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Finefeuiaki v. Maui Cmty. Corr. Ctr. Staff and Affiliates

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

July 25, 2018

SIONE FINEFEUIAKI, #A1065183, Plaintiff,
v.
MAUI CMTY. CORR. CTR. STAFF AND AFFILIATES, Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT IN PART WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          DERRICK K. WATSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pro se Plaintiff Sione Finefeuiaki is a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Maui Community Correctional Center (“MCCC”).[1] Finefeuiaki claims that seven unidentified MCCC “Staffs and Affiliates” (“Defendants” or “MCCC Staff”) violated his constitutional rights when they denied him safe custody, housing, religious materials, mail, medical care, and family contact. Compl., ECF. No. 1.

         For the following reasons, the Complaint is DISMISSED in part pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(a-b). Specifically, Finefeuiaki fails to state a claim in Counts IV, V, and VI and those claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. Finefeuiaki states a claim in Counts I-III and VII, and those claims may be served when the appropriate Defendants are identified.

         Finefeuiaki may file an amended pleading that cures the deficiencies in those claims dismissed without prejudice on or before August 27, 2018. In the alternative, Finefeuiaki may notify the court in writing on or before August 27, 2018 that he elects to stand on his claims in Counts I-III and VII, and after he identifies the MCCC Staff members allegedly liable for these claims, the court will direct service.

         II. STATUTORY SCREENING

         The court is required to conduct a pre-Answer screening of Finefeuiaki's pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). 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 § 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing § 1915A(b)).

         Screening under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b) 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) (screening under § 1915(e)(2)); see also Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (screening under § 1915A(b)). 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, 680 F.3d at 1121. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Rule 12(b)(6), in turn, is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Zixiang Li v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 998-99 (9th Cir. 2013). Under Rule 8, 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). Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but at a minimum, a complaint must allege enough specific facts to provide both “fair notice” of the particular claim being asserted and “the grounds upon which [that claim] rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 555 (Rule 8 pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). The “mere possibility of misconduct” falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 555; 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.

         III. DISCUSSION[2]

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must plead that a defendant, while acting under color of state law, caused a deprivation of the plaintiff's rights created by federal law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). An individual “causes” a constitutional deprivation when he or she (1) “does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [the individual] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation”; or (2) “set[s] in motion a series of acts by others which the [individual] knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978) (citations omitted). Allegations regarding causation “must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation.” Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted).

         A. Eleventh Amendment immunity

         “The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages in federal court against a state, its agencies, and state officials acting in their official capacities.” Aholelei v. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007). Defendants named in their official capacities are subject to suit under § 1983 only “for prospective declaratory and injunctive relief . . . to enjoin an alleged ongoing violation of federal law.” Oyama v. Univ. of Haw., 2013 WL 1767710, at *7 (D. Haw. Apr. 23, 2013) (quoting Wilbur v. Locke, 423 F.3d 1101, 1111 (9th Cir. 2005), abrogated on other grounds by Levin v. Commerce Energy Inc., 560 U.S. 413 (2010)); see also Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989) (“[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office.”); Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).

         Because Finefeuiaki seeks damages only and does not allege an ongoing violation of state law, he fails to state a claim for damages against MCCC Staff named in their official capacities. These claims are DISMISSED with prejudice.

         B. Counts I-III: Failure-to-Protect

         On March 29, 2018, at 10:15 p.m., unidentified “backup” MCCC Staff prevented three inmates from entering Finefeuiaki's cell during a lockdown and took these inmates back to their own cell. Compl., ECF No. 1, PagID #6 (Count I). When they asked Finefeuiaki if he was okay, he replied, “No, ” without further explanation. Id. They closed Finefeuiaki's cell door. Five minutes later, the three inmates returned to Finefeuiaki's cell and assaulted him. Finefeuiaki claims that MCCC Staff had opened his door and allowed this to happen. Finefeuiaki was knocked unconscious, his face and upper body were bruised, and his previously fractured spine was reinjured. He was taken immediately to a hospital.

         Finefeuiaki returned from the hospital at approximately 3:00 a.m., on March 30, 2018, and was rehoused in his original cell. Finefeuiaki requested a cell within view of a security camera, but was told that the door to the cell that he requested was broken. See id., PageID #7 (Count II).

         The next morning, Finefeuiaki again asked to be moved to a different cell several times, because he felt unsafe being housed with convicted inmates when he was a pretrial detainee. His requests were denied. At approximately 10:15 a.m., Finefeuiaki was attacked in the shower by a “close custody and convicted inmate.” Id., PageID #8 (Count III). MCCC Staff separated them and took Finefeuiaki back to the ...


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