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Federal court dismisses inmate’s lawsuit

THE federal court dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit of an inmate who claims that he was denied medical care which caused his disability.

Dismissed with prejudice means it cannot be filed again.

Jesse James Babauta Camacho is serving a 45-year sentence after being convicted of killing a 13-year old boy in Dandan in April 1998. He sued the Department of Corrections and its officials in their official and personal capacities for denial of medical care on March 13, 2018.

He said the defendants deliberately delayed his medical treatment in Nov. 2017.

District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit for its failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

She said the government has a constitutional obligation to provide medical care to prisoners.

“However, not every prisoner claim of inadequate medical treatment will reach the level of constitutional violation,” she added.

On Jan. 31, 2019, the judge substituted the CNMI government in place of Corrections, saying that the department and all official capacity defendants were dismissed because they could not be sued for damages for violations of constitutional rights.

But the judge allowed Camacho to amend his complaint as to the seven personal capacity defendants for deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition after his heart attack was diagnosed on Sept. 1, 2017.

Camacho the filed three letters with the court and these had been reviewed together as his second amended complaint, the judge said.

Camacho alleged that Corrections Director Gregoria M. Cabrera interfered with his medical referral for off-island treatment.

“Allegedly, Cabrera told Camacho’s doctor at [the Commonwealth Health Center] that Camacho could not go to the Philippines to see a heart specialist because there is no U.S. prison there.”

The judge said Camacho “undoubtedly had an objectively serious medical need that Cabrera was subjectively aware of when she told his doctor that he could not travel to the Philippines for treatment. However, Camacho has not alleged any harm caused by that interference or by the decision to send him to Guam and Los Angeles for treatment instead of the Philippines.”

Camacho also claims that a Corrections medical officer failed to make a follow-up appointment for him at the hospital after he was discharged from CHC. He said the medical officer also told him that he could not go off-island for treatment.

Judge Manglona said the medical officer “was subjectively aware of Camacho’s serious medical need and her refusal to make his follow-up appointment was plausibly a purposeful failure to respond to his medical needs. However, Camacho failed to make any allegation that this interference caused him harm.”

As for the Correction officers who ignored Camacho’ complaints and grievances, Judge Manglona said: “Inmates do not have a constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance procedure.”

Camacho has not alleged that the defendants’ conduct related to his complaints had any impact on his medical treatment at all, the judge added.

“To state a deliberate indifference claim based on delay in treatment or interference with treatment, [the] plaintiff must allege that the delay or interference was harmful.

“Camacho has not alleged harm caused by any action taken by defendants after Sept. 1, 2017, and this court cannot supply that missing element,” the judge said.