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Williams v. U.S. Dep't of Justice

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 22, 2019

DAVID VERDEN WILLIAMS, JR., FED. REG. #99700-022, Plaintiff,


          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff David Verden Williams, Jr.'s prisoner civil rights action brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Williams alleges that prison officials at the Federal Detention Center, Honolulu (“FDC Honolulu”), including an unidentified warden and psychologist, and Physician's Assistant (“PA”) Ackley, violated his constitutional rights regarding an incident that allegedly occurred more than five years ago when Williams was incarcerated at FDC Honolulu.[1]

         Williams' pleadings, which encompass at least three serially-filed documents, [2] fail to state a colorable claim for relief and are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Williams is granted leave to amend his claims to cure their deficiencies by submitting one coherent pleading on the court's prisoner civil rights complaint form on or before May 27, 2019.


         The court must conduct a pre-Answer screening of all pleadings brought by a prisoner to the federal courts, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Claims or complaints 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); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Screening under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a) involves the same standard of review as that used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). 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). 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. BACKGROUND [3]

         As noted, Williams has filed at least three documents labeled as the “Complaint” or “Amended complaint, ” as well as several other documents in which he attempts to explain his claims.[4] Reading these documents together, the court discerns the following allegations: Williams claims that, while he was confined at FDC Honolulu, a psychologist negligently ordered a “tactical” team to move him from a solitary, suicide watch cell to a Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) cell.[5] Williams was housed with an inmate that he alleges was known to be violent, who Williams alleges attacked him on or about January 26, 2012, hitting Williams in the head thirty to forty times when Williams refused to perform oral sex. See ECF No. 19 (memorandum “Inmate Disciplinary Record Indicating date of skull fracture”).[6] PA Ackley examined Williams after the assault, took photographs, told Williams that he had abrasions only, and did not order x-rays or an M.R.I.

         Williams alleges that his skull and nose were fractured during this attack, causing brain damage and rendering him mentally incompetent for the past five years. Williams says that he has asked for x-rays repeatedly since the assault, but was denied until PA Middleton at FCI Estill recently ordered an x-ray of his skull. Williams states that he has not seen the results of this x-ray.

         Williams claims that the FDC Honolulu Warden and psychologist violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by negligently moving him to the SHU where he was housed with a violent inmate, and that PA Ackley provided inadequate medical care by failing to order an x-ray to determine whether Williams had skull and nose fractures.

         Williams says that he was unable to commence this suit or grieve this incident within the past five years because he was mentally incapacitated after the attack, but he is now “in the process of exhausting [his] Administrative Remedies with the BOP in relation to this claim.” ECF No. 1, PageID #2-3. He says the FCI Estill Warden is currently reviewing his first-step BP8 grievance, and that he will take his claims to the BOP Regional and Central offices after the FCI Estill Warden rules on the grievance.

         Williams seeks $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages.[7]


         Bivens recognized for the first time an implied cause of action for damages against federal actors in their individual capacity for violating a plaintiff's civil rights that is analogous to a suit brought against state actors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[8] See Vega v. United States, 881 F.3d 1146, 1152 (9th Cir. 2018). 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).

         “Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see also Jones v. Cmty. Redevelopment Agency of City of Los Angeles, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984) (stating even pro se litigants must “allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in” to state a claim). Williams must allege “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and describe personal acts by each individual defendant that show a direct causal connection to a violation of specific constitutional rights, Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).

         A.Official Capacity Claims for Injunctive Relief

         Williams only names the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), and the FDC Warden as Defendants in the captions of his documents. But because he alleges claims against the FDC psychologist and PA Ackley within his pleadings, the court liberally construes the pleadings as including the FDC psychologist and PA Ackley as Defendants. See Yeseta v. Baima, 837 F.2d 380, 382-83 (9th Cir. 1988). Bivens provides a cause of action against individual officers acting under color of federal law who are alleged to have acted unconstitutionally. Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 70 (2001); Solida v. McKelvey, 820 F.3d 1090, 1094 (9th Cir. 2016). Williams cannot state colorable Bivens claims against the DOJ or the BOP, and to the extent that he names the FDC Honolulu Warden, psychologist, and PA Ackley in their official capacities, these claims are DISMISSED with prejudice.

         B. Rule 8

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, pleadings must contain a “short and plain statement” of the court's jurisdiction that shows the plaintiff is entitled to relief, and a demand for the relief sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Claims must be set forth simply, concisely, and directly in a manner that gives the defendant fair notice of the claims alleged. See Rule 8(d)(1); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, a complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved and set forth an affirmative link between each defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. See ...

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