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Conklin v. Espinda

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 6, 2019

CRAIG LAURENCE CONKLIN, #A5021908, Plaintiff,
NOLAN ESPINDA, et al., Defendants.


          J. Michael Seabright, Chief United States District Judge

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Craig Laurence Conklin's prisoner civil rights Complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Conklin alleges that officials and staff of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety (“DPS Defendants”), the Halawa Correctional Facility (“HCF Defendants”), and the Hawaii Community Correctional Center (“HCCC Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”), violated his civil rights while he was incarcerated, first at HCCC, and then at HCF.[1]

         For the following reasons, the Complaint is DISMISSED for Conklin's failure to state a colorable claim for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Conklin may file an amended pleading alleging those claims that he elects to proceed with in this action, on or before July 8, 2019. He may also file a second action at his discretion, alleging those claims that would be improperly joined in any amended pleading, as explained below. This action will be dismissed if Conklin fails to timely file an amended pleading that cures the deficiencies noted in this Order.


         The court must conduct a pre-Answer screening of all prisoners' pleadings 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. Robi nson, 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 Wati son v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); Wi lhelm 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).

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gi bson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “Specific facts are not necessary.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). The court must accept the allegations of the complaint as true, Eri ckson, 551 U.S. at 94, and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

         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 [2]

         Conklin asserts claims regarding incidents that allegedly occurred while he was incarcerated at HCCC between January 9 and February 22, 2018, and thereafter, while he was incarcerated at HCF between February 22, 2018, until February 19, 2019, when he filed the Complaint.[3]

         A. Counts I-III: HCCC, January 9 to February 22, 2018

         At his HCCC medical intake examination on January 9, 2018, Conklin requested to: (1) continue his prescription pain medications for severe, chronic pain and/or be placed in a detoxification program to prevent opiate withdrawal symptoms; and (2) be released temporarily for a previously scheduled colonoscopy. See Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID #8 (Count I), and #10 (Count III). Dr. Saldona denied these requests and assured Conklin that HCCC medical staff would closely monitor him to address any potential withdrawal symptoms. Conklin alleges he experienced severe opiate withdrawal symptoms, and possible internal bleeding from the lack of a colonoscopy, which caused him fear, anxiety, pain, insomnia, and depression.

         On January 11, 2018, HCCC nurse Nishimoto confiscated Conklin's personal crutches, without providing him a cane, crutches, or wheelchair. Id., PageID #9 (Count II). Conklin alleges he is disabled from injuries in his hips and legs, and Nishimoto's actions “forced” him to walk without needed medical mobility devices until his February 22, 2018 transfer to HCF, causing him impaired mobility, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Id.

         Conklin alleges Saldona and Nishimoto violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, et seq.

         B. Counts IV-XVIII: HCF, February 22, 2018 to February 19, 2019

         When he arrived at HCF, Conklin renewed his requests for his prescription pain medications and for a colonscopy, but Dr. Toyama denied these requests. Id., PageID #11-12 (Counts IV, V). Conklin alleges this exacerbated his chronic pain and caused insomnia, fear, anxiety, depression, and possible internal bleeding. He maintains that the denial of prescription pain medication interfered with “major life activities” including “walking, standing, lifting, bending, breathing, learning, reading, concentration, thinking, communicating, working, hygien [sic].” Id., PageID #11.

         Conklin admits that Dr. Toyama gave him Gabapentin[4] to control his “severe[, ] chronic pain.” Id., PageID #21 (Count XIV). He complains, however, that HCF medical staff instructed him to take the Gabapentin crushed in water, which caused “caustic” burns in his throat and that this is an unauthorized way to take this medication. Id. Conklin refused the Gabapentin after several weeks, but he does not detail whether he was prescribed other pain relief medication.

         Conklin was assigned to HCF's general population; he immediately requested “comfort items, ” including a pillow, supportive mattress, and a leg pillow from the “H.C.F. Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) representative.”[5] Id., PageID #20 (Count XIII). He was given a 2-inch mattress without a pillow, which he alleges exacerbated his “degenerative conditions.” Id.

         On February 28, 2018, Dr. Yoo extracted Conklin's tooth using a local anesthetic. When the anesthetic wore off, Conklin says that he was denied his prescription pain medication, allegedly causing him severe pain, insomnia, and loss of concentration for more than forty days. Id., PageID #13 (Count VI). He does not indicate whether this was Dr. Yoo's decision, or whether he was offered or received over-the-counter pain medication.

         On April 3, 2018, visiting orthopedist Dr. Frauens met with Conklin to evaluate his need for orthopedic care. They discussed Conklin's pain, disabilities, and need for pain medication and orthopedic care. Dr. Frauens determined that orthopedic care could be deferred until Conklin's release. Id., PageID #14 (Count VII). Conklin alleges this unnecessarily delayed treatment and increased his pain.

         On or about April 18, 2018, Conklin was classified as a minimum security inmate, and therefore, he sought a transfer to a minimum security facility. Id., PageID #15 (Count VIII). This request was denied, which he alleges violated his right to personal safety under the Eighth Amendment.

         On or about June 26, 2018, Conklin was allegedly attacked by close custody HCF inmate Tupuelo. Id. Conklin asserts that he should not have been housed near Tupuelo, based on their different custody classifications. Conklin was taken to Pali Momi Medical Center and treated for contusions and facial trauma. Id., PageID #16 (Count IX). After he returned to HCF, Conklin requested follow up care from an outside specialist, as allegedly recommended by a Pali Momi emergency room physician. Dr. Toyama examined Conklin, diagnosed his continued pain and other symptoms as normal, and denied his request for outside specialist care.

         On or about August 6, 2018, Conklin was moved to the special housing unit (“SHU”) for thirty days after being found guilty of a misconduct violation. Conklin says the SHU has no ADA accessible shower, or other disability accommodations for special needs inmates. He says Dr. Toyama discontinued his medical memoranda for a handicap shower three days after he entered the SHU. Id., PageID #18 (Count XI). Conklin was taken into the SHU shower and left alone for forty-five minutes. When staff returned, Conklin fell out of the shower stall, hitting his head on the floor. Conklin was treated at the medical unit. He alleges this violated the ADA and increased his pain, discomfort, and anxiety.

         HCF Chief of Security (“COS”) Antonio restricted all telephone calls indefinitely for SHU inmates, although Captain Snook told Conklin that he could contact his attorney in writing. Id., PageID #22 (Count XV). Conklin alleges this denied him his right to call his attorney and interfered with his ability to fight the misconduct charge and assist with his criminal appeal (for which he was represented by counsel).

         On or about September 4, 2018, Dr. Toyama discontinued Conklin's medical memoranda for crutches, assistance, wheelchair use, and stairs restriction. Id., PageID #19 (Count XII). Conklin alleges this conflicted with Dr. Frauens' finding that Conklin had multiple medical needs requiring accommodation. When Conklin transferred to general population on September 5, 2018, he requested reinstatement of all his medical memoranda. He does not say whether his memoranda were reinstated, but complains that the denial of the medical memoranda forced him to walk without crutches or a wheelchair, which increased his pain, mobility, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

         On or about September 18, 2018, Dr. Toyama approved Conklin's request to see a specialist for his continuing facial pain from Tupuelo's assault. He was taken to The Queen's Medical Center (“QMC”) dental clinic, where he was diagnosed with “TMJ dislocation [and] timitus [sic].” Id., PageID #17 (Count X). Conklin alleges Dr. Toyama caused him unnecessary pain, discomfort and distress by delaying this examination by a specialist, although he does not specify what treatment he received for these conditions.

         On or about October 15, 2018, Conklin requested that the video of his fall from the SHU shower be preserved. Id., PageID #23 (Count XVI). COS Antonio replied that the video camera was inoperative on that day, and if Conklin required proof, his attorney could request the written report of the incident. Conklin alleges Antonio was lying and concludes that someone destroyed the video to prevent a lawsuit.

         Finally, Conklin alleges that an HCF guard warned him about filing too many grievances, because the HCF administration might retaliate against him. Id., PageID #24 (Count XVII). Conklin alleges his case manager, Mufao, then retaliated against him by telling the parole board and presiding judge at his parole hearing that he was a “noncompliant trouble maker, ” lying about Conklin's graduation from high school, and about the reasons Conklin failed to complete required parole programs. Conklin claims Mufao's refusal to recommend him for parole resulted in his receiving a higher classification and the denial of parole in October 2018.


         Conklin brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges Defendants violated his rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and the ADA. 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). Section 1983 also requires that there be an actual connection between the defendants' actions and the plaintiff's alleged deprivation. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976). “A person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Thus, a plaintiff must allege that he 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.

         A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Conklin explicitly names all DPS, HCCC, and HCF Defendants in their official capacities only. For Conklin's claims arising under the Constitution, rather than rights secured under the ADA, 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); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101-03 (1984); Fli nt v. Denni son, 488 F.3d 816, 824-25 (9th Cir. 2007). Official capacity defendants 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. ...

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