Needham v. State of Utah et al, No. 2:2015cv00250 - Document 32 (D. Utah 2017)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER: Plaintiff must within thirty days cure the Third Amended Complaint's deficiencies noted. The Clerk's Office shall mail plaintiff a copy of the Pro Se Litigant Guide with a form complaint and habe as petition for Plaintiff to use should he choose to file another amended complaint or a habeas corpus petition. If Plaintiff fails to timely cure the above deficiencies according to this Order's instructions, this action will be dismissed without further notice. Denying 31 Motion for Service by Publication. Signed by Judge Clark Waddoups on 03/08/2017. (kpf)
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Needham v. State of Utah et al Doc. 32 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH AARON DAVID TRENT NEEDHAM, Plaintiff, ORDER & MEMORANDUM DECISION v. Case No. 2:15-CV-250-CW STATE OF UTAH et al., Defendants. District Judge Clark Waddoups Plaintiff, inmate Aaron Needham, filed this pro se civil rights suit, see 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2017), in forma pauperis, see 28 id. § 1915. The Court now screens his Third Amended Complaint and orders Plaintiff to file a fourth amended complaint to cure deficiencies before further pursuing his claims. A. Deficiencies in Third Amended Complaint Third Amended Complaint: (a) 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 civil-rights complaint. (b) inappropriately alleges civil-rights violations on a respondeat-superior theory. (c) does not affirmatively link several of the defendants to civil-rights violations. (d) alleges claims that are possibly invalidated by the rule in Heck (see below). (e) appears to involve claims that are past the statute of limitations for a civil-rights case (see below). Dockets.Justia.com (f) possibly attempts to state claims of inadequate medical treatment by Department of Corrections personnel; however provides neither necessary factual details nor links any such possible claims to specific defendants. (g) states crimes by Defendants must be redressed; however, a federal civil-rights is not the proper place to address criminal behavior. (h) does not state a proper legal-access claim (see below). (i) alleges conspiracy claims that are too vague (see below). (j) brings civil-rights claims against several private individuals and entities, who are not properly named, as they are not state actors. (k) alleges professional-misconduct violations, which may not be addressed in a civilrights complaint. (l) improperly names "State of Utah" as a defendant, though there is no showing that it has waived its governmental immunity (see below). (m) appears not to have been prepared with help from the prison’s contract attorneys. B. 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, 2 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 supersedes 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 (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). 3 • Heck 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 may regarding some claims. If this Court were to conclude that Plaintiff's constitutional rights 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 apparently not happened and may result in dismissal of such claims. 4 • Statute of Limitations "Utah's four-year residual statute of limitations . . . governs suits brought under section 1983.” Fratus v. DeLand, 49 F.3d 673, 675 (10th Cir. 1995). Plaintiff's claims accrued when "'facts that would support a cause of action are or should be apparent.'” Id. at 675 (citation omitted.) Some of the circumstances underlying these claims appear to have occurred more than four years before this case was filed. • Legal Access Next, the Court notes that Plaintiff's claims may involve legal access. As Plaintiff fashions his amended complaint, he should therefore keep in mind that it is well-recognized that prison inmates "have a constitutional right to 'adequate, effective, and meaningful' access to the courts and that the states have 'affirmative obligations' to assure all inmates such access." Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 583 (10th Cir. 1980). In Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), the Supreme Court expounded on the obligation to provide access to the Courts by stating "the fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Id. at 828 (footnote omitted & emphasis added). However, to successfully assert a constitutional claim for denial of access to the courts, a plaintiff must allege not only the inadequacy of the library or legal assistance furnished but also "that the denial of legal resources hindered [the plaintiff's] efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous claim." Penrod v. Zavaras, 84 F.3d 1399, 1403 (10th Cir. 1996) (emphasis added); Carper v. Deland, 54 F.3d 613, 616 (10th Cir. 1995). In other words, a plaintiff must show "that any 5 denial or delay of access to the court prejudiced him in pursuing litigation." Treff v. Galetka, 74 F.3d 191, 194 (10th Cir. 1996). Moreover, the non-frivolous litigation involved must be "habeas corpus or civil rights actions regarding current confinement." Carper, 54 F.3d at 616; accord Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353-55 (1996). • Conspiracy As to Plaintiff's conspiracy claim, he "must specifically plead 'facts tending to show agreement and concerted action.'" Beedle v. Wilson, 422 F.3d 1059, 1073 (10th Cir. 2005) (quoting Sooner Prods. Co. v. McBride, 708 F.2d 510, 512 (10th Cir. 1983)). Plaintiff has not met this responsibility in his current complaint; his vague assertions that multiple people lied to effect his illegal arrest and incarceration, and, therefore, a conspiracy must be involved, are not enough. He must assert more detail to pursue this claim further. • Immunity Regarding claims that have been made against the State, generally, the Eleventh Amendment prevents "suits against a state unless it has waived its immunity or consented to suit, or if Congress has validly abrogated the state's immunity." Ray v. McGill, No. CIV-06-0334-HE, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51632, at *8 (W.D. Okla. July 26, 2006) (unpublished) (citing Lujan v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 60 F.3d 1511, 1522 (10th Cir. 1995); Eastwood v. Dep't of Corrs., 846 F.2d 627, 631 (10th Cir. 1988)). Plaintiff asserts no basis for determining that the State has waived its immunity or that it has been abrogated by Congress. Because any claims against the State appear to be precluded by Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Court believes it has no subject-matter jurisdiction to consider them. See id. at *9. 6 ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: (1) Plaintiff must within thirty days cure the Third Amended Complaint’s deficiencies noted above. (2) The Clerk's Office shall mail Plaintiff a copy of the Pro Se Litigant Guide with a form complaint and habeas petition for Plaintiff to use should he choose to file another amended complaint or a habeas-corpus petition. (3) If Plaintiff fails to timely cure the above deficiencies according to this Order's instructions, this action will be dismissed without further notice. (4) Plaintiff's service of the complaint DENIED, (see Docket Entry # 31); there is no valid complaint on file to be served at this time. Further, no motion for service of process is necessary in this case, in which the Court is required by statute to screen the complaint sua sponte to determine whether to serve it. See 28 U.S.C.S. § 1915A (2017). DATED this 8th day of March, 2017. BY THE COURT: JUDGE CLARK WADDOUPS United States District Court 7