Civil Action No. 14-cv-01207-BNB
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Sirrlove Reese Williams, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections who is incarcerated at the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has filed pro se a Prisoner Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 10) for money damages and injunctive relief. Mr. Williams has been granted leave to proceed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
The Court must construe liberally the Prisoner Complaint Mr. Williams submitted because he 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. Williams will be directed to file an amended Prisoner Complaint.
The Prisoner Complaint does not 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). 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.
Mr. Williams' complaint is vague, verbose, rambling and, at times, unintelligible. For example, he combines various constitutional violations in the space provided for a single claim without identifying which allegations constitute which constitutional violation. He unnecessarily repeats claims, such as his claims that he is being forced to watch Christian movies even though he is not a Christian and is only being allowed six hours of sleep a night. His eighth claim has no supporting factual allegations. He names individuals in the text of the Prisoner Complaint who are not listed in the caption as parties to this action.
Mr. Williams fails to assert his claims in a manner that is clear and concise and allows the Court and each defendant to understand and respond to each asserted claim. Generally, Mr. Williams fails to provide "a generalized statement of the facts from which the defendant may form a responsive pleading." 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 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).
It is Mr. Williams' responsibility to present his claims in a manageable and readable format that allows the Court and the defendants to know what claims are being asserted and to be able to respond to those claims. Mr. Williams must allege, simply and concisely, his specific claims for relief, including the specific rights that allegedly have been violated and the specific acts of each defendant that allegedly violated his rights. The Court does not require a long, chronological recitation of facts. Nor should the Court or defendants be required to sift through Mr. Williams' verbose allegations to determine the heart of each claim.
The Prisoner Complaint also is deficient because Mr. Williams fails to allege facts that demonstrate each of the named defendants personally participated in the asserted constitutional violations. In order to state a claim in federal court, Mr. Williams "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).
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. Williams should name as defendants in his 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. Williams 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). A supervisory official, such Assistant Warden Murry, 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.
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. Williams 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. Williams uses fictitious names he must provide sufficient information about each defendant so that he or she can be identified for purposes of service.
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. Williams will be given an opportunity to cure the deficiencies by submitting an amended Prisoner Complaint that 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.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Plaintiff, Sirrlove Reese Williams, within thirty (30) days from the date of this order file an amended Prisoner Complaint that complies with this order. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that the amended Prisoner Complaint shall be titled "Amended Prisoner Complaint," and shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court, United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Alfred A. Arraj United States Courthouse, 901 Nineteenth Street, A105, Denver, Colorado 80294. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Williams shall obtain the Court-approved Prisoner Complaint form, along with the applicable instructions, at www.cod.uscourts.gov, and use that form in submitting the amended Prisoner Complaint. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that, if Mr. Williams fails to file an amended Prisoner Complaint that complies with this order within the time allowed, some or all claims and defendants or the entire action may be dismissed without further notice for the reasons stated above. DATED at Denver, Colorado, this 3rd day of July, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
Craig B. Shaffer
United States Magistrate Judge