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Bakhtiari v. J. Walton

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 4, 2013



J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at the United States Prison at Marion, Illinois ("Marion"), brings this pro se action seeking emergency injunctive relief. He asserts that his constitutional rights have been violated by Defendants' failure to provide him with necessary medical care. He seeks an order requiring Defendants to provide him with treatment, or to transfer him to a facility where his medical needs can be met. Further, he claims that he is being improperly held in a medium to high security facility, despite his classification as a low security risk. Plaintiff invokes 28 U.S.C. § 2241 as grounds for his request to be transferred to a low-security institution.

More specifically, Plaintiff claims that when he was sent to Marion in January 2013 to serve his 51-month sentence, he was suffering from chest pain which extended to his jaw and left arm (Doc. 1, p. 3). This pain and an "unusual" heartbeat prevented him from sleeping. A blood test showed he had "alarmingly high" cholesterol. Id. He sought medical care from Defendants Duncan (physician's assistant) and Szoke (medical doctor), but his sick call slips were ignored. In February, he finally saw Defendant Szoke, who told him he did not need any treatment. Plaintiff then requested pain medication from Defendant Duncan, who refused to provide any. Instead, Defendant Duncan advised Plaintiff to watch his diet and exercise. Plaintiff protested that he had been doing this all his life but still had the pain he described.

Plaintiff's chest pain continued without relief for several months. In March and July 2013, he again sought medical help. He saw Defendant Duncan on July 25, 2013, and was told that Defendant Szoke no longer worked at Marion, and there would be some delay before he could see the new doctor. Defendant Duncan said Plaintiff could be developing angina pectoris, but gave him no treatment.

Plaintiff's chest pains became worse in August 2013, so he filed a grievance (BP-8) with Defendants Winklmeier (Health Services Administrator) and M. Bagwell (Assistant Health Services Administrator) (Doc. 1, p. 4). Further, in each ensuing week he spoke personally with Defendant Walton (warden), as well as Defendants Winklmeier and M. Bagwell to complain of his intensified pain and need for medical care. These Defendants told him to wait until his BP-8 was adjudicated.

On August 21, 2013, Plaintiff submitted another urgent BP-8 seeking treatment. On August 26, 2013, Plaintiff suffered heart failure while in his cell; he was taken to Health Services for treatment (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff now seeks an emergency injunction requiring Defendants to provide him with proper medical care, or in the alternative, to transfer him to a facility equipped to care for cardiac patients (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8).

As to his security level and placement, Plaintiff asserts that he has a security point score of , and should be housed in a minimum security camp under the applicable rules of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") (Doc. 1, p. 5). He claims that his sentencing judge in the Eastern District of Missouri ordered the BOP to place him in a camp. However, BOP has used a "discretionary variable" to place him in a medium/high security prison, where he is housed with inmates having security point scores of 20 and above. Plaintiff has requested Defendants Walton and Strauss (case manager) to provide him with copies of the documents used to apply this "discretionary variable, " but they refused. Citing 28 U.S.C. § 2241, Plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring Defendants to house him in a prison camp, or a low-security facility near his home town of St. Louis (Doc. 1, p. 7).

Finally, Plaintiff complains that two officers (neither of whom is named as a Defendant) removed documents from his legal files that he needs to prosecute this case. Therefore, he also seeks an injunction ordering the Defendants to preserve all evidence relating to his claims (Doc. 1, p. 9).

Plaintiff specifically states that he is not seeking monetary damages (Doc. 1, p. 2).

Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

At the outset, some discussion is in order regarding the appropriate legal framework within which to evaluate Plaintiff's claims. He asserts that the failure to provide medical treatment violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, as well as the BOP's duty of care outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 4042 (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8). He also characterizes this action as a challenge to the execution of his sentence under 28 U.S.C. §2241.

Because Plaintiff's claims involve alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority, the Court shall construe this action as having been brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). The distinction between a civil rights claim under Bivens and a § 2241 challenge to the execution of a prisoner's sentence shall be discussed further below.

Plaintiff labeled his initial pleading as a "Petition for Emergency Injunction by Person in Federal Custody" (Doc. 1). This document is construed both as his initial complaint, and, because of the nature of the relief sought, it shall be considered as a motion for temporary restraining order ("TRO") and preliminary injunction.

Under § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of a complaint brought by a prisoner, and to dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be ...

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