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Thompson v. Torres

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 4, 2017

THAD THOMPSON, #A5013250, Plaintiff,
KATHERINE TORRES, et al., Defendants.


          Derrick K. Watson, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Thad Thompson's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”).[1] ECF No. 10. Thompson alleges that Defendants Halawa Correctional Facility (“HCF”) Counselor Katherine Torres, Captain Paleka, Nurse Mike, Nolan Uehara, Residency Department Supervisor John Doe (“John Doe”), and Law Library Supervisor Jane Doe (“Jane Doe”) violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments regarding his placement in segregation in May 2017. He names Defendants in their individual and official capacities and seeks damages and a transfer to the Federal Detention Center - Honolulu.

         For the following reasons, the FAC is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A(a) for failure to state a plausible claim for relief, with limited leave to amend, as described below.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Thompson filed the original Complaint and a motion for preliminary injunction on July 7, 2017. ECF Nos. 1 & 3. He claimed that Defendants Torres, Paleka, John Doe, Jane Doe, and Kitchen Supervisor Jane Doe 2 violated his rights under the First Amendment when they allegedly retaliated against him for filing grievances and lawsuits, and under the Fourteenth Amendment when they allegedly denied him due process during the segregation determination and custody classification review.

         On August 2, 2017, the Court screened the Complaint and held that, liberally construed and on the facts then alleged, Thompson stated a retaliation claim against Torres, but failed to state any other plausible claim for relief against any other Defendant. See Order, ECF No. 9. The Court accordingly dismissed the Complaint in part, denied the motion for preliminary injunction, and granted Thompson leave to amend.

         On August 23, 2017, Thompson filed the FAC. ECF No. 10. Thompson has abandoned his Fourteenth Amendment due process claims, as well as his claims against Kitchen Supervisor Jane Doe. At the same time, Thompson reasserts his First Amendment retaliation claims, adds new claims under the Eighth Amendment, and alleges all of these claims against all Defendants, including newly added Defendants, Nurse Mike and Nolan Uehara. Although Thompson states that he was charged with three disciplinary violations between November 2016 and March 2017, he confines his challenges asserted in the FAC to the last two.

         On May 2, 2017, Uehara chaired Thompson's disciplinary proceeding regarding the two most recent charges. Uehara found Thompson guilty of both and sanctioned him to thirty-day, concurrent periods of segregation for each. Thompson alleges that Uehara denied his request to call witnesses at the hearing.

         On May 15, 2017, Thompson was transferred to the High Special Housing Unit (“HSHU”) to serve his sanctions. Thompson says that he began to have “access-to-courts” problems in another case immediately upon his transfer to the HSHU, when he was allegedly denied the right to store all of his legal papers in his cell and sufficient writing supplies.[3] Id., PageID #60. Thompson wrote Paleka four times between May 15 and 18, 2017, to complain and inform Paleka that he had a lawsuit pending and required all of his legal documents. On May 23, 2017, Thompson told Torres that he had filed grievances and a lawsuit against her for failing to provide him with writing supplies.

         On May 24, 2017, the court received and filed Thompson v. Dep't of Public Safety, et al., No. 1:17-cv-00235 LEK-KSC (D. Haw. 2017), in which Thompson alleged Paleka, Torres, and “ Marina Law Librarian, ” among others, denied him access to the court by denying him adequate writing supplies, photocopies, and access to legal papers, and failed to adequately respond to his complaints and grievances. See id. Although Thompson acknowledges that Torres providing him with writing supplies on or about June 2, 2017, manila envelopes continued to be withheld.

         On August 1, 2017, the district court dismissed Thompson's action with prejudice for failure to state a plausible claim, after granting Thompson two opportunities to amend his pleadings. Id., ECF No. 23.

         On May 30, 2017, Thompson filed a separate suit against Uehara for denying his request to call a witness at the May 2, 2017 disciplinary hearing. See Thompson v. Dep't of Public Safety, et al., No. 1:17-cv-00250 DKW-KJM (D. Haw. 2017). After providing notice and leave to amend, on August 2, 2017, the Court dismissed this action with prejudice as well for failure to state a plausible claim for relief. Id., ECF No. 14.

         Between May 15 and June 6, 2017, Thompson says that although Torres admits to having given his law library requests to Jane Doe, Jane Doe denied having received them on “multiple occasions.” Jane Doe also claimed she was too busy to make photocopies of his legal documents.

         On or about June 4, 2017, the day before Thompson expected to be released from disciplinary segregation, [4] Thompson inquired whether he would be released early, because another inmate had been released early. The guard allegedly told Thompson to stop whining and to file a grievance if he was unhappy.

         On June 5, 2017, Torres gave Thompson written notice that he would remain in administrative segregation pending a review of his custody status. He says Torres smiled and made “googly eyes” at him. FAC, ECF No. 10, PageID #62. Thompson was later told that his custody classification status was under review because he posed a “threat to security.” Id. at PageID #63. Thompson says he submitted oral and written requests for further explanation to Torres, Paleka, and John Doe, but they either failed to respond or responded vaguely.

         On June 6, 2017, Thompson was placed “on suicide watch.” Id., PageID #64. While there, he told Nurse Mike that HCF officials were mistreating and retaliating against him for filing lawsuits and grievances. He alleges Nurse Mike took personal offense at this statement. When Thompson returned to the segregation unit, he asked Nurse Mike to provide his “medical chopped diet” but received a “Finger Food diet” instead. Id. Thompson asked Nurse Mike to change this diet several times, but alleges Nurse Mike told him to file a grievance.

         Thompson says that he complained about his confinement in administrative segregation to Paleka and Torres. He says that administrative segregation lacks “programs, classes, work-line jobs, t.v., [and] microwave, ” and has “significantly less social activity, ” than general population housing, which he suggests violates the Eighth Amendment. FAC, ECF No. 10, PageID #65.

         Thompson broadly alleges Defendants' actions and inactions constitute retaliation and cruel and unusual punishment under the First and Eighth Amendments.

         II. SCREENING

         Federal courts must screen all cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, or seek to proceed without prepayment of the civil filing fees. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Courts must identify cognizable claims and dismiss those claims that are frivolous, 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. Id. at §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b).

         A complaint 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 must contain more than “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Further, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Pro se prisoners' pleadings must be liberally construed and given the benefit of any doubt. Blaisdell v. Frappiea, 729 F.3d 1237, 1241 (9th Cir. 2013); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). A plaintiff must identify specific facts supporting the existence of substantively plausible claims for relief. Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014) (per curiam) (citation omitted). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible that the plaintiff can correct the complaint's defects. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000).

         III. ...

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