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William A. Cornelio, Iii, #A0192661 v. James Hirano

March 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Alan Ezra United States District Judge


Before the court is pro se Plaintiff William A. Cornelio, III's, prisoner civil rights complaint.*fn1 Although Plaintiff is now incarcerated at the Halawa Correctional Facility ("HCF"), Plaintiff complains of actions that occurred while he was housed at the Maui Community Correctional Center ("MCCC"). The complaint names MCCC Warden James Hirano, Lieutenant Labasan, Lieutenant Fujimoto, Lieutenant John Doe #3, Sergeant Abac, Sergeant Caravalho, Adult Correctional Officer ("ACO") Pinto, ACO Blue, Sergeant Rabanes, ACO Jane Doe #2, MCCC Nurse Nancy, and the State of Hawaii (collectively, "Defendants"),*fn2 in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his constitutional rights to due process and protection from harm while he was incarcerated at MCCC.

The Complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915(A)(b)(1), for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend, as discussed and limited below.


The court must screen all civil actions brought by prisoners that relate to prison conditions and/or seek redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint in full or in part if its claims are legally frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (c)(1).

A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim for (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To state a claim, a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ----, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 1951.

The court must construe a pro se complaint liberally, accept all allegations of material fact as true, and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears at all possible that the plaintiff can correct the defects of his or her complaint. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000).


Plaintiff states that, on December 6, 2011, he was charged with misconduct at MCCC for unauthorized contact with another prisoner, Ashley Akana. Plaintiff was given notice of the charges and a hearing was scheduled for December 15, 2011. At the hearing, Plaintiff sought to confront Defendant Jane Doe #2, who was the charging officer. Plaintiff alleges that Jane Doe #2's misconduct report stated that Akana admitted that she was speaking with Plaintiff, not that Plaintiff was talking to her. See ECF #1, Compl. at 12. Plaintiff claims this shows he is not guilty of unauthorized contact with another inmate. His request to question Jane Doe #2 and other witnesses was denied. On December 16, 2011, the Adjustment Committee, including Lieutenant Fujimoto and Sergeant Caravalho, found Plaintiff guilty and sanctioned him to "los[s] of all priv[i]leges from 12/17 to 12/31." ECF #1, Compl. at 10. Plaintiff grieved this decision, but says he received no response.

Plaintiff says that, on December 31, 2011, Defendants housed him at Module A, with inmate Ashley Akana's husband, Noah Borgman. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants made this new housing assignment in hopes of provoking a confrontation between Plaintiff and Borgman. That same day, Borgman allegedly assaulted Plaintiff. Plaintiff says he sustained a broken nose and concussion from the assault. Plaintiff was charged with fighting; it is unclear if Borgman was similarly charged. Plaintiff was given notice of the charges on January 1, 2012, and a hearing was held the next day, January 2, 2012. Plaintiff complains that Committee Chair Fujimoto had predetermined that Plaintiff was guilty of fighting with Borgman. Plaintiff says he asked to "confront and cross examine his accuser," but was denied. ECF #1, Compl. at 11. Plaintiff was found guilty and sanctioned to thirty days "lockdown," in segregation. He claims there was "no evidence relied upon for [this] decision." Id. Plaintiff grieved this decision and says that he has never received a response.

Plaintiff alleges that because of the two misconduct reports his scheduled work furlough program was cancelled, delaying his early release. Plaintiff seeks expungement of the misconduct reports and damages.


"To sustain an action under section 1983, a plaintiff must show '(1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federal constitutional or statutory right.'" Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 987 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 129 S. Ct. 2431 (2009); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

A. Rule 8

Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Cmty. Redev. Agency of City of L.A., 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). "All that is required [by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)] is that the complaint gives 'the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the ground upon which it rests.'" Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Datagate, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 941 F.2d 864, 870 (9th Cir. 1991)).

Plaintiff's claims fail to plainly and succinctly state which Defendants are responsible for which of his claimed constitutional violations. Plaintiff makes generalized claims regarding alleged constitutional violations but fails to set forth specific factual allegations linking each named Defendant to an action that violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

"A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). A person deprives another of a constitutional right under § 1983, when he or she "'does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'" Preschooler II v. Clark County Sch. Bd. of Trustees, 479 F.3d 1175, 1183 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). The "requisite causal connection may be established" not only by some kind of direct personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion "a series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury." Id. (citing Johnson, 588 F.2d at 743--44).

Plaintiff names thirteen defendants, but fails to explain which Defendants allegedly falsely charged him with misconduct, which Defendants, other than Fujimoto and Caravalho, were members of the two Adjustment Committees who allegedly denied him due process, which Defendants were personally responsible for allegedly making the decision to house him with inmate Borgman with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's safety, and which Defendants were present during the actual fight or assault, and failed to protect Plaintiff from harm. Moreover, as discussed more fully below, Plaintiff's statement of facts does not support a violation of due process.

In addition, Plaintiff names Nurse Nancy, but fails to link her to his claims or explain her connection to his action. Plaintiff alleges no facts suggesting that she or any other Defendant denied him medical care. Rather, Plaintiff admits that he was put under medical observation for three days. It is unlikely that Nurse Nancy had authority to make inmate housing decisions, charge an inmate with a disciplinary infraction, or participate in prison disciplinary hearings, which form ...

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