Vaughan v. Berkbile et al
ORDER Directing Plaintiff To File Amended Complaint, by Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland on 07/10/13. (nmmsl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 13-cv-01727-BNB
D. BERKEBILE, Warden, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and
RANGEL, Unit Manager, Federal Bureau of Prisons,
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Ronnie Vaughn, is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and
is incarcerated at the ADX in Florence, Colorado. He has filed pro se two identical
Prisoner Complaints for money damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unlnown Named
Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Mr. Vaughn has been
granted leave to proceed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 with payment of an initial partial
The Court must construe liberally the Complaint because Mr. Vaughn 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. Vaughn will be directed to file an amended complaint.
The Court has reviewed Mr. Vaughn’s Complaint and finds that it 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.” Prolix, vague, or unintelligible
pleadings violate Rule 8.
Moreover, in order for Mr. Vaughn to state a claim in federal court, his "complaint
must explain what each defendant did to him . . . ; when the defendant did it; how the
defendant’s action harmed him . . . ; 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).
Mr. Vaughn’s handwriting is difficult to read and, as a consequence, the Court
cannot discern most of his allegations. Rule 10.1 of the Local Rules of Practice for this
Court requires that all papers filed in cases in this Court be double-spaced and legible.
See D.C.COLO.LCivR 10.1E. and G. The Court can ascertain from the Complaint only
that Plaintiff is alleging that the Defendants failed to follow BOP administrative
regulations in connection with providing him a copy of the report of the Disciplinary
Hearing Officer (DHO) and refused to reinstate Plaintiff to a step-down program after his
incident report was expunged by the DHO.
As a result of his generally illegible handwriting, Mr. Vaughn 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.
Mr. Vaughn must present his claim or 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. Vaughn must make legible allegations of
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
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).
In the amended complaint he will be directed to file, Mr. Vaughn also must
assert personal participation by each named defendant. See Bennett v. Passic, 545
F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976). To establish personal participation, Mr. Vaughn
must demonstrate how each named defendant caused a deprivation of his federal
rights. 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). Supervisors can only be held liable for their own
misconduct. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). A supervisor cannot
incur liability under § 1983 for his mere knowledge of a subordinate's wrongdoing. Id.;
see also Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008) (“[Section] 1983
does not recognize a concept of strict supervisor liability; the defendant’s role must be
more than one of abstract authority over individuals who actually committed a
Lastly, the amended complaint Mr. Vaughn will be directed to file, whether
handwritten or typed, shall be double-spaced and legible, in capital and lower-case
letters, in compliance with D.C.COLO.LCivR 10.1E. and G.
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 complaint does not meet the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and
D.C.COLO.LCivR 10.1. Mr. Vaughn will be given an opportunity to cure the deficiencies
in his complaint by submitting an amended complaint that states his claims clearly and
concisely in compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, is written legibly in compliance with
D.C.COLO.LCivR 10.1, and alleges specific facts that demonstrate how each named
defendant personally participated in the asserted constitutional violations. Accordingly,
ORDERED that Plaintiff, Ronnie Vaughn, within thirty (30) days from the date
of this order, file an amended complaint that complies with this order. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Vaughn (with the assistance of his case manager
of the facility’s legal assistant) shall obtain a copy of the court-approved Prisoner
Complaint form, along with the applicable instructions, at www.cod.uscourts.gov. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that, if Mr. Vaughn fails to file an amended complaint that
complies with this order within the time allowed, the complaint and the action will be
dismissed without further notice.
DATED July 10, 2013, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Boyd N. Boland
United States Magistrate Judge
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