United States District Court, D. Minnesota
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AS
Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the March 2, 2017 Report and
Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge
Tony N. Leung. (Dkt. 61.) The R&R recommends granting
Defendants' December 13, 2016 motion to dismiss. For the
reasons addressed below, the Court adopts the R&R as
Jose Monserrato Martinez, Jr., commenced this action by
filing a habeas petition, but he does not seek habeas relief.
Rather, Martinez seeks damages for Defendants'
“deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical
problem” and challenges the administrative denial of a
claim brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act. When
considering Martinez's request for in forma
pauperis status, the magistrate judge observed that a
habeas petition is not the proper procedural vehicle by which
to bring a medical indifference claim. But the magistrate
judge opined that, with Martinez's permission, the
district court may construe Martinez's habeas petition as
a civil complaint. Martinez subsequently confirmed via letter
that he intends to pursue this matter as a civil action. But
Martinez did not clarify the legal basis for his civil
district court may liberally construe a pro se
plaintiff's habeas petition as a civil complaint when, as
here, the plaintiff does not challenge a conviction or seek a
remedy that would result in an early release from prison.
Spencer v. Haynes, 774 F.3d 467, 469-71 (8th Cir.
2014). Typically, in such circumstances, the habeas petition
is construed as a constitutional claim challenging conditions
of confinement. See, e.g., id. at 471
(observing that a pro se plaintiff's habeas
petition may be liberally construed as a civil action
asserting a constitutional violation).
Martinez's habeas petition and supporting documents do
not expressly refer to the United States Constitution.
Instead, Martinez seeks monetary damages based on what
appears to be a challenge to the administrative denial of a
Federal Tort Claims Act claim based on the medical care he
has received. Thus, Defendants and the Court have, to date,
construed Martinez's habeas petition as a civil complaint
claiming medical malpractice. Dismissal of Martinez's
medical-malpractice claims with prejudice is required for the
reasons addressed in the R&R. Martinez's objections
to the R&R-on the basis that he has
“attempted” and “intended” to comply
with the statutory requirements and has had difficulty doing
so-do not alter the merit of the R&R's conclusion.
For these reasons, the Court adopts the R&R's
conclusion that Martinez's medical-malpractice claims
must be dismissed with prejudice.
alternate construction of Martinez's habeas petition is
that it is a challenge to the conditions of his confinement
under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Indeed, Martinez's habeas petition references
Defendants' alleged “deliberate indifference to [a]
serious medical problem.” This assertion appears to
invoke the deliberate-indifference standard that applies to
alleged violations of a prisoner's Eighth Amendment
rights. See Reynolds v. Dormire, 636 F.3d 976, 979
(8th Cir. 2011). A claim of deliberate indifference to a
medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment requires
proof of the presence of objectively serious medical needs,
that prison officials actually knew of those needs, and that
the officials deliberately disregarded those needs.
Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir.
1997). This type of constitutional claim also must be
dismissed-but without prejudice-for the reasons
federal prisoner in a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility may
bring a constitutional claim against an individual federal
officer, subject to the defense of qualified immunity, but
the prisoner may not bring such a claim against “the
officer's employer, the United States, or the BOP.”
Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 72
(2001). “With respect to the alleged constitutional
deprivation, [the prisoner's] only remedy lies against
the individual.” Id.; see also Buford v.
Runyon, 160 F.3d 1199, 1203 (8th Cir. 1998) (“It
is well settled that a Bivens action cannot be
prosecuted against the United States and its agencies because
of sovereign immunity.”). These principles of sovereign
immunity present a threshold question as to this Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction. See Amerind Risk Mgmt. Corp.
v. Malaterre, 633 F.3d 680, 686 (8th Cir. 2011). Thus,
Martinez's claim against the BOP challenging the
conditions of his confinement on constitutional grounds is
barred by sovereign immunity and must be dismissed without
prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See
Hart v. United States, 630 F.3d 1085, 1091 (8th Cir.
2011) (explaining that dismissal for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity must be
also names as defendants “Warden FPC Duluth” and
“Warden FMC Rochester.” When, as here, a
complaint asserting a constitutional violation “does
not specifically name the defendants in their individual
capacities, [courts] presume that [the plaintiff] sued them
only in their official capacities.” Zajrael v.
Harmon, 677 F.3d 353, 355 (8th Cir. 2012). Moreover, a
suit against a public officer in the party's official
capacity is a suit against the entity for which that official
is an agent. Elder-Keep v. Aksamit, 460 F.3d 979,
986 (8th Cir. 2006); accord Kentucky v. Graham, 473
U.S. 159, 166 (1985). Although Martinez has sued
“Warden FPC Duluth” and “Warden FMC
Rochester, ” the United States is the real party in
interest; and sovereign immunity bars those claims as well.
Thus, Martinez's claims against Warden FPC Duluth and
Warden FMC Rochester challenging the conditions of his
confinement on constitutional grounds also must be dismissed
without prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
the Court adopts the R&R but modifies it such that
Martinez's constitutional challenges to the conditions of
his confinement are dismissed without prejudice for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
on the March 2, 2017 Report and Recommendation, the foregoing
analysis and all the files, records and proceedings herein,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
1. Plaintiff Jose Monserrato Martinez, Jr.'s objections
to the March 2, 2017 Report and Recommendation, (Dkt. 63),
2. The March 2, 2017 Report and Recommendation, (Dkt. 61), is
ADOPTED AS MODIFIED, ...