United States District Court, D. New Mexico
BENJAMIN W. FAWLEY, Plaintiff,
LEA COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, et. al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Civil
Rights Complaint, filed January 29, 2019. (Doc. 1). Also
before the Court are his motions seeking to present
additional evidence and allegations (Docs. 3-5; 7-8; and 10).
Plaintiff is incarcerated and appears pro se. Having
reviewed the matter sua sponte under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the Court will deny all motions, dismiss the
Complaint, and grant leave to amend.
is incarcerated at the Lea County Correctional Facility
(LCCF). He argues at least 18 Defendants violated his
constitutional rights. Although the allegations are difficult
to discern, his primary claim appears to concern undelivered
mail. (Doc. 1) at 3-5. Plaintiff alleges prison officials
failed to send outgoing legal documents, even after he paid
all appropriate fees. Id. at 4-5. The documents
included a summons and other forms necessary to effectuate
service in Plaintiff's state tort action, No.
D-506-CV-2017-0989. Id. at 5. It purportedly cost
hundreds of dollars to re-serve the state defendants.
Id. at 7. Plaintiff argues the undelivered mail
caused the state judge to dismiss his case. Id.
However, elsewhere in the Complaint, he alleges the judge was
biased and opposing counsel committed misconduct.
Id. at 9; 14-15.
filed a grievance regarding the undelivered mail, but LCCF
officials Valeriano and/or Foster allegedly mishandled the
grievance process. (Doc. 1) at 12-13. According to Plaintiff,
they either ignored him or maintained that mishandled mail is
not actionable. Id. Plaintiff further alleges D.
Burris, LCCF's legal access officer, committed
misconduct. Specifically, Burris restricted his access to
photocopies; inappropriately enforced rules against pro
se litigants; required Plaintiff to effectuate some type
of service; and made inappropriate legal decisions.
Id. at 14-15; 22. It is not clear whether, and to
what extent, Burris was involved in the grievance process or
the mail issues.
Complaint also raises a due process claim based on
confiscated property. Plaintiff alleges Foster confiscated
his bedding, a cable splitter, hygiene products, legal
documents, and colored pencils. Id. at 17-18.
Thereafter, Plaintiff was unable to shower for three days.
Id. at 17. The Complaint does not specify why Foster
confiscated the property or whether this alleged issue
relates to the other claims. Plaintiff eventually recovered
most of his personal items, but his legal documents were
never returned. Id. at 17-18. The documents pertain
to four cases: D-506-CV-2017-0989 (the state tort action
referenced above); 18-cv-1139 WJ/SCY (removed federal
action); 18-cv-943 MV/CG (federal habeas petition); and CL
18-291 (citation unclear). Id. at 17. Plaintiff
finally alleges prison officials deprived him of meals for
some unspecified period. Id. at 4.
Complaint appears to raise claims under the First Amendment
Clause (access to courts); the Due Process Clause; the Equal
Protection Clause; the New Mexico Tort Claims Act; and state
common law (fraud). (Doc. 1) at 20-22. The Complaint names 18
defendants: (1) LCCF; (2) Geo Group, Inc; (3) Warden R.C.
Smith; (4) Former Warden Sims; (5) Legal Access Officer
Burris; (6) Mail Officer Pena; (7) Corrections Director
German Franco; (8) Corrections Secretary David Jablonski; and
(9-18) John/Jane Doe 1 Through 10. Id. at 1.
Plaintiff also filed various motions/supplemental pleadings,
which primarily seek to amplify his existing allegations and
evidence. (Docs. 3-5; 7-8; and 10).
Screening the Complaint
Court has discretion to dismiss a prisoner civil rights
complaint sua sponte “if the complaint
… is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b). To survive initial review, the plaintiff must frame
a complaint that contains “sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“A claim has facial plausibility 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. Because Plaintiff is
pro se, his allegations are “construed
liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall v.
Bellman, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). At the
same time, however, it is not “the proper function of
the district court to assume the role of advocate for the
pro se litigant.” Id.
these standards, the Complaint does not survive initial
review, for several reasons. First, the pleadings do not
comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Rule 8 requires a short and
plain statement of the grounds for relief. The Complaint here
consists of 25 handwritten pages, some of which are
illegible, and 190 pages of exhibits. Plaintiff later
submitted two supplemental pleadings, which contain almost 90
pages of facts and exhibits. (Docs. 11 and 12). His
discovery-type motions also contain over 130 pages of
additional allegations and exhibits. (Docs. 3-5; 7; and 10).
“It is not the role of … the court … to
sort through a lengthy … complaint and voluminous
exhibits … to construct plaintiff's causes of
action.” McNamara v. Brauchler, 570 Fed.
App'x 741, 743 (10th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted).
See also Pola v. Utah, 2012 WL 292272, * 1 (10th
Cir. Feb. 1, 2012) (affirming dismissal of complaint that
“included everything but the kitchen sink”).
Allowing such pleadings to survive screening “would
force the Defendants to carefully comb through more than a
hundred pages to ascertain which … pertinent
allegations to which a response is warranted.”
Id. Hence, the Complaint is subject to dismissal
under Rule 8.
extent some claims are discernable, the Complaint also fails
to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “A cause
of action under section 1983 requires the deprivation of a
civil right by a ‘person' acting under color of
state law.” McLaughlin v. Bd. of Trustees, 215
F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2000). The plaintiff must allege
that each government official, through the official's own
individual actions, has personally violated the Constitution.
See Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir.
1998). The Complaint here fails to clearly specify how each
defendant was involved in the alleged wrongdoing. Moreover,
LCCF is not subject to liability, see Buchanan v.
Okla., 398 Fed. App'x 339, 342 (10th Cir. 2010), and
most remaining Defendants are entities or prison supervisors.
Generally, private entities and supervisors are only liable
if they promulgated a policy that caused a deprivation of
constitutional rights. See Hinton v. City of Elwood,
Kan., 997 F.2d 774, 782 (10th Cir. 1993); Dodd v.
Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1195 (10th Cir. 2010).
Plaintiff has not alleged facts showing any Defendant acted
pursuant to prison policy.
these reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint but grant
leave to amend a single amended complaint within thirty (30)
days of entry of this Order. The amended complaint must
“make clear exactly who is alleged to have
done what to whom, to provide each individual with
fair notice as to the basis of the claim against him or
her.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242,
1249-50 (10th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in the original). The
amended complaint must also specify the circumstances
surrounding the undelivered mail; the property seizure, any
alleged deprivations of hygiene products or processes; and
whether the defendants had a culpable state of mind. If
Plaintiff declines to timely file an amended complaint or
files an amended complaint that similarly fails to state a
cognizable federal claim, the Court will dismiss the case
without further notice.
filed the following motions in ...