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Havens v. State

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 11, 2014

DARRELL HAVENS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF COLORADO, RICK RAEMISCH, TOM CLEMENTS, ARISTEDES ZAVARES, DAVID JOHNSON, COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ROSA FRAYER, and DENVER RECEPTION AND DIAGNOSTIC CENTER, Defendants.

ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT

GORDON P. GALLAGHER, Magistarte Judge.

Plaintiff Darrell Havens is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections and currently is incarcerated at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center in Denver, Colorado. Mr. Havens, acting pro se, initiated this action by filing a Prisoner Complaint alleging that his constitutional rights were violated.

The Court must construe the Complaint liberally because Mr. Havens is a pro se litigant. 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 act as a pro se litigant's advocate. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, Mr. Havens will be ordered to file an Amended Complaint and assert how all named parties violated his constitutional rights.

First, Plaintiff's handwriting is not legible because he has failed to leave sufficient space between each line, which makes understanding his handwritten allegations difficult. Pursuant to Rule 10.1(e) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, Plaintiff is required to double space all documents.

Second, 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). 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.

Claims must be presented clearly and concisely in a manageable format that allows a court and a defendant to know what claims are being asserted and to be able to respond to those claims. New Home Appliance Ctr., Inc., v. Thompson, 250 F.2d 881, 883 (10th Cir. 1957). For the purposes of Rule 8(a), "[i]t is sufficient, and indeed all that is permissible, if the complaint concisely states facts upon which relief can be granted upon any legally sustainable basis." Id.

The Court has reviewed the Complaint and finds that Plaintiff fails to provide a short and plain statement of his claims in compliance with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff's claims are conclusory and vague and fail to state how each named defendant violated his rights.

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, however, will give Plaintiff an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in the Complaint by submitting an Amended Complaint that meets the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.

Plaintiff is required to assert personal participation by each named defendant in the alleged constitutional violation. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976). To establish personal participation, Plaintiff must show in the Cause of Action section of the complaint form how each named individual 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).

Furthermore, to state a claim in federal court Plaintiff must explain (1) what a defendant did to him; (2) when the defendant did it; (3) how the defendant's action harmed him; and (4) what specific legal right the defendant violated. Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007).

A defendant also 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). Furthermore,

when a plaintiff sues an official under Bivens 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.

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.

Also, Defendants State of Colorado, Colorado Department of Corrections, and Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center are immune from suit. The State of Colorado and its agencies are protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1525-26 (10th Cir. 1988). "It is well established that absent an unmistakable waiver by the state of its Eleventh Amendment immunity, or an unmistakable abrogation of such immunity by Congress, the amendment provides absolute immunity from suit in federal courts for states and their agencies." Ramirez v. Oklahoma Dep't of Mental Health, 41 F.3d 584, 588 (10th Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Ellis v. University of Kan. Medical Center, 163 F.3d 1186, 1194-97 (10th Cir. 1998). The State of Colorado has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Griess v. Colorado, 841 F.2d 1042, 1044-45 (10th Cir. 1988), and congressional enactment of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 340-345 (1979).

The Eleventh Amendment, however, does not bar a federal court action so long as the plaintiff seeks in substance only prospective relief and not retrospective relief for alleged violations of federal law, but Plaintiff must assert a claim for prospective relief against individual state officers. Verizon Maryland v. Public Service Commission of Maryland, 535 U.S. 635, 645 (2002) (quoting Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 296 (1997)); Hill v. Kemp, 478 F.3d 1236 (10th Cir. 2007). Defendants State of Colorado and Colorado Department of Corrections, therefore, are improper party to this action.

Plaintiff is directed to file a legible Amended Complaint. Accordingly, it is

ORDERED that Mr. Havens file within thirty days from the date of this Order an Amended Complaint that is in keeping with the above directives. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Havens shall obtain the Court-approved Prisoner Complaint form (with the assistance of his case manager or the facility's legal assistant), along with the applicable instructions, at www.cod.uscourts.gov. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that if Mr. Havens fails within the time allowed to file an Amended Complaint that complies with this Order, to the Court's satisfaction, the Court will dismiss the action without further notice. It is FURTHER ORDERED that process shall not issue until further order of the Court.


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