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Dennis E. Abbott, Jeffrey T. v. Brent Reinke

August 1, 2012

DENNIS E. ABBOTT, JEFFREY T. GARNER, JOHN LLOYD, AND ROBERT L. BROWN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BRENT REINKE, OLIVIA CRAVEN, IDAHO DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, IDAHO COMMISSIONS OF PARDONS AND PAROLE, IDAHO DEPT. OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, AND IDAHO DISTRICT COURTS (ALL DISTRICTS), DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

The Clerk of Court conditionally filed Plaintiffs' Complaint due to their status as prisoners and their in forma pauperis requests. As a result, Plaintiffs' Complaint is subject to review by the Court to determine whether it or any of its claims are subject to summary dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. Having reviewed the record, and otherwise being fully informed, the Court enters the following Order dismissing the Complaint without prejudice to filing individual amended complaints or petitions for writs of habeas corpus, as might be appropriate in each inmate's particular circumstances.

REVIEW OF COMPLAINT

1. Standard of Law

The Court is required to review complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a claim that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Plaintiffs bring claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the United States Supreme Court clarified that, to state a claim that will survive summary dismissal, the complaint must contain not only sufficient factual content, but facially plausible factual content. Id. at 678. As to the first principle, the Iqbal Court explained, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

As to the second principle, the Iqbal Court reiterated that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives" summary dismissal or a motion to dismiss. 556 U.S. at 679. Particularly, the Court explained:

Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. 490 F.3d, at 157--158. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not "show[n]"-"that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Id. at 679.

2. Background

Plaintiffs are four convicted felons who have been evaluated and sentenced based on Idaho Code § 19-2523, which is entitled "Consideration of mental illness in sentencing." That section provides:

(1) Evidence of mental condition shall be received, if offered, at the time of sentencing of any person convicted of a crime. In determining the sentence to be imposed in addition to other criteria provided by law, if the defendant's mental condition is a significant factor, the court shall consider such factors as:

(a) The extent to which the defendant is mentally ill;

(b) The degree of illness or defect and level of functional impairment;

(c) The prognosis for improvement or rehabilitation;

(d) The availability of treatment and level of care required;

(e) Any risk of danger which the defendant may create for the public, if at large, or the absence of such risk;

(f) The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law at the time of the offense charged.

(2) The court shall authorize treatment during the period of confinement or probation specified in the sentence if, after the sentencing hearing, it concludes by clear and convincing evidence that:

(a) The defendant suffers from a severe and reliably diagnosable mental illness or defect resulting in the defendant's inability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law;

(b) Without treatment, the immediate prognosis is for major distress resulting in serious mental or physical deterioration of the defendant;

(c) Treatment is available for such illness or defect;

(d) The relative risks and benefits of treatment or nontreatment are such that a reasonable person would consent to treatment. (of the offense charged.)

(3) In addition to the authorization of treatment, the court shall pronounce sentence as provided by law.

I.C. § 19-2523.*fn1

Plaintiffs allege, in wholesale fashion, that the state courts and the state prisons have not followed this statute or the recommendations of mental health evaluators for placement and treatment during sentences. Plaintiffs allege that they should have received civil commitment rather than criminal punishment. (Complaint, Dkt. 2.) They assert various constitutional claims arising from these allegations, but because the claims are "threadbare" and conclusory, an amendment will be required if any Plaintiff wishes to proceed with his case.

3. Whether the Claims Implicate Plaintiffs' Sentences

Because the claims involve criminal sentences, a threshold issue in this case is whether the claims are of the nature of civil rights or habeas corpus. While certain types of claims may be brought as ยง 1983 claims, others must be asserted in habeas corpus actions because they implicate the bar of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994), where the United States Supreme Court determined that a prisoner in state custody cannot use a civil rights action to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. See Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2005). The ...


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