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Thompson v. Burns

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 21, 2014

Thad Jarvis Thompson, Plaintiff,
v.
Unknown Burns, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

STEVEN P. LOGAN, District Judge

On August 20, 2013, Plaintiff Thad Jarvis Thompson, who is confined in the Halawa Correctional Facility in Aiea, Hawaii, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a March 3, 2014 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to state a claim. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On March 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 10). The Court will dismiss the First Amended Complaint with leave to amend.

I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading 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) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam )).

If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) ( en banc ). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because it may possibly be amended to state a claim, the Court will dismiss it with leave to amend.

II. First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff names Disciplinary Hearing Officer Burns and Investigator Williamson as Defendants in the First Amended Complaint. Plaintiff raises one claim for relief in which he alleges his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when Defendant Burns denied Plaintiff the opportunity to appeal disciplinary sanctions and when Defendant Williamson denied him "the option of investigating my denial of appealing disciplinary sanction." Plaintiff alleges that his disciplinary conviction resulted in his being confined in disciplinary housing where his conditions of confinement included: 23-hour lockdown, solitary confinement, no access to commissary items, frequent wake-up checks, 24-hour lighting, and limited exercise. Plaintiff contends that these conditions were atypical.

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and money damages.

III. Failure to State a Claim

Where, as in this case, an inmate claims that a protected liberty interest has been implicated by atypical and significant sanctions, the inmate must then specify what due process safeguard he was denied, and by whom. "Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a ...


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