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Farmer v. Lyons

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 26, 2018

JEFF FARMER, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN KEITH L. LYONS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DATE PAUL W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On, March 14, 2018, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services was directed to show cause why injunctive relief should not be granted regarding Plaintiff Jeff Farmer's claim that his life was endangered by correctional officers who refused to put him in protective custody. ECF No. 6. Thereafter, Mr. Farmer filed an Amended Complaint, Am. Compl., ECF 10, and Defendants filed a response to the show cause order, Defs.' Resp. to Show Cause, ECF No. 12. In addition, Mr. Farmer moves for an extension of time to amend the complaint, for appointment of counsel, and for injunctive relief. Pl.'s Mot., ECF 11. Although service of the complaint, as amended and supplemented, has not yet been directed by the Court, counsel have entered their appearance on behalf of Wexford Health Source, Inc., Dr. Orioku Ijoma, Dr. Clem, and Bruce Ford. ECF Nos. 13-15. Because Mr. Farmer is pursuing identical claims against Wexford Health Source, Inc., Dr. Ijoma, Dr. Clem, and Mr. Ford in a separate litigation, these defendants will be dismissed and their motion for extension of time to respond, ECF No. 16, and motion to dismiss, ECF No. 18, will be denied as moot. Plaintiff has not demonstrated he is likely to succeed on the merits, and therefore, his request for injunctive relief shall be denied. Further, service of the remaining claims shall take place as set out in the accompanying order.

         Ongoing Litigation on Medical Treatment

         In Farmer v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., No. PWG-17-346 (“Farmer I), Farmer raised the following claims against medical care providers: he was denied back surgery and effective pain management pending the surgery; his prescription for pain medication was cut in half for non-medical reasons; his allergy medication was changed to something less effective; and he had not received treatment for a shoulder injury sustained during a fall from a prison van. Farmer I Compl., ECF No. 1 in PWG-17-346. Defendants motion for summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part the remaining and dismissed claims were as follows:

Remaining claims

Dismissed claims

Eighth Amendment

• Claims [against] Drs. Onabajo, Obsu, and Wright regarding failure to provide prescribed testing to determine cause of chronic back and shoulder pain

• Claim against Wexford Health Sources, Inc. regarding failure to approve or make arrangements for full treatment and diagnosis of chronic back and shoulder pain

Eighth Amendment

• All claims concerning changes in medication.

• All claims against Rebecca Barnhardt, RN and Jonathan Thompson, MD

Farmer I Mem. Op. 23, ECF No. 42 in PWG-17-346. Counsel was appointed for Plaintiff for the resolution of the remaining claims. Farmer I Order Appt. Counsel, ECF No. 44 in PWG-17-346.

         Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Bruce Ford, P.A., has discontinued pain medications, delayed his receipt of an MRI, cut off allergy medications, and has postponed needed surgery for Plaintiffs shoulder and back; that Dr. Ijoma refused to explain why Plaintiffs surgery has been delayed, denied an increase in prescribed pain medications and told Plaintiff to buy over-the-counter medications in the commissary, and lied about getting his allergy medications returned; and that Dr. Clem supervises Dr. Ford and Dr. Ijoma but has failed to correct their errors. Am. Compl. Facts 22-31, ECF No. 10-1. These claims may not be litigated anew in this case. To the extent that the claims name new Defendants or differ slightly from the claims litigated in Farmer I, raising them in a new complaint is still prohibited. “The rule against claim splitting ‘prohibits a plaintiff from prosecuting [his] case piecemeal and requires that all claims arising out of a single wrong be presented in one action.'” Lee v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 802 F.3d 626, 635 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Sensormatic Sec. Corp. v. Sensormatic Elecs. Corp., 273 Fed. App'x. 256, 265 (4th Cir. 2008)).

         Counsel entered their appearance in this case on behalf of Wexford Health Source, Inc., Dr. Orioku Ijoma, Dr. Clem, and Bruce Ford, and moved for an extension of time to respond to Farmer's request for injunctive relief. ECF No. 16. Service of the Complaint has not been directed by this Court and, upon review, the need for a response to the claims asserted against these defendants is obviated. As the same or related claims against Defendants Wexford Health Source, Inc., Dr. Orioku Ijoma, Dr. Clem, and Bruce Ford are being pursued in Farmer I, these defendants are dismissed from this case, see Lee, 802 F.3d at 635, and their motions to dismiss, ECF No. 18 and for an extension of time, ECF No. 16, are denied as moot.

         Claims against Judicial Officials and Employees

         Mr. Farmer names Robert Duckworth, Clerk of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County and Theodore Phoebus, Clerk of the Circuit Court for Somerset County as Defendants. Am. Compl. Facts 3-4, 7. He alleges that Mr. Duckworth refused to “comply with [his] occupational duties/responsibilities and instead of justice only offered hindrance and interference.” Id. at 3. Mr. Farmer alleges that he repeatedly filed motions in the court to “preserve and send [him a] copy of the video footage” of an incident on November 26, 2015, where he claims he was assaulted by Officer W. Taylor when he slammed another inmate's wheelchair down on his foot. Id. Farmer also faults the judge who denied his motions, but does not name him as a Defendant. Id. The claim against Mr. Phoebus is less clear as Farmer simply states that Mr. Phoebus and Judge Daniel Long[1] of Somerset County Circuit Court were “notified of my intention to file claim” “but chose to disregard my attempts to have the courts help in this matter just as they had done in numerous other cases many times previously.” Id. at 4.

         The claims against Mr. Duckworth and Mr. Phoebus are frivolous and must be dismissed. These claims in essence seek to impose liability on the basis of the content of the judge's decisions denying Mr. Farmer's motions or dismissing his cases and are barred by judicial immunity. See Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 226-27 (1988). It is the “nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it” that determines whether absolute immunity applies to bar a claim. Id. at 229. Mr. Farmer's attempt to sue Mr. Duckworth and Mr. Phoebus for their roles in enforcing decisions by a state court judge, who denied Mr. Farmer's motions, therefore must be dismissed.

         Complaint, Supplement, and Amended Complaint

         Here, the Complaint, ECF No. 1 and Supplement to the Complaint, ECF No. 5, concern incidents occurring at Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) beginning December 20, 2017, and raise the following new claims: that Officer Pedro and Lt. Elliott assaulted Mr. Farmer; that Mr. Farmer was convicted of a “fraudulent” disciplinary violation written by Officer Healey and Lt. Elliott; that he was denied access to the administrative remedy procedure (“ARP”); that he was denied showers and meals while confined to segregation; that Officer Christopher harassed him and refused to remove inmates who pose a threat to Mr. Farmer from his cell; and that Mr. Farmer was assaulted by three unnamed gang members on July 13, 2017, and that subsequently officers have failed to keep Plaintiff's reports regarding the attack confidential from other inmates. Id. Mr. Farmer has amended his complaint by filing 42 pages of allegations including some reaching back to 2015, claims concerning conditions at ECI; and the medical claims that were and are being litigated in Farmer I.[2] See Am. Compl. Facts 22-31. Mr. Farmer's claims regarding his treatment at ECI and the alleged attacks by officers and gang members will proceed for a response from those Defendants.

         Injunctive ...


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