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Dennison v. Waiawa Corr. Facility

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 16, 2016

IAN DENNISON, #A1026519, Plaintiff,


          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Ian Dennison’s prisoner civil rights Complaint. Dennison is incarcerated at the Saguaro Correctional Center located in Eloy, Arizona, but complains of incidents that occurred at the State of Hawaii’s Waiawa Correctional Facility (“WCF”) in December 2015. Dennison names WCF, its Warden Scott Harrington, and correctional officers Lieutenant Anthony Monteilh, and Officer Armitage (collectively, “Defendants”) in their official capacities.

         Dennison alleges Defendants violated his rights to due process and equal protection under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution during and after a disciplinary hearing. Dennison’s Complaint is DISMISSED for failure to state a cognizable claim for relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b). He is granted leave to amend to correct the deficiencies discussed below, on or before September 16, 2016.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Dennison was incarcerated at WCF between October 6 and November 19, 2015.[2] He alleges that on or about November 18, 2015, Officer Armitage noted that Dennison’s eyes were red, claimed that he was intoxicated, and issued him a misconduct report. Lieutenant Monteilh investigated the charges, and Dennison states that his urinalysis test was negative.

         Prison officials conducted a disciplinary hearing on December 10, 2015, after Dennison’s transfer from WCF. Three officers testified that Dennison appeared intoxicated (notwithstanding the negative urinalysis); Dennison was not permitted to present medical records clarifying why his eyes appeared red. Dennison was found guilty of violating Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) Policy and Procedures Manual, COR., which states:

.3 High Misconduct Violations (7)
a. 7(9) Possession, introduction, manufacturing or use of any narcotic paraphernalia, drugs, intoxicants, synthetic drug composition or alcoholic beverages not prescribed for the individual by the medical staff, which includes any form of being intoxicated.

         Although sanctions for a high misconduct violation may include disciplinary segregation for up to thirty days and any other sanction beyond disciplinary segregation, COR.13.03.3(b), Dennison does not detail what sanction was imposed. Although he appealed, Warden Harrington upheld the hearing officers’ decision. Dennison alleges that, as a result of the misconduct finding, he was denied parole and must complete additional mandatory programs for parole eligibility. He also says his classification status was increased.

         Dennison claims that DPS Policy and Procedures require “representation and confrontation of evidence.” Compl., Doc. No. 1, PageID #6. He alleges no evidence was presented against him (other than three officers’ testimony that he appeared intoxicated), and that he was, therefore, treated differently than similarly situated inmates. He claims this violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. Dennison seeks damages, expungement of the disciplinary report, a new parole hearing, or immediate parole.


         The court must screen all prisoner civil actions seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Complaints or claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek relief from an immune defendant must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The court must set conclusory factual allegations aside, accept non-conclusory factual allegations as true, and determine whether these allegations state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-80 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plausibility does not mean “probability, ” but it requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678.

         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). A complaint that lacks a cognizable legal theory or alleges insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory fails to state a claim. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         Leave to amend should be granted if it appears the plaintiff can correct the complaint’s defects. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). A court has the discretion to dismiss a complaint without leave to amend, however, when “it is clear that the complaint could not be saved by any amendment.” Sylvia Landfield Trust v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).

         III. ...

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