Blackfeather v. Wheeler et al
ORDER Directing Plaintiff to File Amended Complaint; 13 Motion for Protections of Constitutional Rights with Americans with Disabilities Act is denied as this time, by Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland on 9/29/14.(morti, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 14-cv-02566-BNB
TYLER ADAMS, and
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Micah Blackfeather, is detained at the Colorado Mental Health Institute
at Pueblo, Colorado (CMHIP). Mr. Blackfeather has filed pro se a Prisoner Complaint
(ECF No. 1). The court must construe the Prisoner Complaint liberally because Mr.
Blackfeather 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. Mr.
Blackfeather will be ordered to file an amended complaint if he wishes to pursue his
claims in this action.
The Prisoner Complaint is deficient. First, Mr. Blackfeather fails to provide an
address for each Defendant. Mr. Blackfeather must provide a complete address so that
each Defendant may be served properly.
The Prisoner Complaint also is deficient because 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). 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.
Mr. Blackfeather alleges that he was arrested on August 21, 2013, and that he is
facing charges in two state court criminal cases. He further alleges that he has been
transferred to CMHIP for a competency evaluation. The named Defendants are police
officers in Longmont, Colorado, who authored policed reports regarding the events of
August 21, 2013, and other individuals who apparently provided statements to the
police officers regarding the events of August 21, 2013. Mr. Blackfeather insists that he
did not commit any crimes.
Mr. Blackfeather asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He specifically
contends in his first claim that his constitutional rights have been violated “as a result of
the falsified police reports, false eyewitness, and illegal arrest and imprisonment of
Plaintiff Micah Blackfeather.” (ECF No. 1 at 9.) He similarly contends in his second
claim that Defendants have violated his constitutional rights by concealing the truth
regarding the false police reports. Mr. Blackfeather asserts in his third claim that he is
being “forced to take a potential life threatening drug and held fals[e]ly imprisoned” at
CMHIP. (Id. at 11.) As relief he seeks damages and to be released from custody. To
the extent Mr. Blackfeather seeks to be released from custody, that request is not
appropriate in this § 1983 action and must be raised in an application for a writ of
habeas corpus after exhaustion of state remedies. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S.
475, 500 (1973).
Mr. Blackfeather fails to provide a short and plain statement of his claims for
damages showing he is entitled to relief. Other than conclusory allegations that he did
not commit the crimes charged, Mr. Blackfeather fails to provide specific allegations that
explain why he believes the police reports were false and that he was arrested illegally.
To the extent Mr. Blackfeather may be contending he was arrested without probable
cause, the court notes that “[p]robable cause exists if, ‘at the moment the arrest was
made . . . the facts and circumstances within [the officer’s] knowledge and of which they
had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient to warrant a prudent man in
believing that the [suspect] had committed or was committing an offense.’” Painter v.
City of Albuquerque, 383 F. App’x 795, 798 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Beck v. Ohio, 379
U.S. 89, 91 (1964)). To the extent Mr. Blackfeather is contending his continuing
confinement violates his constitutional rights, he fails to allege facts that demonstrate
any of the named Defendants are responsible for his continuing confinement or that
would allow him to recover damages for his continuing confinement based on his claims
of false arrest and false imprisonment. See McNally v. Colorado State Patrol, 122 F.
App’x 899, 903 (10th Cir. 2004) (quoting Heck v. Humphrey, 412 U.S. 477, 484 (1994),
for the proposition that “the torts of false arrest and false imprisonment permit damages
only for ‘the time of detention up until issuance of process or arraignment, but not
more.’”). Similarly, whatever constitutional violation Mr. Blackfeather may be asserting
in claim three in the Prisoner Complaint regarding his confinement at CMHIP, he fails to
allege any facts that demonstrate the claim properly is asserted against any of the
Merely making vague and conclusory allegations that his federal constitutional
rights have been violated does not entitle a pro se pleader to a day in court, regardless
of how liberally the court construes such pleadings. See Ketchum v. Cruz, 775 F. Supp.
1399, 1403 (D. Colo. 1991), aff’d, 961 F.2d 916 (10th Cir. 1992). “[I]n analyzing the
sufficiency of the plaintiff’s complaint, the court need accept as true only the plaintiff’s
well-pleaded factual contentions, not his conclusory allegations.” Hall, 935 F.2d at
Mr. Blackfeather will be ordered to file an amended complaint if he wishes to
pursue his claims in this action. Mr. Blackfeather must identify, clearly and concisely,
the specific claims he is asserting, the specific facts that support each asserted claim,
against which Defendant or Defendants he is asserting each claim, and what each
Defendant did that allegedly violated his rights. See Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E.
Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007) (noting that, to state a claim in federal
court, “a complaint 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”); see also Henry v. Storey, 658 F.3d
1235, 1241 (10th Cir. 2011) (allegations of “personal participation in the specific
constitutional violation complained of [are] essential”). 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 addition, § 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. Blackfeather may assert his constitutional
claims only against individuals who were acting under color of state law and “[t]he mere
furnishing of information to police officers does not constitute joint action under color of
state law which renders a private citizen liable under § 1983.” Benavidez v. Gunnell,
722 F.2d 615, 618 (10th Cir. 1983).
Finally, Mr. Blackfeather has filed a “Motion for Protections of Constitutional
Rights with Americans with Disabilities Act” (ECF No. 13) in which he requests
appointment of counsel. The factors to be considered in deciding whether to appoint
counsel generally include the merits of the claims, the nature of the factual issues
raised, the plaintiff’s ability to present his claims, and the complexity of the legal issues
being raised. See Rucks v. Boergermann, 57 F.3d 978, 979 (10th Cir. 1995). “The
burden is on the applicant to convince the court that there is sufficient merit to his claim
to warrant the appointment of counsel.” McCarthy v. Weinberg, 753 F.2d 836, 838 (10th
Mr. Blackfeather fails to demonstrate that appointment of counsel is necessary or
appropriate at this time. He does not allege fact that demonstrate he is unable to
provide a clear and concise statement of the claims he is asserting. Furthermore,
because Mr. Blackfeather has not submitted a pleading that complies with the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, the court is unable to determine whether his claims may have
merit or the nature and complexity of the factual and legal issues presented. Therefore,
the motion for appointment of counsel will be denied. Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Mr. Blackfeather file, within thirty (30) days from the date of
this order, an amended complaint that complies with this order. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that Mr. Blackfeather 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. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that, if Mr. Blackfeather fails within the time allowed to file
an amended complaint that complies with this order as directed, the action will be
dismissed without further notice. It is
FURTHER ORDERED that the “Motion for Protections of Constitutional Rights
with Americans with Disabilities Act” (ECF No. 13) is denied at this time.
DATED September 29, 2014, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Boyd N. Boland
United States Magistrate Judge
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