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Shelley C. Stephens v. County of Hawaii Police Department

April 5, 2012

SHELLEY C. STEPHENS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF HAWAII POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEPT. OF HUMAN RESOURCES, DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER: (1) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, (2) DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT WITHOUT PREJUDICE, AND (3) DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

On April 4, 2012, the Court heard County of Hawaii Police Department, Department of Human Resources' ("Defendant") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 154.) Plaintiff Shelley C. Stephens ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, appeared at the hearing on behalf of herself; Deputies Corporation Counsel Brooks L. Bancroft and Kimberly Angay appeared at the hearing on behalf of Defendant. After reviewing the Motion and the supporting memoranda, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, DISMISSES Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice, and DENIES AS MOOT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

This case stems from an incident that took place on July 9, 2006, when Plaintiff Shelley Stephens ("Plaintiff") was walking home on the side of a highway with her fiance. (See "TAC," Doc. # 147 § V.) An officer of the Hawaii Police Department ("HPD") allegedly arrived, saw that Plaintiff was visibly upset, and offered Plaintiff a ride. (Id.) Two other officers subsequently arrived at the scene. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that after her fiance told the officers that she could go home with him, one of the officers stepped in and grabbed Plaintiff by the right shoulder. (Id.) Plaintiff allegedly responded by raising her right hand in the air to brush the officer off. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, she was "again grabbed and choked" and told that she was being arrested for disobeying an officer. (Id.) She claims that she offered her left arm to acquiesce to arrest, but was subjected to "choking, pushing of her left arm almost out of its socket, wrenching of her right arm" while being placed in handcuffs. (Id.) As a result of this incident, Plaintiff allegedly suffered numerous abrasions and pain in her neck, lower back, and tailbone. (Id.) She claims that she now has Impingement Syndrome that causes severe pain in her shoulders, and that she had to attend months of vocational rehabilitation. (Id.)

II. Procedural Background

On July 7, 2008, Plaintiff filed the instant action in the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii, against the three individual police officers and the HPD. (Doc. # 1-3.) On September 16, 2009, Plaintiff filed an amendment to the Original Complaint ("FAC"), alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986 and 18 U.S.C. §§ 3, 241, 242. (Doc. # 1-4.) On October 13, 2009, the HPD ("Defendant") removed the action to federal court. (Doc. # 1.)

On September 9, 2010, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 60) and a Motion to Dismiss Unserved Defendant Officers. (Doc. # 62). On September 14, 2010, Defendant filed a separate Motion to Dismiss the entire action for failure to state a claim. (Doc. # 63.) Plaintiff made several submissions in opposition to these motions. (See Docs. ## 69, 70, 71.) On November 8, 2010, Defendant filed replies in further support of its motions. (Docs. ## 76, 77.)

On September 20, 2010, the Magistrate Judge attempted to reach Plaintiff for a Settlement Conference but received a message that the telephone number provided by Plaintiff had been disconnected or was no longer in service.

(Doc. # 66.) Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang subsequently issued an Order to Show Cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to appear. (Id.) At the show cause hearing, Plaintiff explained her reasons for not appearing at the Conference and provided the Court with a new telephone number. (Doc. # 68.) The Court reset the Settlement Conference and took no further action on the Order to Show Cause. (Id.)

On December 13, 2010, after Plaintiff failed to appear at the hearing on Defendant's pending motions, the Court issued an Order dismissing Plaintiff's FAC without prejudice for failure to adequately allege the elements needed to state a claim for municipal liability, failure to train, or conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. (Doc. # 83.) The Court noted that Plaintiff "utterly fail[ed] to attribute liability to the County and further fail[ed] to provide any facts describing the alleged policy or custom, how it was deficient, and how it caused injury to Plaintiff." (Id. at 15.) The Court granted plaintiff leave to amend and advised Plaintiff that if she chose to file an amended complaint against the same defendants, she should properly serve those previously unserved. (Id. at 22.) In light of the Court's dismissal of the FAC, the Court denied as moot Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Unserved Defendants and Motion for Summary Judgment. (Id.)

On January 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint. ("SAC," Doc. # 91.) On February 17, 2011, Defendant filed a second Motion to Dismiss Unserved Defendants. (Doc. # 94.) On April 20, 2011, this Court issued an Order Adopting Magistrate Judge Chang's Findings and Recommendation to deny Plaintiff's request for more time for service and grant Defendant's motion to dismiss the three individual police officers. (Doc. # 104.) As a result, the HPD is the sole remaining defendant in this action. (See id.)

On July 7, 2011, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 115) and a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 113) with respect to Plaintiff's SAC.

On August 8, 2011, the Plaintiff submitted a one-page hand-drawing depicting the nature of her alleged medical injuries. (Doc. # 121.) On August 15, 2011, Defendant filed a Reply to Plaintiff's submission. (Doc. # 122.) On September 19, 2011, Plaintiff submitted a Declaration, ostensibly in opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 124.) On September 23, 2011, Defendant filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Declaration. (Doc. # 125.) On September 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 127.)

A Final Pretrial conference was scheduled for October 4, 2011. (Doc. # 131.) Plaintiff once again failed to appear at the Final Pretrial Conference and also failed to submit a Final Pretrial Conference Statement, as required by Rule 16.6 of the Local Rules. (Id.) On October 5, 2011, Magistrate Judge Chang issued a second Order to Show Cause and an Order Imposing Sanctions on Plaintiff for failure to appear at a Final Pretrial Conference. (Doc. # 133.) The Court ordered Plaintiff to pay $186.40 for defense counsel's travel expenses. (Doc. # 134.) At the show cause hearing held on October 14, 2011, Plaintiff once again explained her reasons for not appearing at the Conference and the Court took no further action. (Doc. # 137.)

On October 17, 2011, the Court issued an Order dismissing Plaintiff's SAC for failure to allege a conspiracy claim and failure to adequately allege the County of Hawaii's "deliberate indifference," as required to state a claim based on an alleged failure to train. (Doc. # 139.) The Court found that any alleged misconduct of the arresting officers was insufficient to show deliberate indifference, and instructed Plaintiff to "allege facts which describe the training received by officers, the customers adopted by the HPD, the promulgation of those customs, how the training was inadequate and how the training resulted in violations of constitutional rights." (Id. at 16.) The Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend and warned that "[f]ailure to [file an amended complaint] and to cure the pleading deficiencies will result in dismissal of this action with prejudice." (Id. at 21 (emphasis in original).)

On November 17, 2011, Plaintiff filed the Third Amended Complaint ("TAC"). ("TAC," Doc. # 147.) Attached to the complaint are 17 exhibits, which include various handwritten notes. Defendant filed an Answer to Plaintiff's TAC on December 5, 2011. (Doc. # 150.)

On February 16, 2012, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 154.) Defendant also filed a Concise Statement of Facts in support of these Motions. ("CSOF," Doc. # 155.) On April 4, 2012, immediately before the hearing on these ...


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