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Wheeler v. Maui Dep't of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 4, 2019

LACEY LEE WHEELER, #A4019658, Plaintiff,
MAUI DEP'T OF PUBLIC SAFETY, et al., Defendants.



         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Lacey Lee Wheeler's first amended complaint (“FAC”) brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1. Wheeler claims that Maui Community Correctional Center (“MCCC”) adult corrections officers (“ACOs”) Sergeant Jared Tahon, Harley Dela-Cruz, Clyde Tokunaga, and Travis Kamaka (collectively, “Defendants”) used excessive force and inappropriate language on or about March 15, 2017, and thereafter denied her due process.[1]

         The court has screened the FAC pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a) and finds that Wheeler states a colorable claim for the use of excessive force against Defendants Tahon, Dela-Cruz, Tokunaga, and Kamaka, and these claim shall be served and require a response after service is perfected.

         Wheeler's remaining claims fail to state a claim and are DISMISSED.


         The court must perform a pre-answer screening of the FAC 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); Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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.

         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.


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

         A. Wheeler's Claims[2]

         Wheeler and other MCCC inmates were out of their cells on March 15, 2017, because the air conditioning was malfunctioning. Wheeler says that Defendant Sgt. Tahon swore at the inmates and threatened to return them to their cells. This upset the inmates, and two of them began to bully Wheeler. Wheeler knocked on a window to get ACO Washington's assistance. Defendants Tahon, Kamaka, Dela-Cruz, and Tokunaga then entered the area and accused Wheeler of breaking the day room door. They ordered Wheeler outside. Although she complied, she says that they forcefully grabbed her, slammed her into the sharp corner of a counter injuring her shins, aggressively put her in a “hog tie” position, and then applied agonizing pressure that hurt her previous injuries. FAC, ECF No. 8, PageID #65. Wheeler claims that ACO Dela-Cruz slammed her head repeatedly on the table.

         Wheeler says she was falsely accused of breaking the door, found guilty of misconduct, moved to maximum security housing for ten months, and charged $370.64 for replacement or repair of the door a year after the incident occurred.[3] Wheeler seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a refund of $370.64.

         B. ...

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