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Hughes v. Jansen

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 18, 2014

BERNARD HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
MARTIN H. JANSEN, M.D.[1] Defendant.

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS[2]

EDMUND F. BRENNAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant Jansen moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1) for lack of jurisdiction and pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, and in the alternative, for a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). ECF Nos. 21, 22. In response, plaintiff has since filed what he captions as a "more definite statement/or in the alternative, opposition to motion to dismiss." ECF No. 29. For the reasons explained below, the motion should be denied.

I. Background

Plaintiff claimed in his original complaint that he had been prescribed Wellbutrin to treat his depression. ECF No. 1. He claimed that after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) circulated a memo regarding inmate hoarding and misuse of Wellbutrin, his prescription was discontinued. He claimed he had been prescribed alternative medications, but that they did not help with his depression. He requested injunctive relief in the form of an order directing that his treating psychiatrist be allowed to prescribe him Wellbutrin. The court screened the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and dismissed it with leave to amend for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See ECF No. 6 (setting forth standards governing claims based on deliberate indifference to medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983).

On February 8, 2012, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. ECF No. 9. The amended complaint named several defendants, including defendant Dr. Jansen, a psychiatrist at Deuel Vocational Institute. Plaintiff alleged that in 2006, he began taking Wellbutrin for his depression. He claimed that at some point prior to 2008, he was "taken off Wellbutrin... and placed on a medication called Straterra, " against his will. Id. at 5-6. In 2008, plaintiff apparently began taking Wellbutrin again, which "worked extremly [sic] well for... 2 years." Id. at 6. Plaintiff alleged that he "was placed back on Strattera by defendants and made a near fatal suicide [attempt] in May 2010, " which he attributes to the Straterra. Id. The allegation that specifically names defendant Jansen is the following:

On 6-1-10, I was admitted to continual suicide watch. Defendant, Dr. Jansen, took me off Wellbutrin - and drug for treatment of deppression [sic] and continued "Straterra" a non -deppresion drug [sic] - with suicidal history. This was done against my will.

Id (emphasis in original). Plaintiff claimed that he requested an alternative drug because the Straterra exacerbated his suicidal feelings. Id. at 6-7. He apparently received approximately "10 different medications" from defendants Zhou or Coppola, which were "approved of as an alternative to Wellbutrin." Id. at 7. These medications, however, allegedly caused side effects, and plaintiff refused further treatment. Id.

Significantly for purposes of this motion, although the original complaint expressly sought injunctive relief in the form of an order directing that plaintiff be prescribed Wellbutrin, the amended complaint only vaguely seeks whatever relief the "court deem[s] necessary." Id. at 5.

In reviewing the amended complaint for § 1915A screening, the court determined that plaintiff could proceed in this action on an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against defendant Jansen only. ECF No. 10 at 2 (referencing plaintiff's allegations that after making "a near fatal suicide, " Jansen continued to prescribe plaintiff Strattera). The court dismissed the other named defendants, in part because the allegation that they allegedly failed "to grant plaintiff's request for... Wellbutrin, but did approve of approximately ten alternative medications to treat plaintiff's depression, " did not state sufficient facts that those defendants "acted with the requisite deliberate indifference for an Eighth Amendment claim, or that they otherwise caused plaintiff to suffer a deprivation of his federally protected rights." Id. at 2-3.

II. Discussion

Notwithstanding the rather obvious dispute as to whether the medication Wellbutrin should be withheld from plaintiff, Jansen moves to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that there is no actual controversy between plaintiff and defendant, as required by Article III of the United States Constitution.

Jansen begins with the unremarkable assertion that the jurisdiction of federal courts is defined and limited by Article III of the Constitution. Indeed, there is little question that "[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute...." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, (1994) (internal citations omitted). Rule 12(b)(1) allows a party to seek dismissal of an action where federal subject matter jurisdiction is lacking.[3] "When subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion." Tosco Corp. v. Cmtys. for a Better Env't, 236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001).

Principles of ripeness, mootness, standing, and the court's Article III jurisdiction overlap. Whether jurisdiction is contested because a controversy is no longer live, or has not yet matured into an actual controversy, or because the plaintiff is not affected by or otherwise lacks any real stake in the outcome of the controversy, jurisdiction of federal courts under Article III requires that there be an actual, not theoretical, case or controversy. Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 65 (1997); Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., 709 F.3d 1281, 1286-87 (9th Cir 2013); Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n v. Adams, 629 F.2d 587, 593 n.11 (9th Cir. 1980) ("[B]efore reaching a decision on the merits, we [are required to] address the standing issue to determine if we have jurisdiction."). Here, defendant's challenge to jurisdiction focuses on whether plaintiff has identified a concrete injury which could be redressed if he were to prevail in this action. Constitutional standing sufficient to invoke the court's jurisdiction under Article III requires that there be: (1) an injury in fact; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of; and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992); Wash. Legal Found. v. Legal Found. of Wash., 271 F.3d 835, 847 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc).

Jansen argues that the relief plaintiff seeks in this action is to be prescribed Wellbutrin. Jansen reasons that there is no actual controversy between himself and plaintiff, as required by Article III, because plaintiff does not allege that it is Jansen who is now depriving him of Wellbutrin. See ECF No. 22 at 11 ("the only specific relief sought by Mr. Hughes is to be prescribed Wellbutrin now, " but "[t]here are no allegations that ...


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