. Szoke

April 19, 2011

CLARENCE THOMAS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID F. SZOKE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge:

#07614-025

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an inmate in the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois (USP Marion), brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). He also asserts medical malpractice claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq. This case is before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority to dismiss certain claims under § 1915A. The complaint contains other claims, though, that cannot be dismissed at this time.

FACTS ALLEGED IN COMPLAINT

On February 26, 2008, Plaintiff arrived at USP Marion wearing tinted eye lenses to protect his eyes from the light. Plaintiff has a medical condition caused by an earlier injury -- a gunshot wound to his face -- that makes him sensitive to light. He has worn tinted lenses since April 1998. Plaintiff informed the USP Marion staff of his medical condition and his need for the tinted lenses. Nonetheless, Plaintiff was not allowed to use his tinted lenses and was not seen for his condition until May 22, 2008.

Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Fix, an optometrist, on May 22, 2008. Defendant Fix determined that Plaintiff had mild photosensitivity; however, he denied Plaintiff's request to use tinted lenses. Plaintiff appealed this decision to the warden, Defendant Hollingsworth. Plaintiff saw Defendant Fix again on November 6, 2008, when Defendant Fix determined that Plaintiff was severely photosensitive. Defendant Fix recommended that Plaintiff be allowed to use tinted lenses; this recommendation was denied by the clinical director, Defendant Szoke. Plaintiff claims that his vision deteriorated during the time he did not wear tinted lenses from February 26, 2008, until November 25, 2008, when he "had to purchase sunglasses [himself]" because "the medical department refused to supply [him] with tinted lenses or the protective shades" (Doc. 1, p. 8).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Fix, Szoke, and Hollingsworth were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; accord Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 734 (7th Cir. 2001).

To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that the responsible prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago County, 165 F.3d 587, 590 (7th Cir. 1999). Deliberate indifference involves a two-part test. The plaintiff must show that (1) the medical condition was objectively serious, and (2) ...


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