McConnell v. Alfonso
ORDER Directing Applicant to File Amended Complaint, by Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland on 3/26/12. (lygsl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 12-cv-00206-BNB
FRANKIE L. MCCONNELL,
ORDER DIRECTING APPLICANT TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Frankie L. McConnell, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado
Department of Corrections who currently is incarcerated at the La Vista Correctional
Facility in Pueblo, Colorado. Ms. McConnell filed pro se a Prisoner Complaint pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Ms. McConnell has been granted leave to proceed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915 without payment of an initial partial filing fee.
The Court must construe Ms. McConnell’s filings liberally because she 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, Ms. McConnell will be ordered to file an amended complaint.
In her discussion of the nature of the case, Ms. McConnell generally alleges that
the defendant, Christine Alfonso, falsely charged her with four disciplinary violations,
each apparently resulting in a disciplinary conviction. She then asserts three claims,
only one of which – claim two – alleges a constitutional violation, and none of which
clearly supports her assertion of false charges in the nature-of-the-case discussion.
Instead, Ms. McConnell’s individual claims are vague and conclusory, making confusing
references, e.g., to a strip search in claim one; having a bottle of lotion thrown at her in
claim two; and receiving a write-up based on Ms. Alfonso’s getting baby oil on Plaintiff’s
clothes and papers in claim three.
As relief, Ms. McConnell asks for both money damages and the restoration of her
good-time and earned-time credits, the latter of which constitutes relief available in a
habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 but not available in a § 1983 civil
rights action. Generally, a prisoner’s challenge to her conditions of confinement is
cognizable in a civil rights action. See, e.g., Richards v. Bellmon, 941 F.2d 1015, 1018
(10th Cir. 1991). If Ms. McConnell wishes to pursue habeas corpus claims for the
restoration of good-time and earned-time credits, she may do so by filing a separate
action using the Court’s § 2241 habeas corpus application form.
Although Ms. McConnell may pursue her conditions-of-confinement claims in this
action, the Court finds that those claims do 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). 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 the requirements of Rule 8.
Ms. McConnell fails to provide a short and plain statement of her claims showing
that she is entitled to relief. In order to state a claim in federal court, she “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). Therefore, Ms. McConnell will be ordered
to file an amended complaint that provides a short and plain statement of the
conditions-of-confinement claims she wishes to pursue in this action, and asserts what,
if any, constitutional rights she believes were violated.
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, Ms. McConnell 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 defendant may not be held liable on a theory
of respondeat superior merely because of his or her supervisory position. See Pembaur
v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986); McKee v. Heggy, 703 F.2d 479, 483
(10th Cir. 1983). A supervisor is only liable for constitutional violations that he or she
causes. See Dodds v. Richardson, 614 F.3d 1185, 1211 (10th Cir. 2010).
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Plaintiff, Frankie L. McConnell, file, within thirty (30) days from
the date of this order, an amended Prisoner Complaint that complies with the pleading
requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) as discussed in this order. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that Ms. McConnell shall obtain the Court-approved
Prisoner Complaint form (with the assistance of her case manager or the facility’s legal
assistant), along with the applicable instructions, at www.cod.uscourts.gov. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that, if Ms. McConnell fails to file an amended Prisoner
Complaint that complies with the directives of this order within the time allowed, the
complaint and the action will be dismissed without further notice.
DATED March 26, 2012, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Boyd N. Boland
United States Magistrate Judge
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