Van Fleet v. Wright et al
ORDER Directing Plaintiff to File Amended Complaint, by Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher on 12/19/2014. (slibi, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 14-cv-03402-GPG
DERIC VAN FLEET,
LT. WRIGHT, and
ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, Deric Van Fleet, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department
of Corrections at the Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling, Colorado. Mr. Van Fleet
has filed pro se a Prisoner Complaint (ECF No. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He
seeks damages as relief.
The court must construe the Prisoner Complaint liberally because Mr. Van Fleet
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 (10 th Cir. 1991). However, the court should not be
an advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. Mr. Van Fleet will be
ordered to file an amended complaint if he wishes to pursue his claims in this action.
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 (10 th 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 (10 th 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.
Mr. Van Fleet alleges that some of his personal property was lost and that
Defendants are responsible. He does not allege specifically when the property loss
occurred and he does not provide a clear statement of the property that was lost. More
importantly, Mr. Van Fleet does not identify the specific constitutional claim or claims he
is asserting against Defendants based on the property loss. Construing the complaint
liberally, it appears that Mr. Van Fleet may intend to assert a due process claim.
However, it is not clear whether he also intends to assert any other constitutional claims
or what those claims may be. As a result, Mr. Van Fleet fails to provide a short and
plain statement of his claim or claims showing he is entitled to relief.
Mr. Van Fleet must identify the specific federal claims he is asserting, the
specific factual allegations that support each 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”). 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 (10 th Cir. 2005). Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that Mr. Van Fleet 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. Van Fleet 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. Van Fleet fails within the time allowed to file an
amended complaint that complies with this order, the action will be dismissed without
DATED December 19, 2014, at Denver, Colorado.
BY THE COURT:
S/ Gordon P. Gallagher
United States Magistrate Judge
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