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Leong v. Maui Cty. Comm. Corr.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 21, 2018

COREY LEONG, #A4014453, Plaintiff,
MAUI CTY. COMM. CORR., et al., Defendants,


          Jill A. Otake United States District Judge.

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Corey Leong's prisoner civil rights Complaint. ECF No. 1. Leong alleges that Defendants the State of Hawaii, the Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC), the Honorable Joseph E. Cardoza, and Hoapili Hale Court Staff, [1] the Maui County Police Department (MPD), and Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (Maui Prosecutor's Office) (collectively, Defendants) violated his civil rights during state civil and criminal proceedings in 2011 and 2014, and during his present incarceration at MCCC.

         Leong's Complaint fails to state a colorable claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is DISMISSED with leave to amend, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(a-b).


         Because Leong is proceeding in forma pauperis and is a prisoner, the court screens 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; Simmons v. Navajo Cty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009). “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 “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). The “mere possibility of misconduct” is insufficient to meet 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). The court must grant leave to amend if it appears the plaintiff can correct the defects in the complaint, Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130, but if a claim or complaint cannot be saved by amendment, dismissal with prejudice is appropriate, Sylvia Landfield Tr. v. City of L.A., 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).

         II. DISCUSSION[2]

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant (1) acted under color of state law and (2) deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); see also Marsh v. Cty. of San Diego, 680 F.3d 1148, 1158 (9th Cir. 2012) (discussing “color of state law”). A person deprives another of a constitutional right, “within the meaning of § 1983, ‘if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'” Preschooler II v. Clark Cty. Sch. Bd. of Trs., 479 F.3d 1175, 1183 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)).

         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). 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.

         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).

         Moreover, jails, prison facilities, and state agencies are not “persons” amenable to suit under § 1983. See Allison v. California Adult Auth., 419 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1969); Maldonado v. Harris, 370 F.3d 945, 951 (9th Cir. 2004) (discussing state agencies) (citing Will, 491 U.S. at 70).

         Leong seeks damages and does not seek prospective injunctive or declaratory relief. He cannot state a claim against the State of Hawaii, or the MCCC jail and claims against them are DISMISSED. Leong alleges no facts suggesting that Judge Cardoza or Hoapili Hale court staff are engaged in an ongoing constitutional violation and his claims alleged against them in their official capacities are DISMISSED.

         B. MPD and Maui Prosecutor's Office

         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 a county is “not liable for acts of county officials unless the officials' conduct was the consequence of county policy or custom”) (citation omitted).

         Leong names no individuals who allegedly acted pursuant to any illegal Maui County policies or procedures. Nor does he assert that longstanding practices or customs of the MPD or Maui Prosecutor's Office violated his rights. Leong's official capacity claims against MPD and the Maui Prosecutor's Office (or their unnamed employees) are DISMISSED.

         C. Judicial Immunity

         Leong vaguely alleges that Judge Cardoza unlawfully stripped of him of his inheritance and denied a motion for reconsideration without a hearing in “early 2011” while presiding over the “Leong Family Trust.”[3] Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID #9. He also alleges that “presiding Judge Lloyd Poelman” violated his rights “multiple times” when Leong sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Leilani S. Andaya in late 2014, in which Leong alleged that Andaya was abusing, neglecting, ...

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