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Sanderson v. Boothe

United States District Court, D. Alaska

July 17, 2015



SHARON L. GLEASON, District Judge.


On March 20, 2014, James Sanderson, representing himself, filed a Prisoner's Complaint under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, which is proceeding solely against Dr. Michale Boothe.[1] On March 9, 2015, Dr. Boothe filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.[2] Mr. Sanderson has responded and Dr. Boothe has replied.[3] Oral argument was not requested and was not necessary to the Court's determination of this motion.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs a court to "grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact initially lies with the moving party.[4] If the moving party meets this burden, the non-moving party must present specific factual evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue of fact.[5]

When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must accept as true all evidence presented by the non-moving party and draw "all justifiable inferences" in the non-moving party's favor.[6] Further, the court is mindful that it must liberally construe the pleadings of a self-represented plaintiff, and give the plaintiff the benefit of any doubt.[7] But "[i]f the moving party shows that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and designate facts showing an issue for trial.... A scintilla of evidence or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative does not present a genuine issue of material fact."[8]


In his Complaint, Mr. Sanderson asserts, under penalty of perjury, [9] that Dr. Michael Boothe, a dentist employed by the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC), has been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Constitution's Eighth Amendment.[10] In his First Claim for relief, Mr. Sanderson alleges as follows:

Dr. Boothe has pulled most of my chewing teeth out and for an ongoing and ever long time has refused to [relieve] my pain and suffering with a set of dentures. I can't eat [the] food provided to me by the Department of Corrections. I have lost weight and sleep over... not being able to chew my food correctly without pain. I continue to ask Dr. Boothe for my medica[l]ly needed dentures, to no avail... He just swears at me and yells[, ] acting as if my serious medical need isn't his problem. And he did nothing to cause it by all of the teeth he had extracted thr[ough] many visits thr[ough] lots of years. The subhuman treatment and maliciousness that Dr. Boothe treats me with is at best professional negligence. Added with his oppressive character[, ] I am in fear of him and his tyrannical dental practices to improperly treat and delay needed dental treatment on prisoners. His actions are still causing me pain and decreased health to this day. This dentist should not be permitted to do dental work on prisoners or anyone. He is cruel and vengeful towards the people he does dental work on....[11]

Mr. Sanderson also alleges a state law malpractice claim against Dr. Boothe. In Claim Two of the Complaint, Mr. Sanderson alleges as follows:

After pulling most of my chewing teeth, [Dr. Boothe did] not giv[e] me dentures to chew my food with. His actions towards me put me in fear to even see him for dental work. He yells and swears at me under his breath as he works on me. Look I can't go to my own dentist. And I was never nervous about dentists before hav[ing] to see Boothe, DDS. I have nightmares about seeing the dentist now because of him. And I can't eat right without pain. This has been going on for over a year [or] much longer.[12]

Dr. Boothe has filed a Declaration under penalty of perjury in support of his Motion for Summary Judgment.[13] In his Declaration, Dr. Boothe states that he is the chief dental officer for the DOC, providing care in Anchorage, Eagle River, Palmer, Wasilla and Kenai, Alaska, and that he was the only dentist providing care in the area during the time at issue in this lawsuit.[14] Both parties cite to Alaska DOC Policy and Procedure (P&P) No. 807.12.[15] Dr. Boothe states that P&P No. 807.12 "governs the provision of dental care within DOC facilities. Necessary dental services are defined under the P&P as dental work required to provide for the maintenance and nutrition and/or the prevention of pain, ' but does not include cosmetic and long-term growth and development dental techniques[.]'"[16]

Dr. Boothe further states that "partial or full dentures may be provided in accordance with [P&P] 807.17... if, in the clinical and professional judgment of the treating dentist, the dental work is deemed appropriate and endorsed by a consulting dentist and approval by the Department Medical Officer is obtained in advance[.]"[17] Dental procedures, including the provision of dentures, are prioritized within a classification system ranging from "very urgent" to "maintenance care[, ]" and are "provided within the limitations of necessary dental services and available resources."[18] In particular, dentures are allowed "(1) when necessary for the proper mastication of food, (2) when approved by the Medical Advisory Committee, and (3) when the subject prisoner will remain at the institution for sufficient time to complete the work."[19] Dentures, however, "are considered contraindicated for individuals who are unable to care for dentures and unable to maintain good oral hygiene."[20] In his Declaration, Mr. Sanderson disputes none of the above.[21]

Mr. Sanderson's dental records show that "he was seen by the DOC dental department at least fourteen times between when he first requested dental care in October 2012 and when he filed this lawsuit."[22] Mr. Sanderson's first appointment, on November 19, 2012, was with a dental hygienist who noted that "Mr. Sanderson's teeth and mouth were in a state of general dental neglect, ' including nine teeth missing, multiple teeth with visible decay, and two teeth (nos. 9 and 10) with active abscessed infections."[23] On November 30, 2012, Dr. Boothe extracted infected teeth nos. 9 and 10, also noting that Mr. Sanderson's oral hygiene was poor.[24] Mr. Sanderson did not appear for his December 7, 2012 appointment. On December 21, 2012, in response to another request by Mr. Sanderson, Dr. Boothe filled a cavity and extracted a root tip.[25] Shortly thereafter, Mr. Sanderson ...

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