Inmate’s suit vs DOC dismissed

Ruling that the Department of Corrections lacks the capacity to sue or be sued, the federal court has dismissed the department as a party in a lawsuit filed by an inmate.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ordered that the CNMI government be substituted in DOC’s place as one of the defendants named in the lawsuit filed by inmate Jesse James Babauta Camacho.

However, Manglona also dismissed the complaint against the CNMI government and all DOC officials and officer that Camacho sued, saying they cannot be sued for damages under Section 1983.

Section 1983 is the statute that creates a remedy for violations of federal rights committed by persons acting under color of state law.

Camacho sued in their official capacity DOC director of Civil Division Georgia Cabrera, the late lieutenant Frances Rebuenog, and corrections officers Lorraine Rios and Benjamin Lizama.

Manglona also dismissed with prejudice Camacho’s complaint against the defendants he sued in their personal capacity as to the events that occurred prior to and on Sept. 1, 2017.

Dismissal with prejudice means the inmate can no longer re-file the claims.

The judge ruled that Camacho failed to state a plausible claim that these defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs before the doctor diagnosed his heart attack on Sept. 1, 2017.

Manglona said because Camacho’s allegations against Rios, Rebuenog, Lizama, and Sgt. Frederick Billy relate to events occurring before his diagnosis, they are dismissed from the case.

Manglona dismissed without prejudice Camacho’s complaint against all remaining personal capacity defendants as it pertains to the events that occurred after the doctor diagnosed his heart attack.

Dismissal without prejudice means Camacho can re-file the claims.

The remaining personal capacity defendants refer to DOC Commissioner Vincent Attao, Capt. Jose Pangelinan, Capt. Pius Yaroitemal, Lt. Manuel Quitano, and corrections officers Cynthia Santos and Nina Aldan.

Manglona allowed Camacho to amend his complaint, limited to adding more facts to support his claims against the remaining personal capacity defendants for deliberate indifference to his medical condition after Sept. 1, 2017.

Manglona said if Camacho fails to file an amended complaint by the March 1 deadline, the case will be dismissed with prejudice, meaning he can no longer re-file it.

Camacho filed his handwritten complaint without a lawyer. He has claimed that he is now a disabled person after he underwent heart surgery in November 2017. He blamed a DOC official and a DOC officer for allegedly causing the delay in his medical treatment.

In his amended complaint, Camacho said Attao ignored him and the countless requests he made in 2017 and in 2018 to meet him in person due to urgent and important issues that the officers have done to him.

Camacho said Cabrera interfered with his off-island medical treatment in 2017 by telling a doctor at the Commonwealth Health Center that he can’t be taken to the Philippines for medical treatment.

Camacho accused the other DOC officials and officers of ignoring his requests for medical assistance, among other issues.

In her prior order, Manglona found a non-frivolous claim for a violation of the Eight Amendment’s guarantee of medical care.

Camacho was tagged as the mastermind in the killing of a 13-year-old boy in Dandan in April 1988. He was sentenced in 1999 to 45 years in prison.

Camacho’s co-defendants, both minors at the time, entered a plea deal with the government and were sentenced to two years each.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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