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Slavick v. Colotario

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 24, 2018

CHRIS SLAVICK, #A0765881, Plaintiff,
SHAWN COLOTARIO, et al, Defendants.


          Derrick K. Watson, United States District Judge.

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Chris Slavick's prisoner civil rights Complaint. ECF No. 1. Slavick, who is incarcerated at the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF), alleges that HCF and Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) staff violated his state and federal rights in May and June 2018.[1]

         For the following reasons, the Complaint is DISMISSED with leave granted to amend. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and l9l5A(a).


         The court is required to conduct a pre-Answer screening of all prisoners' pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and l9l5A(a). The court must dismiss a claim or complaint 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); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Screening under §§ 1915(e)(2) and l9l5A(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). 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). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. 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.

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         Slavick's factual assertions are strewn throughout the Complaint in no discernible order and his claims are asserted in a hyperbolic, conclusory fashion. Below is a chronological summary of the court's best understanding of Slavick relevant facts and claims.

         Slavick alleges that, on May 10, 2018, Defendants Colotario, Lopez, and Murray "targeted" his serious physical injuries when they confiscated his ankle brace, cane, and wrist support before he was transported to the state court. See Compl., ECF No. 1, PagelD #7 (Count I). He complains that there were violent inmates and gang members in the transport van and state court holding cell, whom he alleges were a serious threat to his safety.

         When Slavick returned to HCF, he alleges Colotario, Lopez, and Murray falsely accused him of obstruction, lying, and escape to cover up their allegedly improper confiscation of his medical supports. He claims they did this to enable Defendants Warden Harrington and Captain Paleka to confiscate his legal papers when he was placed in solitary segregation based on these charges. See id., Pageld #8 (Count II).

         Slavick says Colotario, Lopez, and Harrington allowed him to keep 1/3 of his legal papers in his cell and kept the other 2/3's in storage. Slavick could exchange his papers for an equal quantity held in storage, but says they were consistently returned to him in disarray. See id., PagelD #9-10 (Count III). Slavick complains that there was no desk or table in segregation, forcing him to prepare his legal work in an uncomfortable, upright position on the bed, which allegedly interfered with his ability to timely complete his legal work. Id.

         On May 18, 2018, Defendant Uedoi was the disciplinary hearing officer regarding Slavick's May 10, 2018 charges. See id., PagelD #15-16 (Count V). Slavick claims Uedoi refused to provide him with the written charges against him, denied that she had served on a previous, two-person committee against him before, and abruptly concluded the hearing and left when he challenged her. Uedoi says she found Slavick guilty of the charges; Slavick says he was released (on May 24, 2018), because the disciplinary hearing was not held within fifteen days of the charges. Slavick alleges Uedoi violated prison rules and his right to due process.

         Slavick alleges that Defendant Kaplan failed to tell him that his attorney had scheduled a visit on June 4, 2018. Slavick also states, however, that his attorney never came to the prison. Slavick attended a state court hearing on June 5, 2018, presumably with his attorney. See id., PagelD #13 (Count IV).

         Slavick says Defendant Lorico threatened to take his cane away for the transport to the June 5, 2018 state court hearing, but it is not clear whether Lorico actually confiscated the cane. Id. Lorico apparently wrote Slavick up for arguing, however, as Slavick says he served an additional fourteen days in solitary confinement for these allegedly "false" charges. Slavick alleges Kaplan, Lorico, and Defendant Aguon criminally conspired to violate his rights.

         Slavick says Uedoi and Defendant Limahai tried to coerce him to attend a disciplinary hearing on June 8, 2018 (apparently regarding the June 5, 2018 charges). Slavick refused to leave his cell and held a sign to his window stating, "OBJECT TO YOU," because they failed to provide him prior notice of the hearing or discovery. See id., Pageld #15-16 (Count V). Limahai allegedly verbally insulted him and Uedoi said that she would hold the hearing without him.

         After Uedoi left Slavick's cell, Limahai and Defendant Souza stood outside his (still locked) cell clicking handcuffs and telling Slavick to "cuff up." See id., PagelD #17 (Count VI). When Slavick refused, Limahai allegedly told him that they would beat and rape him and tried to incite nearby inmates to harass him.

         In the early morning of June 9, 2018, Sergeant Allen denied Slavick's request to file a police report about this incident.[3] See id, PagelD 19-20 (Count VII). At 7:00 a.m., Defendant Lorico told Slavick to "pack-up" to transfer to the "High SHU" (the High Security Housing Unit). Id. Lorico took Slavick's belongings, including his cane, and Aguon summoned the "mob squad," apparently in case Slavick resisted. Id. Captain Shook authorized Slavick's cane to be returned to him for the transfer before the extraction team entered Slavick's cell. Slavick's paperwork and belongings were repacked into smaller bags and loaded into the trunk of the car that took him to the High SH U.Slavick complains this was done out of his sight and that he was not permitted "full access" to his legal papers until he was released from the High SHU on July 8, 2018. Id.

         Slavick broadly alleges that Defendants' actions violated the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and unidentified criminal statutes. Slavick seeks a transfer to the Federal Detention Center-Honolulu, declaratory relief, expungement of his disciplinary charges, and damages.


         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 acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Additionally, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of a particular defendant's conduct and an affirmative link between the injury and the violation of his rights. SeeMonell v. Dep 't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

         A. Rule 8

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(d)(1) requires a complaint to set forth its claims in a simple, concise, direct manner. McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming complaint's dismissal under Rule 8 as "argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant"). A court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 8 even if "a few possible claims" can be identified and the complaint is not "wholly without merit." Id. at 1179 (stating Rule 8 applies "to good claims as well as bad"); see also Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 597 (1998) (reiterating that "firm application of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is fully warranted" in prisoner cases). Rule 8 prohibits "a pleading that [is] needlessly long, or a complaint that [is] highly repetitious, or confused, or consist[ing] of incomprehensible rambling." Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1059 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (gathering cases affirming Rule 8 dismissals).

         Slavick's Complaint is a confusing allegation of facts, set forth in no particular chronology, that is replete with legal conclusions and opinions. Slavick indiscriminately refers to constitutional amendments, the ADA, and unidentified criminal statutes without any clear explanation why a particular amendment or statute is relevant to a particular claim. While a complaint need not identify "a precise legal theory," Kobold v. Good Samaritan Reg'IMed. Ctr., 832 F.3d 1024, 1038 (9th Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted), legal conclusions do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The court has struggled to piece together the facts and ignore Slavick's opinions and legal conclusions. But Slavick's pleading is so disjointed that it is difficult to be certain that each claim is understood as Slavick intended or to determine whether any particular claim is cognizable. It is unlikely that Defendants will better understand it.

         "Experience teaches that, unless cases are pled clearly and precisely, issues are not joined, discovery is not controlled, the trial court's docket becomes unmanageable, the litigants suffer, and society loses confidence in the court's ability to administer justice." Bautista v. Los Angeles Cty., 216 F.3d 837, 841 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson v. Dist. Bd. of Trustees, 11 F.3d 364, 366-67 (11th Cir. 1996)). Allowing a "shotgun pleading" to proceed, such as the present Complaint, can lead to unforeseen and negative consequences. See McLaughlin v. Castro, 2018 WL 1726630, at *3 (E.D. Cal, April 10, 2018) (citing Mosow v. Cty. of Orange, 251 F.R.D. 562, 563-64 (CD. Cal. 2008)).

         Slavick's Complaint does not give Defendants or the court fair notice of his claims. That is, it does "not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct," and therefore fails to state a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Accordingly, it is dismissed with leave to amend. If Slavick chooses to amend, he should directly and simply set out what each Defendant did or failed to do that violated his rights. He must assert ...

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