Busby v. Sanders et al, No. 1:2013cv00085 - Document 9 (D. Utah 2013)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER TO CURE DEFICIENT COMPLAINT. Plaintiff must within thirty days cure the deficiencies noted above. The Clerk's Office shall mail Plaintiff a copy of the Pro Se Litigant Guide. If Plaintiff fails to timely cure the above deficiencies according to this Order's instructions, this action will be dismissed without further notice. Signed by Judge Clark Waddoups on 11/21/2013. (kpf)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH JOSHUA JAY BUSBY, Plaintiff, MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER TO CURE DEFICIENT COMPLAINT v. DEAN SANDERS et al., Defendants. Case No. 1:13-CV-85-CW District Judge Clark Waddoups Plaintiff, Joshua Jay Busby, filed this pro se civil rights suit, see 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983(2013), in forma pauperis, see 28 id. § 1915. The Court now screens the complaint and orders Plaintiff to file an amended complaint to cure deficiencies before further pursuing his claims. Deficiencies in Complaint Complaint: (a) alleges claims that are possibly invalidated by the rule in Heck (see below). (b) possibly alleges claims that concern the constitutionality of his conviction and/or validity of his imprisonment, which should be brought in a habeas-corpus petition, not a civilrights complaint. (c) does not address Judge Lyon s potential immunity from suit, as further explained below. (d) does not address Prosecutor Dean Sanders s potential immunity from suit, as further explained below. (e) states claim in violation of municipal-liability doctrine (see below). (f) has claims appearing to be based on conditions of current confinement; however, the complaint was apparently not submitted using the legal help Plaintiff is entitled to by his institution under the Constitution. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 356 (1996) (requiring prisoners be given "'adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law' . . . to ensure that inmates . . . have a reasonably adequate opportunity to file nonfrivolous legal claims challenging their convictions or conditions of confinement") (quoting Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 828 (1977) (emphasis added)). Instructions to Plaintiff Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain "(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought." Rule 8's requirements mean to guarantee "that defendants enjoy fair notice of what the claims against them are and the grounds upon which they rest." TV Commc'ns Network, Inc. v ESPN, Inc., 767 F. Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991). Pro se litigants are not excused from complying with these minimal pleading demands. "This is so because a pro se plaintiff requires no special legal training to recount the facts surrounding his alleged injury, and he must provide such facts if the court is to determine whether he makes out a claim on which relief can be granted." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Moreover, it is improper for the Court "to assume the role of advocate for a pro se litigant." Id. Thus, the Court cannot "supply additional facts, [or] construct a legal theory for plaintiff that assumes facts that have not been pleaded." Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff should consider the following points before refiling his complaint. First, the revised complaint must stand entirely on its own and shall not refer to, or incorporate by reference, any portion of the original complaint. See Murray v. Archambo, 132 F.3d 609, 612 (10th Cir. 1998) (stating amended complaint supercedes original). Second, the complaint must clearly state what each defendant--typically, a named government employee--did to violate Plaintiff's civil rights. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976) (stating personal participation of each named defendant is essential allegation in civil-rights action). "To state a claim, a complaint must 'make clear exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom.'" Stone v. Albert, No. 08-2222, slip op. at 4 2 (10th Cir. July 20, 2009) (unpublished) (emphasis in original) (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1250 (10th Cir. 2008)). Third, Plaintiff cannot name an individual as a defendant based solely on his or her supervisory position. See Mitchell v. Maynard, 80 F.2d 1433, 1441 (10th Cir. 1996) (stating supervisory status alone does not support § 1983 liability). Fourth, "denial of a grievance, by itself without any connection to the violation of constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983." Gallagher v. Shelton, No. 09-3113, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 25787, at *11 (10th Cir. Nov. 24, 2009). Fifth, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's claims appear to involve some allegations that if true may invalidate his conviction and/or sentencing. "In Heck, the Supreme Court explained that a § 1983 action that would impugn the validity of a plaintiff's underlying conviction cannot be maintained unless the conviction has been reversed on direct appeal or impaired by collateral proceedings." Nichols v. Baer, No. 08-4158, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 4302, at *4 (10th Cir. Mar. 5, 2009) (unpublished) (citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994)). Heck prevents litigants "from using a § 1983 action, with its more lenient pleading rules, to challenge their conviction or sentence without complying with the more stringent exhaustion requirements for habeas actions." Butler v. Compton, 482 F.3d 1277, 1279 (10th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Heck clarifies that "civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments." 512 U.S. at 486. Plaintiff argues that Defendants violated his constitutional rights in a way that may attack Petitioner's very imprisonment. Heck requires that, when a plaintiff requests damages in a § 1983 suit, this Court must decide whether judgment in the plaintiff's favor would unavoidably imply that the conviction or sentence is invalid. Id. at 487. Here, it appears it would regarding 3 some claims. If this Court were to conclude that Plaintiff's constitutional rights regarding illegal incarceration were violated in a prejudicial manner, it would be stating that Plaintiff's conviction and/or sentence were not valid. Thus, the involved claims "must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated." Id. This has not happened and may result in dismissal of such claim. Sixth, it is well settled that judges "are absolutely immune from suit unless they act in 'clear absence of all jurisdiction,' meaning that even erroneous or malicious acts are not proper bases for § 1983 claims." Segler v. Felfam Ltd. P'ship, No. 08-1466, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 10152, at *4 (10th Cir. May 11, 2009) (unpublished) (quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978)). Regarding the claims at issue here, Judge Lyon very well may have been acting in his judicial capacity in presiding over this case, so his actions would be entitled to absolute immunity. See Doran v. Sanchez, No. 08-2042, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 17987, at *2 (10th Cir. Aug. 19, 2008) (unpublished). Moreover, a prosecutor acting within the scope of his duties enjoys absolute immunity from suit under § 1983. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 424 (1976). Sanders's acts, as alleged by Plaintiff, appear to relate to his advocacy before the court. This defendant therefore may be entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity from this lawsuit. Finally, to establish the liability of municipal entities, such as Weber County, under Section 1983, "a plaintiff must show (1) the existence of a municipal custom or policy and (2) a direct causal link between the custom or policy and the violation alleged." Jenkins v. Wood, 81 F.3d 988, 993-94 (10th Cir. 1996) (citing City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989)). Municipal entities cannot be held liable under § 1983 based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. See Cannon v. City and County of Denver, 998 F.2d 867, 877 (10th Cir. 1993); see also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). 4 Plaintiff has not so far established a direct causal link between his alleged injuries and any custom or policy of Weber County. Thus, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's Complaint, as it stands, appears to fail to state claims against Weber County. ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED: (1) Plaintiff must within thirty days cure the deficiencies noted above. (2) The Clerk's Office shall mail Plaintiff a copy of the Pro Se Litigant Guide. (3) If Plaintiff fails to timely cure the above deficiencies according to this Order's instructions, this action will be dismissed without further notice. DATED this 21st day of November, 2013. BY THE COURT: Clark Waddoups United States District Judge 5