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Stroeve v. Lowenthal

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

May 9, 2019

ERIC M. STROEVE, #A6051620, Plaintiff,
v.
BEN LOWENTHAL, SHELLY MIYASHIRO, and LANCE YORITA, Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT IN PART AND DIRECTING SERVICE

          Derrick K. Watson, United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Eric M. Stroeve alleges that Defendants Maui County Deputy Public Defender Ben Lowenthal, Deputy Prosecutor Shelly Miyashiro, and Police Officer Lance Yorita violated his civil rights when Yorita allegedly used excessive force during his arrest, and Lowenthal and Yorita denied him a fair trial. Compl. ECF No. 1. Stroeve also alleges the Maui County Police Department lost his personal property valued at $170 after his arrest.

         Stroeve's excessive force claim against Officer Yorita as named in his individual capacity states a claim and shall be served. Officer Yorita is required to file a response after service is effected. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2).

         Stroeve's remaining claims against Lowenthal, Miyashiro, and Yorita (in his official capacity) are DISMISSED with prejudice, and his lost property claim is DISMISSED without prejudice.

         I. STATUTORY SCREENING

         The Court must conduct a pre-answer screening of prisoner complaints pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Byrd v. Phoenix Police Dep't, 885 F.3d 639, 641 (9th Cir. 2018). 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)).

         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. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” 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 678 (stating Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”).

         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 [1]

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). A plaintiff must also allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the defendant's conduct and an affirmative link between the injury and the violation of his rights. See Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

         A. Claims Against Maui County Deputy Prosecutor Miyashiro

         Stroeve alleges that Miyashiro conspired with Yorita to present perjured evidence against him at trial, resulting in Stroeve's conviction for resisting arrest. See Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID #7. He seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief vacating his convictions.[2]

         Prosecutors are absolutely immune from civil suits for damages under § 1983 that challenge activities related to the initiation and presentation of criminal prosecutions. Imbler v. Patchtman, 424 U.S. 409, 424-28, 431 (1976); see also Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 342-43 (2009); Botello v. Gammick, 413 F.3d 971, 975 (9th Cir. 2005); Demery v. Kupperman, 735 F.2d 1139, 1144 (9th Cir. 1984) (holding prosecutorial immunity extends to actions during both the pre-trial and post-trial phase of a case). To the extent Stroeve seeks damages against Miyashiro for actions she took in preparation for or during trial, he fails to state a claim for relief.

         To the extent Stroeve seeks an order vacating his convictions based on Miyashiro's alleged prosecutorial misconduct at his trial, those claims are barred until those convictions have been reversed on appeal, expunged, or set aside by state or federal court issuing a writ of habeas corpus. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (barring damages actions predicated on an allegedly wrongful conviction until that conviction has been overturned); Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005) (barring declaratory or injunctive relief until the challenged conviction is overturned). When a prisoner challenges the legality or duration of his custody, or raises a ...


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