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Cameron v. Clark County

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 3, 2017

Wayne Cameron, Plaintiff
Clark County, et al., Defendant


          Jennifer A. Dorsey, United States District Judge

         Pretrial detainee Wayne Cameron has submitted a civil-rights complaint along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Because it appears that Cameron is not able to pay an initial installment toward the filing fee, I grant his application to proceed in forma pauperis, screen his complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), dismiss his claims without prejudice and with leave to amend, and give Cameron until March 3, 2017, to file an amended complaint that cures the deficiencies outlined in this order.


         A. Screening Standards

         The PLRA directs federal courts to conduct a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or an employee of a governmental entity.[1] In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.[2] To state a claim under 42 USC § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.[3] Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed.[4]

         Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the court applies the same standards under § 1915 when reviewing the adequacy of a prisoner's complaint. When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915(e), the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions for curing its deficiencies unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment.[5]

         B. Screening Cameron's complaint

         Cameron sues multiple defendants for events that took place while he was a pretrial detainee at the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC).[6] Cameron sues Clark County, the CCDC, the CCDC Dental Department, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro), Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, and unnamed “Doe” defendants.[7] Plaintiff alleges two counts and seeks monetary damages and declaratory relief.[8]

         First, I dismiss all claims against the CCDC with prejudice and without leave to amend. The CCDC is an inanimate building, not a person or entity subject to liability and is therefore not a legally viable target for Cameron's claims.

         Cameron alleges the following: On May 30, 2012, he was arrested and sent to the CCDC.[9]He was indigent and housed in the CCDC's protective-custody unit.[10] At the time of his arrest, he had no teeth and fully relied on his dentures.[11] While at the CCDC, Cameron used his dentures to chew, consume food, and take daily vitamins to maintain his health and physical well being.[12]

         In February or March 2016, jail officials subjected Cameron's entire housing unit to a “shake down” during which officers thoroughly search inmates, their housing areas, or both.[13] During the shake down, three doe officers woke Cameron up to conduct a cell search during which his dentures were broken, and they forced him to submit to a naked body search.[14]

         As a result of the broken dentures, Cameron had to consume his meals in minuscule amounts and his gums bled, received cuts and scrapes, were constantly sore, and were unbearably painful.[15]Without the ability to consume his daily meals, Cameron lost significant weight and was constipated.[16] Cameron does not have the funds necessary to repair or replace his dentures.[17] He claims that he has “exhaustively” spoken with doe defendants in the CCDC's dental department in efforts to repair or replace the dentures, to no avail.[18]

         Cameron alleges that defendants have a practice to provide inadequate medical, dental, and psychiatric care to inmates.[19] He claims that defendants discriminated against him due to his indigence and disability[20] and “maintained, tolerated, embraced, acquiesced in, and condoned” defacto policies of interfering with dental prescriptions by destroying dentures during cell searches, conducting cell searches without documenting damaged items or identifying the officers conducting the searches, refusing to replace indigent inmates' dentures, failing to monitor abusive staff members, and discriminating against indigent inmates.[21] Cameron alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs (count one) and violated the Rehabilitation Act and the American with Disabilities Act (count two).[22]

         C. Count one is dismissed without prejudice and with leave to amend.

         A pretrial detainee's right to be free from punishment is technically governed by the Due Process Clause, but courts borrow from Eighth Amendment jurisprudence when analyzing the rights of pretrial detainees.[23] Prison personnel violate the Eighth Amendment when they are deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs.[24] A plaintiff can prevail on a deliberate-indifference claim if he can show that prison officials denied, delayed, or intentionally interfered with medical treatment and that the delay or interference caused further injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.[25]

         Cameron fails to state a medical-needs claim because he has not identified a defendant for this claim. Cameron generally states that he “exhaustively” spoke to “doe defendants employed in CCDC's dental department, ” but he has not provided dates or the details of those conversations and he has not attempted to identify who he spoke to.[26] Without these details, Cameron cannot establish that jail officials purposely failed to respond to his dental needs. Additionally, a municipality may be found liable under § 1983 only if a municipal policy or custom is the moving force behind the violation.[27] Cameron's conclusory allegation that defendants had a de facto policy of depriving inmates of dental care by destroying dentures during cell searches is insufficient. He must provide more details about this policy and who enforces it.

         Because these defects can potentially be cured by amendment, I dismiss this claim without prejudice and with leave to amend. If Cameron chooses to amend, he must follow the directions in the form complaint and “[s]tate the facts clearly, in [his] own words, and without citing legal authority or argument . . . describe exactly what each specific defendant (by name) did to violate [his] rights.”

         D. ...

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