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Grindling v. County of Maui Doe Prsecutor 1-10

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 29, 2018





         On June 18, 2018, pro se Plaintiff Chris Grindling (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint against Defendants County of Maui Doe Prosecutors 1-10 (“Doe Prosecutors”), and State of Hawaii Does 1-10 (“Doe State Officials”) (collectively, “Defendants” or “Doe Defendants”), that included a request to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Request”). ECF No. 1. Based on the following, the court GRANTS Plaintiff's IFP Request, and DISMISSES Plaintiff's Complaint with leave to amend.


         A. IFP Request is Granted

         Plaintiff's IFP Request indicates that he is disabled and unemployed, receives $700 per month from an unnamed source, has $200 in a bank account, and has no assets. Compl. at 5. Because Plaintiff has made the required showing under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) to proceed in forma pauperis (i.e., without prepayment of fees), the court GRANTS Plaintiff's IFP Request.

         B. Background

         As alleged in the Complaint, Plaintiff is no longer in prison, but at all times relevant to his claims, he was incarcerated at Maui Community Correctional Center (“MCCC”). Compl. at 1. The Complaint alleges that while imprisoned, Plaintiff was “starved and denied food, ” causing him to lose 150 pounds. Id. at 2. The Complaint further alleges that “videos of meals served which would [show] the starvation was not self-inflicted” were allegedly destroyed by unnamed government officials. Id. at 3.

         In addition, the Complaint alleges that in 2015, Doe Prosecutors filed four cases[1] against Plaintiff asserting numerous criminal charges, on some unspecified date, and induced Adult Correctional Officers Shook and Falefine to provide false testimony concerning allegations that Plaintiff threw urine and feces at them. Id. at 2-4. Although not at all clear, the Complaint alleges that these or other cases were dismissed for various reasons such as an alleged violation of his right to a speedy trial, prosecutorial interference with a grand jury to get an indictment, and withholding of evidence. Id. at 3. It is also not clear whether any of the four cases remain pending in state court. See eCourt Kokua (indicating that in four criminal cases - State v. Grindling, 2PC151000347 (Haw. 2d Cir. 2015); State v. Grindling, 2PC151000564 (Haw. 2d Cir. 2015); State v. Grindling, 2PC151000968 (Haw. 2d Cir. 2015); and State v. Grindling, 2PC161000266 (Haw. 2d Cir. 2016) - orders of dismissal were filed, but that two of those cases remain active).

         Construed liberally, the Complaint asserts 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against all Defendants for violation of rights protected by the Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution including due process, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution, as well as state-law claims for malicious prosecution and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Complaint asserts these claims against the Doe Prosecutors in their official and individual capacities, but is silent regarding in what capacity the Doe State Officials are sued. Plaintiff seeks $1 million dollars in compensatory damages “for the 15 months in jail and two years on supervised release, ” as well as “stress . . . [that] caused Plaintiff to have a nervous breakdown and PTSD.” Id. at 4.

         C. Standards of Review

         The court must screen the Complaint for each civil action commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), governing IFP proceedings. The court must dismiss a complaint or claim that is “frivolous, malicious, fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek[s] monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (stating that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “not only permits but requires” the court to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim).

         Screening under § 1915(e)(2) involves the same standard of review as that used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (recognizing that a complaint that fails to allege a cognizable legal theory or alleges insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory fails to state a plausible claim) (citing Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 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 conclusory statements, “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s], ” and factual allegations that only permit the court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” fall short of meeting the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011); Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         Plaintiff is appearing pro se; consequently, the court liberally construes the Complaint. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted); see also Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam). Leave to amend must be granted if it appears the plaintiff may be able to correct defects in the complaint. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130. However, if it is “absolutely clear that no amendment” can save the complaint, dismissal without leave to amend is appropriate. Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see Sylvia Landfield Tr. v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).

         D. Analysis

         1. Doe Defendants

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) requires a plaintiff to include the names of the parties sued in the action. As a practical matter, it is impossible for the United States Marshal to serve a summons and complaint on an anonymous defendant. The use of doe defendants is therefore disfavored in federal court. See Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980).

         Although a plaintiff may refer to unknown defendants as Defendant John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and so on, he must allege facts to show how each individual doe defendant violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. If the plaintiff provides such details, he may then use the discovery process to obtain the names of any doe defendants he believes violated his constitutional rights and seek leave to amend to name those defendants, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover their identities, or that the ...

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