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Finefeuiaki v. Maui Police Dep't

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 3, 2018

SIONE FINEFEUIAKI, #A1065183, Plaintiff,



         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Sione Finefeuiaki's prisoner civil rights Complaint. ECF No. 1. Finefeuiaki alleges that six unidentified Maui County Police Department officers (Doe Defendant police officers) violated his civil rights after he was involved in a car accident and was arrested on or about February 5, 2018.[1]

         Finefeuiaki states colorable claims for relief against Doe Defendant police officers in Counts I and II for the alleged excessive use of force during his arrest. Finefeuiaki fails to state cognizable claims for relief in Counts III, IV, V, and VI, and these claims are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(a-b), as discussed below.


         Because Finefeuiaki is proceeding in forma pauperis and is a prisoner, the court must screen his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages from defendants who are immune from suit must be dismissed. 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)).

         Section 1915 screening involves the same standard of review as that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012) (screening under § 1915(e)(2)); Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (screening under § 1915A(b)). That is, 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) is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a). 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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but a complaint must allege enough facts to provide both “fair notice” of the claim asserted and “the grounds upon which [that claim] rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 555 (stating 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 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. If the complaint or a claim cannot be saved by amendment, dismissal without leave to amend is appropriate. Sylvia Landfield Tr. v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         Finefeuiaki was in a car accident in Maui on or about February 5, 2018, in which he fractured his spine. Finefeuiaki alleges that Doe Defendant police officers beat him into unconsciousness while he was trapped in the car, then searched him and his car without a warrant. He awoke at the hospital, where he discovered that $6, 000.00 had been taken from his pocket.

         Finefeuiaki was later released into police custody. He was able to stand for short periods only and alleges that at times he needed help reaching his food and medicine (which were put in his cell), and using the toilet and showering. Finefeuiaki says Doe Defendant police officers did not assist him and or return him to the hospital when he requested.

         While he was in police custody, Finefeuiaki alleges that a Doe Defendant police officer threatened him when he refused to answer questions without an attorney present. Finefeuiaki seeks damages, dismissal of the unidentified charges, a passport, and immediate deportation to Tonga.


         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must plead that a defendant 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. Maui County Police Department and Officers in their Official Capacity

         An “official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); see also Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985); Larez v. City of L.A., 946 F.2d 630, 646 (9th Cir. 1991). Such a suit “is not a suit against the official personally, for the real party in interest is the entity.” Graham, 473 U.S. at 166.

         There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, and a county or municipal actor is liable only for injuries that arise from an official policy or longstanding custom. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); see also City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989) (“A municipality can be liable under § 1983 only where its policies are the ‘moving force [behind] the constitutional violation.'”) (citing Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981)). A plaintiff must allege facts to establish “that a [city or county] employee committed the alleged constitutional violation pursuant to a formal governmental policy or a ‘longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the “standard operating procedure of the local governmental entity.'” Gillette v. Delmore, 979 F.2d 1342, 1346 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Ziegler v. Indian River Cty., 64 F.3d 470, 474 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting county is “not liable for acts of county officials unless the officials' conduct was the consequence of county policy or custom”) (citation omitted).

         Finefeuiaki identifies no policies or longstanding practices or customs of the Maui County Police Department under which any individual Doe Defendant police officer was allegedly acting that violated his rights. Claims against the Maui County Police Department and Doe Defendant police officers in their official capacities are DISMISSED.

         B. Excessive Force: Counts I and II

         Finefeuiaki alleges Doe Defendant police officers violated the Fourth and Eighth Amendments when they allegedly used excessive force during his arrest. The Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment does not apply, because Finefeuiaki had not been convicted or sentenced yet. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394-95 (1989); Pierce v. Multnomah Cty., Ore., 76 F.3d 1032, 1042 (9th Cir. 1996). Rather, ...

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