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Williams v. Kobayashi

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 22, 2018

ANTHONY WILLIAMS, BOP #05963-122, Plaintiff,
WARDEN KOBAYASHI, et al., Defendants.


          Derrick K. Watson United States District Judge.

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Anthony Williams' prisoner civil rights complaint. ECF No. 1. Williams is a federal pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center, Honolulu (FDC-Honolulu).[1] Williams brings this suit “on behalf of himself and all inmates housed in FDC Honolulu.” Id., PageID #1. He alleges that FDC-Honolulu officials[2] violated his civil rights regarding his placement in administrative segregation on two occasions on or about February 14 and May 7, 2018, pending investigation for disciplinary charges. Williams has paid the costs of this suit and is not proceeding in forma pauperis.

         For the following reasons, Williams' Complaint is DISMISSED for failure to state a claim for relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a-b). Williams may file an amended pleading on or before November 27, 2018, as limited below.

         I. SCREENING

         Because Williams is a prisoner seeking relief against government officials, the court must screen his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 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 dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing dismissal under § 1915A(b)).

         Section 1915 screening involves the same standard of review as that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See 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.

         II. BACKGROUND[3]

         On February 14, 2018, Defendant Olsen charged Williams with threatening bodily harm against FDC-Honolulu officials in an email that he sent to prison staff.[4] Williams was taken to the segregated housing unit (SHU), where he was held in solitary confinement for fifty-eight days while these charges were investigated. Williams alleges that he was unable to make phone calls to his standby defense attorney, family, and friends, his access to discovery in his criminal case was curtailed, and he was allowed only two to four hours in the law library daily without access to a printer in the SHU. On April 12, 2018, Williams was found not guilty of threatening bodily harm at his disciplinary hearing, and he was returned to the general population on April 16, 2018.

         On May 7, 2018, Williams and another inmate were involved in an altercation. Williams says the other inmate assaulted him, and he acted in self-defense. Officer Light used pepper spray to end the fight. Williams was taken to the showers to wash off the pepper spray and the other inmate was taken to the hospital emergency room for treatment for his “severe injuries.” Id., PageID #3. Williams was taken to the hospital to document his own injuries upon his request and rehoused in the SHU when he returned.

         On May 24, 2018, a disciplinary hearing was held, and Williams was found guilty of fighting; he was sanctioned to eight days already served in the SHU. Williams argued that he should not be punished for defending himself, however, and the hearing officer agreed to postpone his decision until he reviewed surveillance footage of the incident. A new hearing was scheduled for May 31, 2018, but had not been held as of June 6, 2018, the date that Williams completed and signed his Complaint. Because Williams did not file the Complaint until September 5, 2018, three months after signing it, it is unclear how long he remained in the SHU.

         Williams claims that during this second period in the SHU, he was denied: (1) email contact with attorneys, family, and friends; (2) visitation; (3) more than one phone call per month; (4) required periodic reviews of his SHU status; (5) hardcover legal books; and (6) television, newspapers, and “real” recreation. Id., PageID #5. Williams says the food in the SHU is stale and “mostly inedible” because it is frozen and reheated, inmates have less access to the commissary, there are bugs in the showers, and his sink is moldy and abuts the toilet.

         Williams alleges that his solitary confinement in the SHU constituted cruel and unusual punishment, interfered with the practice of his religion, and denied him due process in violation of the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. He suggests, but does not explicitly allege, that he was denied access to the courts. Williams states that he was unable to complete the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) Administrative Remedy Procedure (ARP) before filing this suit because Defendants delayed responding to his grievances.

         Williams seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, court costs, and any other just relief.


         A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Williams brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the defendants deprived him “of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, ” and (2) that an individual “acting under color of state law” accomplished the deprivation. Chudacoff v. Univ. Med. Ctr. of S. Nev., 649 F.3d 1143, 1149 (9th Cir. 2011). The central inquiry is whether the allegedly illegal actions are “fairly attributable to the State.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co. Inc., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982). An action is fairly attributable to the state if: (1) the deprivation was “caused by the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or . . . by a person for whom the State is responsible;” and (2) “the party charged with the deprivation . . . may fairly be said to be a state actor.” Id.

         “[F]ederal officials acting under federal authority are generally not considered to be state actors” and “do not become ‘state actors' unless ‘[t]he State has so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence with . . . [the federal officials] that it must be recognized as a joint participant in the challenged activity.'” Cabrera v. Martin, 973 F.2d 735, 742 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Nothing within the Complaint allows a plausible inference that these federal Defendants acted under color of state law. Williams' Complaint therefore fails to state a claim under Section 1983 and is DISMISSED with leave to amend.

         B. Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics

         Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), recognized an implied cause of action against federal actors in their individual capacity for violating a plaintiff's civil rights that is analogous to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a Bivens claim for damages, a plaintiff must allege facts showing that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged deprivation was committed by a federal actor. Van Strum v. Lawn, 940 F.2d 406, 409 (9th Cir. 1991).

         The court declines to construe Williams' claims as brought under Bivens, however, because doing so would result in the dismissal of several of his claims. To enable Williams to determine whether he can effectively amend his pleading under Bivens or any other federal law, the court provides the following legal standards.[5] See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987) (explaining that a court should briefly explain a pro se litigant's pleading deficiencies when dismissing a complaint with leave to amend).

         1. Official ...

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