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Lester v. Clarke

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 6, 2018

MICHAEL BRADY LESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser, Senior United States District Judge.

         Michael Brady Lester, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants associated with the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"). Currently pending are defendants Harold Clarke and Mark Amonette's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 203] and defendant Dr. Matthew McCarthy's motion to dismiss and in the alternative for summary judgment [ECF No. 199]. I referred the motions to a United States Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The Magistrate Judge filed a report and recommendation on July 5, 2018 (ECF No. 303), recommending that defendants' motions be denied. Only defendant Dr. McCarthy responded, objecting to the recommended denial of his motion [ECF No. 304]. After reviewing the record, I sustain the objection, reject in part and adopt in part the report and recommendation, grant Dr. McCarthy's motion for summary judgment, and deny Clarke and Amonette's motion to dismiss.

         I.

         A district court must review de novo any part of a report and recommendation to which a party objects properly. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The district court's reasoning need not be elaborate or lengthy, but it must provide a specific rationale that permits meaningful appellate review. See, e.g.. United States v. Carter, 564 F.3d 325, 330 (4th Cir. 2009). A party must object "with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection." United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007). The Fourth Circuit explained that:

To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate judge's report. Either the district court would then have to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be required to review issues that the district court never considered. In either case, judicial resources would be wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on help from magistrate judges would be undermined.

Id.

         De novo review is not required "when a party makes general or conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47. An objection that repeats arguments raised before a magistrate judge is deemed a general objection to the entire the report and recommendation, which is the same as a failure to object. Veney v. Astrue, 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D. Va. 2008). A district court is also not required to review any issue de novo when no party objects. See, e.g.. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983).

         A district court reviews for clear error any part of a report and recommendation not properly objected to. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). Clear error means that a court, after "reviewing ... the entire evidence[, ] is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948); see FTC v. Ross, 743 F.3d 886, 894 (4th Cir. 2014) (noting a factual finding based on the resolution of conflicting evidence is entitled to deference under the clear error standard).

         II.

         A.

         Plaintiff is infected with Hepatitis-C ("HCV") and incarcerated in the VDOC. Plaintiff has one kidney, suffers from hyperthyroidism, and has experienced chronic fatigue and sharp, stabbing pain under his right rib cage.

         Dr. Amonette is the VDOC's Chief Physician and makes the decision whether an inmate with HCV may consult with a specialist physician at Virginia Commonwealth University's ("VCU") HCV Telemedicine Clinic. Dr. Amonette is supposed to make this decision based on the VDOC's Interim Guideline for Chronic Hepatitis C Infection Management ("Guideline") that he developed.

         The Guideline is the VDOC's protocol to triage HCV in the VDOC inmate population. It prioritizes those inmates with more advanced liver disease by relying on, inter alia, blood test results known as APRI that calculate a level of liver impairment. If an inmate qualifies under the Guideline, he is allowed to consult with the specialist at VCU.

         Direct-acting antiviral drugs ("DAAs") have been the current standard of medical care for treating HCV since 2013. DAA treatment lasts about 12 weeks, has a high rate of effectiveness, and is effective at any stage of the disease. ...


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