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Isom v. Wagatsuma

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 18, 2017



          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.


         On September 26, 2016, pro se Plaintiff Terence O. Isom (“Plaintiff”) filed a prisoner civil rights Complaint against Defendants Kauai Community Correctional Center (“KCCC”) Warden Neal Wagatsuma (“Wagatsuma”) and KCCC Adult Correctional Officer (“ACO”) Paul Lemke (“Lemke”) (collectively, “Defendants”) in both their official and individual capacities, alleging claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his constitutional right to “personal correspondence.” ECF No. 1. Before the court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF No. 22. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED, and the Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend.


         Based on allegations in the Complaint and state-court records, of which the court takes judicial notice, [1] the court sets forth the following facts. Plaintiff was arrested on May 30, 2016, for multiple offenses. See Hawaii State Judiciary Information Management System eCourt Kokua (“eCourt Kokua”), (last visited Sept. 13, 2017). On January 18, 2017, the state court sentenced Plaintiff to a one-year term of incarceration and a separate eighteen-month term of incarceration, to be served concurrently and with credit for time served. Id. In addition, the court imposed two concurrent four-year terms of “hope probation.” Id. Conditions imposed by the court include that if, after serving a period of nine months incarceration, Plaintiff is accepted into an in-patient substance-abuse treatment program, he may be released to that program. Id. If Plaintiff fails to complete the program, he must return to KCCC to serve the remainder of his sentence. Id. If Plaintiff completes the program, he must return to KCCC to serve the remainder of his sentence unless his attorney petitions the state court to modify probation to excuse the remaining jail time. Id.

         While incarcerated at KCCC, Plaintiff submitted the names of his girlfriend, Kimberly Oakes, and her sister, Kristen Oakes, to be included on his approved correspondence list. Compl. at 5. Plaintiff wrote letters to each of them, and they wrote letters to him. Id. The Complaint alleges that “[t]he facility would not send my letters stating that both Kim and Kristen were co-defendants in my upcoming case.” Id. The Complaint further alleges that “[t]hey also returned the letters from both Kim and Kristen.” Id. Although Kim was Plaintiff's co-defendant, Kristen was not. Id. Multiple letters from each person were returned or denied. Id. Because of Plaintiff's inability to correspond with Kim and Kristen, bills in Plaintiff's name could not be paid. Id. Plaintiff's “vehicle was left on the highway and has been towed and damaged.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered mentally and emotionally. Id.

         The Complaint seeks damages and an injunction ordering that KCCC allow Plaintiff to correspond with Kim and Kristen and that Plaintiff serve the remainder of his sentence at Federal Detention Center Honolulu. Id. at 6.

         On April 3 and June 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed Notices of Change of Address, indicating that he is no longer incarcerated at KCCC. ECF Nos. 13, 20.

         On July 18, 2017, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff filed an Opposition on August 28, 2017, ECF No. 25, and Defendants filed a Reply on September 5, 2017, ECF No. 26. A hearing was held on September 18, 2017.


         A party may make a motion for judgment on the pleadings at any time after the pleadings are closed, but within such time as to not delay the trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Because the issue presented by a Rule 12(c) motion is substantially the same as that posed in a 12(b)(6) motion -- whether the factual allegations of the complaint, together with all reasonable inferences, state a plausible claim for relief -- the same standard applies to both. See Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 & 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011); see also Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that Rule 12(c) and Rule 12(b)(6) motions differ in time of filing but are otherwise “functionally identical, ” and applying the same standard of review).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). In considering a Rule 12(c) motion, the court “must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). The court, however, “need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.” United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). Thus, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). And factual allegations that only permit the court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not show that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by Rule 8. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings is properly granted when there are no disputed issues of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 603 F.3d 676, 681 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Judgment on the pleadings is not appropriate if the court considers matters outside of the pleadings; in such cases, the motion must be converted to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, and the non-moving party must be granted an opportunity to respond. See Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989). The court may, however, “consider certain materials - documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice - without converting the motion . . . into a motion for summary judgment.” United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Rule 12(c) does not expressly address partial judgment on the pleadings, leave to amend, or dismissal. But courts commonly “apply Rule 12(c) to individual causes of action, ” Strigliabotti v. Franklin Res., Inc., 398 F.Supp.2d 1094, 1097 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (citation omitted), and have discretion to grant a Rule 12(c) motion with leave to amend, or dismiss the action instead of entering judgment. See Goens v. Adams & Assocs., Inc., 2017 WL 3981429, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 11, 2017) (citing Carmen v. San ...

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