United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE
E. Kobayashi United States District Judge.
the court is pro se Plaintiff Joseph Pitts' first amended
Complaint (“FAC”) brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, and Hawaii Revised
Statutes §§ 662-2, 663-31 & 96-18. See
FAC, ECF No. 12. Pitts is incarcerated at the Halawa
Correctional Facility (“HCF”). He alleges that
prison officials violated his constitutional rights when he
was incarcerated at the Oahu Community Correctional Center
(“OCCC”) for six months between approximately May
and December 2016.
names the State of Hawaii and Governor David Ige; Department
of Public Safety (“DPS”) Director Nolan Espinda,
Deputy Director of Corrections Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, and
Division Administrator Cathy Ross; OCCC Chief of Security
Denise Johnston, Adult Corrections Officers
(“ACOs”) Captain Evans, Sgt. Blue, ACO Koma, and
ACO Laredo; Case Managers Andrea Barayuga and Joleen; Food
Services and Environmental Health and Safety Director and
staff Jane/John Doe 1-10, Medical and Mental Health staff
Jane/John Doe 1-10; Librarian Caroline Gunn; Acting Wardens
Michael J. Hoffman and Francis Sequirra; and Brian Watanabe
as Defendants (collectively, “Defendants”).
seeks monetary damages and injunctive orders ensuring that,
if he is ever rehoused at OCCC, he will not experience the
conditions that he challenges here, and that he will be
housed in a “Work Module with no roaches/ [and]
afforded employment.” FAC, ECF No. 12, PageID #85.
following reasons, the FAC is DISMISSED with leave to amend
as limited below, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a).
court conducts a pre-Answer screening of all prisoners'
pleadings. See 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).
under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b) 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); Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680
F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). 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).
is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a)(2) when screening a
complaint; Rule 8 “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. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The court must
accept the complaint's plausible allegations as true,
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), 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. Byrd v. Maricopa Cty. Bd. of
Supervisors, 845 F.3d 919, 922 (9th Cir. 2017). 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).
commenced this suit on behalf of himself, two named OCCC
prisoners, and all present and future OCCC prisoners, on
November 29, 2018, when his state-court attorney filed the
Complaint with the court. See ECF No. 1. Pitts says
that he was housed at OCCC for six months “between May
2016 to approximately December 2016, ” while he awaited
re-sentencing and a decision on his motion for a new trial in
State v. Pitts, Cr. No. 09-1-00097 (Haw. 1st
Cir.). Id., at PageID #2. He alleged
that overcrowding at OCCC led to inhumane conditions of
confinement, including tiny, filthy, vermin-infested cells,
inadequate food, deficient medical and mental health care,
increased violence, limited recreation and showers, and
inmates sleeping on the floor. He also complained that case
manager Barayuga often denied inmates attorney calls and
visits during lockdowns, which prevented him from
“constant contact” with his defense attorneys.
Id., at PageID #7. Pitts suggested this resulted in
the denial of his post-trial motion and the re-imposition of
a life term.
April 1, 2019, the Court screened the Complaint and dismissed
Pitts' claims for prospective injunctive relief with
prejudice, because Pitts was no longer incarcerated at OCCC
when he filed the Complaint. See Order, ECF No. 8,
at PageID #54 (“April 1, 2019 Order”). The Court
also dismissed damages claims against official capacity
Defendants under the Eleventh Amendment without leave to
amend, and the remaining claims against individual Defendants
with leave to amend. The April 1, 2019 Order notified Pitts
that, if he filed an amended pleading, he “MAY NOT
expand his claims beyond those already alleged or add new
claims or Defendants, ” without explaining how new
claims or Defendants related to his original claims.
Id., at PageID #53.
4, 2019, Pitts filed the FAC and a Motion for Reconsideration
of the dismissal with prejudice of claims for injunctive
relief. See Mot., ECF No. 11; FAC, ECF No. 12. Pitts
argued that, if his pending direct appeal in Cr. No.
09-1-00097 is successful, he could be transferred to OCCC and
might again be subjected to the conditions about which he
7, 2019, the Court denied Pitts' Motion for
Reconsideration, holding that the possibility that he will be
transferred to OCCC and subjected to the conditions he
challenges is too speculative to reinstate his claims for
injunctive relief. ECF No. 13 (“June 7, 2019
Order”). Thus, Pitts' claims for prospective
injunctive relief as alleged against the State and damages
claims alleged against official capacity Defendants remain
DISMISSED without leave to amend.
Allegations in the FAC
noted, Pitts says that he was housed at OCCC for
approximately six months between May and “on or about
December 2016, ” while he awaited resentencing and a
decision on his motion for a new trial in Cr. No.
09-1-00097.FAC, ECF No. 12, PageID #67-#70. He
alleges that his transfer to OCCC was pursuant to DPS policy
and state laws that designate OCCC as the facility where
pretrial and unsentenced inmates are held. Pitts broadly
asserts that Defendants Governor Ige, Espinda,
Maesaka-Hirata, Hoffman, Sequeira, Ross, Johnston, Evans, and
possibly others generally knew that OCCC was overcrowded upon
their appointment to office, based on their public statements
seeking prison funding and announcing a new site to expand
OCCC (yet failing to begin construction), past civil cases,
and letters and complaints that he and others sent to them.
He suggests that Defendants violated the 1985 consent decree
in Spear v. Waihee, Civ. No. 84-001104 (D. Haw.
1985), which governed overcrowding and the provision of
medical and mental health care at OCCC and the Hawaii
Women's Correctional Facility in these facilities; he
attaches a copy of that decree to the FAC.
is primarily focused on Pitts' claims that OCCC was
unconstitutionally overcrowded, but it substantially expands
his original claims beyond overcrowding and interference with
attorney contacts. Pitts now alleges that Defendants (1)
knowingly subjected him to constitutionally overcrowded
conditions of confinement at OCCC (Counts I, II, and V); (2)
promulgated an illegal mail policy (Counts I, VI); (3)
discriminated against him on the basis of race (Counts III,
IV); (4) denied him access to the courts and to the prison
grievance process (Counts I, II, III); (5) limited attorney
contacts (Counts I, II, III); and (6) retaliated against him
for filing grievances (Counts I, II, III).
state a claim under § 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). 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.
plaintiff must also allege that he suffered a specific injury
as a result of a particular defendant's conduct and
allege an affirmative link between the injury and the
violation of his rights. 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).
The FAC Fails to Comply With Rule 8
requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, ” and that [e]ach allegation . . . be
simple, concise, and direct.” Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2),
(d)(1). To state a plausible claim, a plaintiff must allege a
factual and legal basis for each claim, so that each
defendant is provided fair notice of what each claim is and
the grounds upon which it rests, sufficient to frame a
responsive pleading. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Twombly, 550
U.S. at 562-563, 556-57. The court may dismiss a complaint
for violation of Rule 8 if a defendant would have difficulty
responding to its claims, see Cafasso, U.S. ex rel v.
Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1059 (9th
Cir. 2011), even if the complaint is not “wholly
without merit, ” McHenry v. Renee, 84 F.3d
1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996).
even claims that are not subject to dismissal under Rule
12(b)(6) may still be dismissed for violating Rule 8(a).
McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1179. That is, even if the
factual elements of a cause of action are present in a
complaint, but are scattered throughout the complaint and not
organized into any semblance of a “short and plain
statement of the claim, ” the pleading may be dismissed
for failure to satisfy Rule 8(a). Sparling v. Hoffman
Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 640 (9th Cir. 1988).
is a perfect example of a pleading that does not comply with
Rule 8. It is replete with irrelevant commentary and
conclusions of law. Pitts' statement of facts is
scattered throughout the FAC and its claims are repeated
within several Counts, making it extremely difficult to
ascertain what claim is asserted, when the events at issue
regarding that claim occurred, which Defendants are
personally connected to each allegation, and whether the
allegations relate to Pitts' personal experience, or to
other OCCC inmates' experiences. Pitts rarely provides a
specific date when an incident occurred, or identifies a
specific Defendant or Defendants who were allegedly involved
in any specific claim. Rather, his claims are mostly alleged
as occurring at some unidentified date during the six months
that he spent at OCCC, and, while Defendants are named at the
top of each Count, Pitts generally refers to them within any
count, if at all, as having been aware of his claims via
grievances or complaints. This format does not enable a
prompt and clear understanding of Pitts' allegations.
sets forth six causes of action, but he alleges numerous
claims within each Count. For example, Pitts' deliberate
indifference claims, meant to support his allegation that
OCCC is unconstitutionally overcrowded, are randomly spread
throughout the FAC's four-page, single-spaced
introduction, and within Counts I, II, and V. Interspersed
with his deliberate indifference claims are other claims that
are unrelated to and provide no support for his overcrowding
form complaint directs Pitts to state only one issue per
count. Instead, Pitts alleges that Count I involves:
deliberate indifference and threats to his safety,
interference with mail, racial discrimination, denial of
access to the courts and attorneys, denial of due process,
racial discrimination, and violations of state law.
See FAC, ECF No. 12, at PageID #70. Similarly, Count
II allegedly involves: “Denial of Due
process/(violation-denial) of state created liberty
interests, state law COR.1F.02 and all applicable policies
and procedures/ cruel and unusual punishment/ denial of food/
denial of access to courts/ deliberate indifference/
retaliation/ threat to safety and health/ violations of
duties under state law/ negligence/ failure to adequately
train/ DPS Policy 493.06.16.” Id., at PageID
#74. Pitts does not support or even address each of these
allegations within Count II, nor should he. Pitts continues
this confusing, hyperbolic format throughout the FAC, and
within each count, although his allegations in Counts III,
IV, and VI are somewhat more focused.
forces the Court to cross-reference each sentence and each
Count, and even refer to the original Complaint, to discern
what particular claim is being alleged against whom. See
McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1177 (affirming dismissal of a
complaint where the district court was “literally
guessing as to what facts support the legal claims being
asserted against certain defendants”). And even after
this painstaking exercise, it is still largely unclear what
happened, when it happened, and what any Defendant's
personal action or inaction was that violated Pitts'
rights. It is not the Court's responsibility to expend
its time “preparing the ‘short and plain
statement' which Rule 8 obligated [Pitts] to submit,
” so that Defendants can comprehend the FAC's
claims. Id. at 1180. Nor should the Court or
Defendants be required to prepare an outline of a pleading
simply “to determine who is being sued for what.”
Id. at 1179.
short, the FAC is disjointed, confusing, and extremely
difficult for the Court or Defendants to understand. Its
allegations are neither short nor plain, nor do they give
Defendants fair notice of Pitts claims. The FAC is therefore
DISMISSED for failure to comply with Rule 8. Fed.R.Civ.P.
there are several other deficiencies in Pitts' claims
that he must consider and cure before filing any amended
pleading, Pitts is granted leave to amend as specifically
New or Unrelated Claims
April 1, 2019 Order warned Pitts that he may not expand his
claims or allege new claims in the FAC without a clear
explanation of how any new claims or defendants relate to his
original claims. This restriction is grounded in Rules 18 and
20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 18 allows a
plaintiff to join as many claims as he has against an
opposing party in one action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). But parties
may be joined as defendants in one action only “if any
right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally,
or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the
same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
occurrences; and . . . any question of law or fact common to
all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
claims against different defendants must be brought in
separate lawsuits. See Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d
950, 952 (7th Cir. 2011); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d
605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130
F.3d 1348, 1350-51 (9th Cir. 1997); Jossy v. State,
Civ. No. 19-00055 LEK-RT (D. Haw. May 29, 2019); Kealoha
v. Espinda, 2017 WL 741570, at *4 (D. Haw. Feb. 24,
2017). This rule is particularly important in pro se prisoner
suits, because it prevents the confusion inherent in such
suits, ensures that prisoners pay the required filing fees
for each separate lawsuit asserted, and prevents prisoners
from circumventing the three-strikes rule set forth under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). See
George, 507 F.3d at 607; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The
court may sever misjoined parties as long as no substantial
right is prejudiced by severance. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21,
Coughlin, 130 F.3d at 1350; Evans v.
Deacon, 2016 WL 591758, at *6 (D. Or. Feb. 12, 2016).