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Clark v. Trader

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 11, 2017

RODNEY WELLS CLARK, JR., #A0075000, Plaintiff,


          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge

         Before the court is Plaintiff Rodney Wells Clark, Jr.'s application to proceed in forma pauperis and civil rights complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF Nos. 1 & 2. Clark alleges that the Honorable Rom A. Trader, Judge of the First Circuit Court, State of Hawaii, and State of Hawaii Deputy Public Defender (“DPD”) Craig Nagamine, Esq., violated his constitutional rights because he remained incarcerated at the Oahu Community Correctional Center (“OCCC”) for approximately ten months in 2013 and 2014, while awaiting trial in a state criminal proceeding at which Judge Trader presided and Nagamine represented Clark. See Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID #5-7 (Counts I-III).[1] Clark states that while he was incarcerated he lost his apartment and property valued at $35, 000. He apparently seeks damages in that amount.

         In his Complaint, Clark provides OCCC as his address and his Hawaii Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) prisoner identification number. The return address on Clark's envelope, however, indicates that Clark is at the Hawaii State Hospital, and the DPS website indicates that Clark is not incarcerated at OCCC, but is released from DPS jurisdiction. See DPS, Hawaii SAVIN, available at: (last visited Oct. 6, 2017). Clark has no open criminal cases or unserved terms of sentence. See Hawaii State Judiciary, “eCourt Kokua, ” Judiciary Info. Mgmt. Sys.: (last visited Oct. 6, 2017).

         For the following reasons, Clark's request to proceed in forma pauperis is DENIED, the Complaint is DISMISSED with leave granted to amend as limited below, and Clark is ORDERED TO SHOW CAUSE why this action should not be dismissed as time-barred.


         Clark submitted an Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis by a Prisoner. If Clark is a prisoner as his Complaint suggests, the application is DENIED as incomplete because it lacks a prison certification of the amounts in his prison trust account and a copy of the balances in that account for the previous six months. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2).

         If Clark is not a prisoner, as other public documents suggest, although he may be indigent, the application is nonetheless DENIED. It is incomplete because it is on a prisoner application form and does not provide a full discussion of Clark's assets and liabilities. Moreover, “‘if it appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action is frivolous or without merit, '” the court may deny in forma pauperis status at the outset. Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Tripati v. First Nat. Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th Cir. 1987)); see also McGee v. Dep't of Child Support Servs., 584 F. App'x 638 (9th Cir. 2014) (affirming denial of IFP request “because it appears from the face of the amended complaint that McGee's action is frivolous or without merit”); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir. 1965) (holding it is district court's duty to deny IFP application “if it appears that the proceeding is without merit”).


         Because Clark seeks to proceed without prepayment of fees, regardless of whether he is a prisoner, the court must screen his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The court must dismiss a complaint or claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks damages from defendants who are immune from suit. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)).

         Screening under § 1915(e)(2) involves the same standard of review as that used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The “mere possibility of misconduct” or an “unadorned, the defendant- unlawfully-harmed me accusation” falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id. at 678-79; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         Pro se litigants' pleadings must be liberally construed and all doubts should be resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Leave to amend must be granted if it appears the plaintiff can correct the defects in the complaint. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130. If 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).


         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person ...

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