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Lagmay v. Nobriga

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 16, 2016

HENRY LAGMAY, #A0191119, Plaintiff,
MRS. SHELLEY NOBRIGA, et al., Defendants,


          Derrick K. Watson United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Henry Lagmay's Complaint, supplement to Complaint (“Supplement”) (collectively, “Pleadings”), [1] and exhibits. See Doc. Nos. 1; 6; 7. Lagmay is incarcerated at the Hawaii Department of Public Safety's (“DPS”) Halawa Correctional Facility (“HCF”). He is proceeding in forma pauperis (“IFP”). See Doc. No. 5.

         Lagmay names seventy-three DPS, HCF, or Office of the Ombudsman employees in their individual capacities as defendants (collectively, “Defendants”).[2] He seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. See Compl., Doc. Nos. 1, 1-2, PageID #1-43.

         Lagmay's Pleadings are DISMISSED for failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rules for the District of Hawaii. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b). Lagmay may amend his Pleadings to clarify his claims and allegations as discussed and limited below, on or before October 28, 2016.


         A. Form of the Documents

         Lagmay filed two initiating documents, the Complaint (filed July 25, 2016), and the Supplement (filed August 24, 2016). The court has reviewed these documents and liberally construes them as Lagmay's complete Pleadings for purposes of this Order. The Pleadings and exhibits constitute nearly 250 pages. They are exceedingly difficult to comprehend due to their length and form. For example, they are randomly bisected with lines. The handwritten text, although neat, is minuscule and at times indecipherable. Four and five lines of tiny script are squeezed into each standard-sized line. The margins are reduced, often contain writing, or are blacked out. The counts are unnumbered and Lagmay makes no distinction between counts or claims and the legal arguments meant to support such claims. Statements of fact are randomly and repeatedly scattered throughout the Pleadings, with unexplained references to unattached and unlabeled exhibits. The Pleadings are replete with citation to case law, statutes, and keynotes, without explanation or application of these citations to any statements of fact.

         Lagmay groups his claims in an unexplained system. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, PageID #46 (numbered “5, ” labeled “BEFORE”); PageID #47-52 (numbered “6, 6A-E”); #53-67 (numbered “7, 7A-N”); Supp., Doc. No. 6 (each page states “PaGe 1513, ” but are labeled “A” through “T”). For clarity, however, the court refers to the electronic pagination of all documents in the record.

         There more than one hundred pages of exhibits. Some are randomly inserted within the Pleadings, some are labeled as requests, although most were filed with the Supplement. These exhibits contain original documents (that are not on eight and one half by eleven inch paper as required by Local Rule LR10.2). He has also filed unverified photographs, statutory text, letters, and grievances.

         B. Claims

         Lagmay broadly and indiscriminately alleges that all Defendants conspired to violate his rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments in retaliation for his filing grievances and commencing litigation. The Pleadings are voluminous, excessively detailed, rambling, repetitive, and conclusory. It is largely unclear to whom or what Lagmay refers in any statement, despite his meticulous repetition of Defendants, constitutional provisions, and statutes on any given page. Lagmay generally provides few facts to support his claims, but instead simply refers to his Exhibits. He also, however, repeatedly asserts certain facts. There is no clear chronology of events.

         Lagmay says that he is cuffed behind his back during cell movements, possibly because he is in a special holding unit. Because he alleges he was injured at a Mainland prison in 2008, [3] he alleges this causes him pain, and has or will re-injure him and cause disfigurement without surgery. Lagmay alleges all Defendants are liable for his claims because he has filed numerous grievances and medical requests to prison officials regarding his past injuries, the prison's handcuffing policy, his pain, and need for medical treatment.

         Lagmay's first nine Counts cite statutes, constitutional amendments, case law, legal concepts, and terms of art such as retaliation, illegal search and seizure, inadequate medical care, conspiracy, freedom of speech, deliberate indifference, exhaustion, PLRA, excessive force, verbal abuse, and threats to safety. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, PageID #46-54. Lagmay refers repeatedly to his Exhibits.[4]However, although Lagmay repeatedly lists the Defendants he alleges were involved in these violations, he sets forth insufficient facts linking any Defendant to any action.

         Lagmay's remaining Counts are equally unclear, although he provides more statements of fact. Id., PageID #55-67. Unfortunately, these pages are much more difficult to read, as described above, making it nearly impossible to decipher Lagmay's claims. Lagmay alleges his personal property was confiscated and never returned. Id., PageID #55. He refers to incidents during the past year when he was cuffed behind his back. He repeatedly refers to an incident on May 25, 2016, involving Defendants Kaipo Sarkissian, Levy Christensen, and Naoele.[5] See id., PageId. #59-62. Lagmay claims that prison medical staff denied him medical care and that the Office of the Ombudsman has been unhelpful. Lagmay therefore concludes that Defendants conspired and retaliated against him for filing grievances and pursuing litigation. He seeks compensatory damages.


         The court must screen all prisoner civil actions brought in forma pauperis pursuant 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Complaints or claims must be dismissed if they are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         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). This requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. 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.

         Leave to amend should be granted if it appears the plaintiff can correct the defects in the complaint. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). When it is clear the complaint cannot be saved by amendment, dismissal without leave to amend is appropriate. Sylvia Landfield Trust v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).


         Lagmay's Pleadings do not clearly express his claims and do not shed light on the facts underlying his claims. The federal rules contemplate brevity. See Galbraith v. Cty. of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 119, 1125 (9th Cir. 2002) (noting “nearly all of the circuits have now disapproved any heightened pleading standard in cases other than those governed by Rule 9(b)”). A pleading need only “contain . . . a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). Directness and clarity are mandatory. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (“Rule 8(a) is the starting point of a simplified pleading system which was adopted to focus litigation on the merits of a claim.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1) (“Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.”). A cognizable complaint “must give fair notice” of the alleged wrong “and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly.” Pickard v. WMC Mortgage Corp., 2009 WL 3416134, *3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 21, 2009) (citing Jones v. Cmty. Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984)). That is, a court and the defendants should be able to read and understand a complaint within minutes. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177-78 (9th Cir. 1996) (comparing a sample form complaint, that “can be read in seconds and answered in minutes, ” with plaintiff's “argumentative, prolix” complaint).

         The court may therefore dismiss a pleading “not only for saying too little, but also for saying too much - though what is objectionable in excessively wordy material is not the length or wordiness itself, but the resulting lack of clarity.” Baker v. Clerk, 2016 WL 4677459, at *1-2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 7, 2016) (citing McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1177-78) (affirming dismissal of a § 1983 complaint for violating Rule 8, after warning); see also Hearns v. San Bernardino Police Dep't, 530 F.3d 1124, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2008) (reiterating that pleading's “verbosity and length” does not mandate dismissal; dismissal is only appropriate when a pleading's verbosity confuses issues and renders it fatally unclear). “Something labeled a complaint but written . . . prolix in evidentiary detail, yet without simplicity, ...

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