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Stults v. Mesa County Detention Facility

United States District Court, District of Colorado

November 4, 2014

EARL LYNN STULTS, Plaintiff,
v.
MESA COUNTY DETENTION FACILITY, 215 Rice Street, Grand Junction, CO 81502, Defendant.

ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO CURE DEFICIENCIES AND FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT THAT COMPLIES WITH RULE 8

Boyd N. Boland United States Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff, Earl Lynn Stults, is incarcerated at the Mesa County Detention Facility in Grand Junction, Colorado. Mr. Stults initiated this action by filing pro se a Prisoner Complaint (ECF No. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As part of the Court’s review pursuant to D.C.COLO.LCivR 8.1(b), the Court has determined that the Prisoner Complaint is deficient as described in this order. Plaintiff will be directed to cure the following if he wishes to pursue his claims. Any papers that Plaintiff files in response to this order must include the civil action number noted above in the caption of this order.

28 U.S.C. § 1915 Motion and Affidavit:

(1)_X_ is not submitted (must use the Court’s current Prisoner’s Motion and Affidavit for Leave to Proceed Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 form revised 10/01/12 with Authorization and Certificate of Prison Official)

(2)___ is missing affidavit

(3) _X_ is missing certified copy of prisoner's trust fund statement for the 6-month period immediately preceding this filing

(4) ___is missing certificate showing current balance in prison account

(5) ___is missing required financial information

(6) ___is missing an original signature by the prisoner

(7) ___is not on proper form

(8) ___names in caption do not match names in caption of complaint, petition or habeas application

(9) ___An original and a copy have not been received by the Court. Only an original has been received.

(10) _X_ other: Plaintiff may pay $400.00 (the $350.00 filing fee plus a $50.00 administrative fee) in lieu of filing a § 1915 Motion and Affidavit and a certified copy of his six months’ trust fund statement.

Complaint, Petition or Application:

(11) _X_ is not submitted (on the complete Prisoner Complaint form)

(12) ___is not on proper form

(13) _X_ is missing an original signature by the prisoner

(14) ___is missing page no.

(15) ___uses et al. instead of listing all parties in caption

(16) ___An original and a copy have not been received by the Court. Only an original has been received.

(17) ___Sufficient copies to serve each defendant/respondent have not been received by the Court.

(18) _X_ names in caption do not match names in text (Plaintiff names Mesa County Detention Facility in caption to Prisoner Complaint and Grace Farrell, RN, Health Services Admin. in the text of the Prisoner Complaint)

(19) ___other:

The Court must construe the Prisoner Complaint liberally because Mr. Stults is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not be an advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, Mr. Stults will be ordered to file an amended Prisoner Complaint if he wishes to pursue his claims in this action.

Mr. Stults may not sue the Mesa County Detention Facility. The Mesa County Detention Facility is not a separate entity from Mesa County and, therefore, is not a person under § 1983. See Stump v. Gates, 777 F.Supp. 808, 814-16 (D. Colo. 1991), aff'd, 986 F.2d 1429 (10th Cir. 1993). Any claims asserted against the detention facility must be considered as asserted against Mesa County.

In addition, municipalities, such as Mesa County, and municipal entities are not liable under § 1983 solely because their employees inflict injury on a plaintiff. Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Hinton v. City of Elwood, Kan., 997 F.2d 774, 782 (10th Cir. 1993). To establish liability, a plaintiff must show that a policy or custom exists and that there is a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the injury alleged. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989). Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief against El Paso County under § 1983 merely by pointing to isolated incidents. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.

Mr. Stults complains that he is disabled, wheelchair bound, and not receiving the medical treatment he needs. He fails to make a request for relief, although he appears to seek his transfer to a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital for medical treatment. However, he attaches to the Prisoner Complaint a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs stating that he is eligible to VA healthcare once released from incarceration, but prohibited from receiving clinical treatment from a VA Medical Center while incarcerated. See ECF No. 1 at 12.

The amended Prisoner Complaint Mr. Stults will be directed to file must comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing parties fair notice of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond and to allow the court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. American Cemetery Ass’n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). The requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 are designed to meet these purposes. See TV Communications Network, Inc. v. ESPN, Inc., 767 F.Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991), aff’d, 964 F.2d 1022 (10th Cir. 1992). Specifically, Rule 8(a) provides that a complaint “must 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.” The philosophy of Rule 8(a) is reinforced by Rule 8(d)(1), which provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Taken together, Rules 8(a) and (d)(1) underscore the emphasis placed on clarity and brevity by the federal pleading rules. Prolix, vague, or unintelligible pleadings violate Rule 8.

In order to state a claim in federal court, Mr. Stults “must explain what each defendant did to him or her; when the defendant did it; how the defendant’s action harmed him or her; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007). The general rule that pro se pleadings must be construed liberally has limits and “the court cannot take on the responsibility of serving as the litigant’s attorney in constructing arguments and searching the record.” Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005).

Section 1983 “provides a federal cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of his federal rights.” Conn v. Gabbert, 526 U.S. 286, 290 (1999); see also Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992) (“[T]he purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights and to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails.”). Therefore, Mr. Stults should name as defendants in the amended Prisoner Complaint only those persons that he contends actually violated his federal constitutional rights.

Personal participation is an essential allegation in a civil rights action. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976). To establish personal participation, Mr. Stults must show that each defendant caused the deprivation of a federal right. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant’s participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993). Supervisory officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates on a theory of respondeat superior. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Instead,

when a plaintiff sues an official under Bivens [v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), ] or § 1983 for conduct “arising from his or her superintendent responsibilities, ” the plaintiff must plausibly plead and eventually prove not only that the official’s subordinates violated the Constitution, but that the official by virtue of his own conduct and state of mind did so as well.

See Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1198 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677). Therefore, in order to succeed in a § 1983 suit against a government official for conduct that arises out of his or her supervisory responsibilities, a plaintiff must allege and demonstrate that: “(1) the defendant promulgated, created, implemented or possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a policy that (2)caused the complained of constitutional harm, and (3) acted with the state of mind required to establish the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Id. at 1199.

Mr. Stults may use fictitious names, such as “John or Jane Doe, ” if he does not know the real names of the individuals who allegedly violated his rights. However, if Mr. Stults uses fictitious names he must provide sufficient information about each defendant so that he or she can be identified for purposes of service.

Finally, Mr. Stults’ handwriting is hard to read. Mr. Stults is advised that Rule 10.1 of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court requires that all papers filed in cases in this Court be double-spaced and legible. See D.C.COLO.LCivR 10.1E. and G. The amended Prisoner Complaint Mr. Stults will be directed to file, whether handwritten or typed, shall be double-spaced and legible, in capital and lower-case letters, in compliance with D.C.COLO.LCivR 10.1E. and G.

A decision to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 8 is within the trial court’s sound discretion. See Atkins v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 967 F.2d 1197, 1203 (8th Cir. 1992); Gillibeau v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969). The Court finds that the Prisoner Complaint does not meet the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. Mr. Stults will be given an opportunity to cure the deficiencies by submitting an amended Prisoner Complaint that sues the proper parties, states claims clearly and concisely in compliance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, and alleges specific facts that demonstrate how each named defendant personally participated in the asserted constitutional violations. The Court will not consider any claims raised in separate attachments, amendments, supplements, motions, or other documents not included in the amended Prisoner Complaint.

Mr. Stults is warned that, even if the Court dismisses the instant action without prejudice for failure to comply with this order, the dismissal may bar recovery if Mr.Stults seeks to refile in this Court because the two-year limitations periods may have run on his § 1983 claims.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED that Plaintiff, Earl Lynn Stults, cure the designated deficiencies and file within thirty (30) days from the date of this order an amended Prisoner Complaint that complies with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as discussed in this order. Any papers that Plaintiff files in response to this order must include the civil action number on this order. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall obtain (with the assistance of his case manager or the facility’s legal assistant) the Court-approved forms for filing a Prisoner’s Motion and Affidavit for Leave to Proceed Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and Prisoner Complaint, along with the applicable instructions, at www.cod.uscourts.gov, and shall use those forms in curing the designated deficiencies and filing an amended Prisoner Complaint. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that, if Plaintiff fails to cure the designated deficiencies or file an amended Prisoner Complaint as directed within thirty days from the date of this order, certain claims against certain defendants, or the entire Prisoner Complaint and action, may be dismissed without further notice.


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