Hodson v. District Court, Weld County et al
ORDER Directing Plaintiff to File Amended Complaint, by Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland on 11/06/2012. (skssl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 12-cv-02668-BNB
TRAVIS STEWART HODSON,
JAMES R. HARTMAN,
KENNETH R. BUCK,
GABE REIMER, and
THOMAS JAMES QUAMMEN,
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Travis Stewart Hodson, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado
Department of Corrections who currently is incarcerated at the correctional facility in
Buena Vista, Colorado. Mr. Hodson initiated this action by filing pro se a civil rights
complaint asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that his rights to due process
and to be free of cruel and unusual punishment under the United States Constitution
have been violated. He has paid the $350.00 filing fee.
The Court must construe the Prisoner Complaint liberally because Mr. Hodson 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. Hodson will be ordered to file an amended complaint if he wishes to pursue
his claims in this action.
The Court has reviewed the Prisoner Complaint and finds that 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). 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.
First, Mr. Hodson is suing an improper party. Regardless of the relief sought,
Plaintiff may not sue the Weld County District Court. The State of Colorado and its
entities 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), overrruled on other grounds by Ellis v. University of Kansas Med.
Ctr., 163 F.3d 1186 (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 § 1983 did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment
immunity, see Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 340-345 (1979). The Eleventh
Amendment applies to all suits against the state and its agencies, regardless of the
relief sought. See Higganbotham v. Okla. Transp. Comm'n, 328 F.3d 638, 644 (10th
Mr. Hodson asserts four interrelated claims. As his first claim, he complains that,
during his criminal trial proceedings, Defendants ordered his placement in the Colorado
State Hospital for an involuntary mental-health evaluation, despite the fact he did not
claim to be mentally challenged or wish to claim insanity. As his second claim, he
complains about his placement in a special unit at the Weld County Jail under a mentalhealth watch. In his third claim, he complains that, as part of the criminal case against
him, he was required to submit to a pre-sentence investigation report and, on
sentencing, he was placed on a mental-health probation requiring him to take
medication or risk revocation of parole. As his fourth and final claim, he complains of
excessive force for being subjected to a psychological evaluation. He also complains
he was falsely arrested and that the evidence during his state-court trial was fabricated.
He apparently is suing the district court where he was convicted, court employees, and
other individuals involved in his criminal proceedings. He asks for declaratory relief and
In order to state a claim in federal court, Mr. Hodson “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).
Mr. Hodson also is advised that § 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. Hodson should name as
defendants in his amended 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. Hodson 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). With respect to supervisory officials, a defendant
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).
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. Hodson’s claims for money damages based on an alleged false arrest, the
fabrication of evidence at his criminal trial, and his sentencing as it pertains to his
current incarceration, may be barred by the rule in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477
(1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court held that if a judgment for damages favorable to a
prisoner in a § 1983 action necessarily would imply the invalidity of his criminal
conviction or sentence, the § 1983 action does not arise until the conviction or sentence
has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by
an authorized state tribunal, or called into question by the issuance of a federal habeas
writ. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Mr. Hodson does not allege that he has
invalidated his conviction or sentence that pertain to the incident at issue. Therefore, the
claims for damages challenging the validity of his criminal conviction may be barred by
Mr. Hodson’s sole federal remedy to challenge his criminal conviction or obtain
his release from incarceration is a writ of habeas corpus, after he has exhausted state
court remedies. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 504 (1973). The Court will not
consider the merits of any habeas corpus claims in this civil rights action.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Plaintiff, Travis Stewart Hodson, 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 Mr. Hodson 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, and use that form in
submitting the amended complaint. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that, if Mr. Hodson fails to file an amended Prisoner
Complaint that complies with this order within the time allowed, the complaint and the
action will be dismissed without further notice.
DATED November 6, 2012, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Boyd N. Boland
United States Magistrate Judge
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