United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
DANIEL E. KNOWLES, III, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Jackie Brister, a state prisoner, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Nurse Wanda Jones, Warden Jim Miller, and Sheriff Randy Seals. In the complaint, plaintiff states his claim as follows:
I'm writing this claim because I'm being charged twice for my medication, which being a D.O.C. inmate I'm not suppose to be paying for any meds. Nurse Jones is having money taken from my medicaid and also from my inmate account. Wanda Jones is involved because she is over pill call. Jim Miller is involved because he's the Warden over all persons thats working at the jail. Randy Seals is involved because he's boss over all persons here and he's got the last say about anything.
Plaintiff attached to his complaint a copy of a grievance response from defendant Jones concerning this matter:
IN REFERENCE TO YOUR ARP I RECEIVED ON October 13, 2014 FOR COMPLAINT of medication billing. There seems to be a misunderstanding from you about the medication you take at night. It is being charged under your Medicaid plan and the Washington Parish Sheriff's office is paying the co-pay. You are not being charged for this one medication (Atripla). There is no further action to be taken at this time.
To better understand the factual bases of plaintiff's claims, the Court held a Spears hearing on February 24, 2015. See Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985). "[T]he Spears procedure affords the plaintiff an opportunity to verbalize his complaints, in a manner of communication more comfortable to many prisoners." Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 1003, 1005-06 (5th Cir. 1998). The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has observed that a Spears hearing is in the nature of a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e) motion for more definite statement. Eason v. Holt, 73 F.3d 600, 602 (5th Cir. 1996). Spears hearing testimony becomes a part of the total filing by the pro se applicant. Id.
At that Spears hearing, plaintiff explained that, prior to his incarceration, the state's Medicaid program paid for his medications and he was charged a co-pay. Once he was incarcerated, the jail continued to have the Medicaid program pay for his medications, and he is still charged a co-pay of approximately $2.50 to $5.00 per refill. He argues that the medications should be provided to him for free while he is incarcerated, with no charge either to him or to the state Medicaid program. He testified that he has never been denied medication due to an inability to pay the co-pay while incarcerated.
Federal law mandates that federal courts "review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Regarding such lawsuits, federal law further requires:
On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint -
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Additionally, with respect to actions filed in forma pauperis, such as the instant lawsuit, federal law similarly provides:
Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court ...