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Hunt v. State of Florida Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

March 27, 2018



          Derrick K. Watson, Judge


         On March 19, 2018, Plaintiff Patricia Hunt, proceeding pro se, filed a Second Amended Complaint, which again attempts to assert federal civil rights claims against several Florida state government employees and private individuals. Dkt. No. 14. In a January 9, 2018 Order, the Court granted Hunt's Application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”) and dismissed her First Amended Complaint with limited leave to amend. Dkt. No. 9 (1/9/18 Order). The Second Amended Complaint, like its predecessor, fails to include factual allegations demonstrating that Hunt is plausibly entitled to relief from any Defendant or that venue lies in this judicial district. Because Hunt once more fails to state a claim for relief, the Second Amended Complaint is DISMISSED with limited leave to amend pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).[1] The Court also DENIES as moot all pending motions, as discussed more fully below.[2]


         Because Hunt is appearing pro se, the Court liberally construes her filings. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (“The Supreme Court has instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the ‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.”) (citing Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam)). The Court recognizes that “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Crowley v. Bannister, 734 F.3d 967, 977-78 (9th Cir. 2013). Although she is proceeding pro se, Hunt is more than familiar with her federal court filing and pleading responsibilities, given her numerous prior actions.[3]

         I. The Second Amended Complaint Fails To State A Claim

         Upon review of the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), the Court finds that Hunt again fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Although not entirely clear, she once more alleges violations of her due process rights and several criminal violations, yet fails to cure the very same deficiencies noted in the Court's 1/9/18 Order dismissing her First Amended Complaint with limited leave to amend.[4]

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court subjects each civil action commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) to mandatory screening and can order the dismissal of any claims it finds “frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Dismissal is proper when there is either a “‘lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged.'” UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). A plaintiff must allege “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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). This tenet-that the court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint-“is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Accordingly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (“[A]llegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.”).

         “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 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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. Id. at 679. For the reasons that follow, Hunt fails to meet this standard.

         B. The SAC Fails To State A Claim For Relief

         As a preliminary matter, the Court observes that Hunt failed to cure the deficiencies noted in the Court's 1/9/18 Order, particularly the lack of cognizable legal theories or coherent facts regarding her claims.[5] She again complains that she suffered violations of her due process rights in various Florida court proceedings involving both a personal injury action against Ross Dress For Less Stores, and obstruction of justice by unnamed court employees and State of Florida public safety and/or correctional facility employees. The SAC additionally appears to add new criminal conspiracy claims relating to the failure to receive her mail sent from a “US Federal Court” in Miami, Florida via the United States Postal Service. Hunt claims her mail was instead sent to a Florida state inmate with a case in the same federal district court. See SAC at 3-7. When Hunt attempted to contact the inmate who allegedly received her mail in a Florida state correctional facility, she was “jerked around by specific State of Florida Correctional employees.” SAC at 6. Hunt alleges she told one such defendant that under “18 USC 241 tampering with United States Federal mail is a felony and she will be subpoenaed before a U.S. Federal Judge and she can see how sassy and sarcastic rude [sic] she wants to explain to a U.S. Federal Court Judge why her title as the Warden's Secretary apparently she feels the authority to think she is above the law.” SAC at 6. Hunt requests “a jury trial and [that] subpoenas will be authorized for specific State of Florida Correctional employees who should be held accountable for obstruction of justice 18 USC 1503, [and] continuously tampering with United States mail 18 USC 241.” SAC at 7. These allegations, and others of similar tenor made throughout the SAC, fail to state cognizable claims for relief.

         The SAC, like Hunt's previous complaint, suffers from several deficiencies. First, the SAC fails to comply with Rule 8, which mandates that a complaint include a “short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and that “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). A complaint that is so confusing that its “‘true substance, if any, is well disguised'” may be dismissed sua sponte for failure to satisfy Rule 8. Hearns v. San Bernardino Police Dep't, 530 F.3d 1124, 1131 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Gillibeau v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969)); see also McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178-80 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of complaint where “one cannot determine from the complaint who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory, with enough detail to guide discovery”). That is the case here. Hunt does not clearly identify in any coherent or organized manner the separate causes of action that she is asserting against each defendant, nor does she provide specific factual allegations to support her legal conclusions. Even applying the most liberal pleading standard, the Court cannot discern from the pleadings the conduct on which any claim is based.

         Second, to the extent Hunt again attempts to assert violations of federal criminal law, including under 18 U.S.C. §§ 241-242, 1341-1343, and 1503-1519, no private right of action exists to enforce these criminal statutes. That is, a civil action for damages is not the proper mechanism to allege criminal conduct in the manner asserted by Hunt. See Kumar v. Naiman, 2016 WL 397596, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 2, 2016) (“[P]laintiffs, as private citizens, have no standing to prosecute criminal claims.”). Federal criminal claims may not be brought by anyone other than the United States. See, e.g., United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 693 (1974) (noting that the executive branch has exclusive authority to decide whether to prosecute a case). On this point, the Court notes that Hunt neither adhered to the specific guidance nor heeded the prior warnings provided in the Court's 1/9/18 Order. That Order permitted Hunt leave to amend to attempt to cure the deficiencies noted in the Order, and specifically explained that her claims for violation of the federal criminal code were dismissed with prejudice and cautioned that those claims were not to be re-alleged in any amended complaint. See 1/9/18 Order at 10-11. The SAC, however, alleges nearly identical claims against several of the same defendants. Insofar as the SAC simply repeats the same allegations against the same parties, it is axiomatic that they fail to state a claim-they were all previously dismissed for that reason. Even viewing the SAC in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the re-asserted claims previously dismissed with prejudice exceed the leave to amend granted in the Court's prior Order. Hunt's reconfigured claims for obstruction of justice, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, just to name a few, are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Insofar as she asserts that these crimes constitute the basis for a civil RICO claim, she likewise falls short of stating a plausible claim for relief.[6]

         Third, insofar as she seeks damages for violations of her federal constitutional rights, Hunt fails to state a Section 1983 claim.[7] In order to state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (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 acting under color of law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Even though she concludes that her due process rights have been violated, Hunt's factual allegations supporting the claim are largely incomprehensible. Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, a plaintiff must allege that he or she suffered a specific injury as a result of specific conduct of a defendant and show an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant, which the SAC fails to do. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976). Accordingly, Hunt's Section 1983 claims are dismissed.

         Finally, the Court previously dismissed as barred by the Eleventh Amendment the claims for damages against the State of Florida and all of the named and unnamed state officials acting in their official capacities. See Will v. Mich. Dep't State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 275 (1986); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166-67 (1985); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 (1984). All claims for damages against the immune state agencies and newly named officials in their official capacities are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         In sum, because Hunt fails to state a plausible claim for relief, the SAC is DISMISSED. Because amendment of some claims may be possible, Hunt is granted leave to attempt to cure the deficiencies noted in this Order, one final time, with instructions below.

         C. The SAC Fails to Establish Venue In This District

          In addition to the lack of plausible claims, and despite the Court's statements in the 1/9/18 Order notifying her of the deficiency, Hunt once more fails to establish that venue lies in this judicial district.[8] None of the events at issue in this case occurred in Hawai‘i- all of the claims in the SAC involve acts or omissions that appear to have occurred in Florida and Hunt fails to demonstrate that any named Defendant has any connection to Hawai‘i in any manner relevant to the misconduct alleged. Nor does the SAC allege that Hunt suffered any damages in Hawai‘i as a result of Defendants' actions and omissions. Moreover, unlike the prior pleading, the SAC does not even allege that Plaintiff resides in Hawai‘i. Thus, she makes no showing that this district court is the proper venue for these particular claims.

         “Venue in federal courts is governed by statute.” Spagnolo v. Clark Cty., 2015 WL 7566672, at *2 (D. Haw. Nov. 24, 2015) (citing Leroy v. Great Western United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 181 (1979)). “The plaintiff has the burden of showing that venue is proper in this district.” Id. (citing Piedmont Label Co. v. Sun Garden Packing ...

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