Osuna v. Wong et al
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION. Signed by JUDGE DERRICK K. WATSON on 2/1/2017. (afc)"Defendants Judge Wong and Prosecutor Chasid Sapolu are entitled to absolute immunity for actions taken in their official capacities, and Osuna's claims against them are DISMISSED for failure to state a claim. Moreover, principles of abstention caution this Court from interfering with an ongoing state court criminal action. This action is therefore DISMISSED, and because amendment is futile, this dismissal is without leave to amend."CERTIFICATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic notifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Participants not registered to receive electronic notifications will be served by first class mail on February 2, 2017.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
PHILLIP OSUNA, #A1037613,
JUDGE WONG, PROSECUTOR
CIV. NO. 17-00019 DKW-KJM
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION
Pro se Plaintiff Phillip Osuna, a pretrial detainee, has commenced this
prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF. No. 1. Osuna
alleges that the Honorable Paul B.K. Wong, Circuit Court of the First Circuit
(“circuit court”), State of Hawaii, and City and County of Honolulu Deputy
Prosecutor Chasid Mila Sapolu have violated his civil rights during his ongoing
criminal proceedings in State v. Osuna, 1PC151001574 (filed Sept. 21, 2015).
Osuna seeks an emergency hearing regarding his claims. For the following
reasons, this action is DISMISSED.
Osuna is incarcerated at the Oahu Community Correctional Center
(“OCCC”), awaiting trial in 1PC151001574. See eCourt Kokua:
https://jimspss1.courts.state.hi.us/JEFS (last visited Jan. 31, 2017).1 Osuna is
represented by John M. Schum, Esq. Id. Trial call is currently set for the week of
March 20, 2017. Id.
Osuna alleges that Deputy Prosecutor Sapolu violated his right to due
process by “stacking” his charges, and Judge Wong is compounding this violation
by denying his motions to dismiss his case or suppress unidentified evidence.
Osuna further alleges that Judge Wong’s failure to grant his motions to suppress
and dismiss constitute evidence of Judge Wong’s bias.
II. STATUTORY SCREENING
Federal courts must screen all cases in which prisoners seek redress from a
governmental entity, officer, or employee, or seek to proceed without prepayment
of the civil filing fees. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(b)(2) and 1915A(a). The court must
identify cognizable claims and dismiss those claims that are frivolous, malicious,
fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. at §§ 1915(b)(2) and
The court “may take notice of proceedings in other courts, both within and without the
federal judicial system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue.” United
States ex rel. Robinson Rancheria Citizens Council v. Borneo, Inc., 971 F.2d 244, 248 (9th Cir.
1992); see also Fed. R. Evid. 201(b).
A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual
allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, a plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant
personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d
930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).
The pleadings of pro se prisoners must still be liberally construed and given
the benefit of any doubt. Blaisdell v. Frappiea, 729 F.3d 1237, 1241 (9th Cir.
2013); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, “the liberal
pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff’s factual allegations.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights
complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially
pled.” Bruns v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). A plaintiff
must identify specific facts supporting the existence of substantively plausible
claims for relief. Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346, 347 (2014) (per
curiam) (citation omitted). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible
that the plaintiff can correct the complaint’s defects. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d
1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000).
Judge Wong and Deputy Prosecutor Sapolu are absolutely immune from
liability for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for actions taken in their official
capacities. See Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1078 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing
Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 335, 347 (1872)); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424
U.S. 409, 427, 430 (1976)) (holding prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity
from civil rights suits when they engage in activities “intimately associated with
the judicial phase of the criminal process”). Judge Wong’s denial of Osuna’s
motions and Sapolu’s decisions regarding which charges to bring are clearly
official acts subject to absolute immunity. Osuna fails to state a claim against
Judge Wong and Deputy Prosecutor Sapolu, and these claims are DISMISSED.
Younger and Rooker-Feldman Abstention Doctrines
Further, challenges to ongoing state criminal proceedings in federal court are
barred by the abstention doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971). Younger abstention applies regardless of whether the applicant seeks
declaratory or injunctive relief, or damages. See Mann v. Jett, 781 F.2d 1448, 1449
(9th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 984 (9th Cir.
2004) (holding Younger abstention applies equally to damages actions as to
actions seeking declaratory and injunctive relief). If a claim for declaratory or
injunctive relief is raised, the federal court should abstain and dismiss without
prejudice; if a damages claim is raised, the court should abstain and stay the federal
proceedings until the state court proceedings are concluded. See Gilbertson, 381
F.3d at 984.
Younger abstention is required when: (1) state judicial proceedings are
pending; (2) the state proceedings involve important state interests; and (3) the
state proceedings afford adequate opportunity to raise the constitutional issue.
Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 432
(1982); Dubinka v. Judges of the Super. Ct., 23 F.3d 218, 223 (9th Cir. 1994).
Younger abstention principles apply throughout state appellate proceedings,
requiring full appellate review of a state court judgment before federal court
intervention is permitted. Dubinka, 23 F.3d at 223 (even if criminal trials were
completed at time of abstention decision, state court proceedings are still
Osuna is awaiting prosecution in an ongoing criminal proceeding. Hawaii
has a significant state interest in enforcing and prosecuting criminal offenses under
its laws. See Younger, 401 U.S. at 43-44. Osuna’s criminal defense attorney may
file motions or seek relief from the circuit court to address the alleged violations of
his constitutional rights. Younger abstention therefore applies.
Moreover, even after a state court proceeding has concluded, the
Rooker–Feldman abstention doctrine applies when the federal relief requested
would effectively reverse or void a state court decision. The application of the
Rooker–Feldman doctrine is necessarily limited to “cases brought by state-court
losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the
district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and
rejection of those judgments.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp.,
544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine encompasses claims that
were not only actually litigated, but also those that are “inextricably intertwined”
with the adjudication by a state court. Exxon Mobil Corp., 544 U.S. at 284
(citations omitted). “[I]f a plaintiff’s claim in federal court is inextricably
intertwined with a previous state court adjudication, the district court lacks
jurisdiction over the claim even if it was not raised in the state court.” Id.
Accordingly, even if Osuna stated a claim regarding his ongoing state court
proceedings, and his claims were not subject to the immunities described above,
this Court must abstain from adjudicating such claims.
IV. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)
The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) (codified in part at 28
U.S.C. § 1915) restricts prisoners’ ability to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”)
when filing certain federal lawsuits. Section 1915(g) provides a “three-strikes”
rule that bars prisoners from proceeding IFP if they have accrued “three strikes”
under the statute:
In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment
in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on
3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any
facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that
was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is
under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
Dismissals pursuant to the Younger abstention doctrine are without prejudice
and do not constitute a strike under § 1915(g). Washington v. Los Angeles Cty.
Sheriff’s Dep’t, 833 F.3d 1048, 1058 (9th Cir. 2016).
Dismissals for failure to state a claim, however, normally constitute such a strike.
See Moore v. Maricopa Cty. Sheriff’s Office, 657 F.3d 890, 893-94 (9th Cir. 2011);
cf. Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1110 (9th Cir. 2013) (finding failure to
properly amend claims, after repeated dismissals for violating “Rule 8(a)’s short
and plain statement requirement,” constitutes strike).
Defendants Judge Wong and Prosecutor Chasid Sapolu are entitled to
absolute immunity for actions taken in their official capacities, and Osuna’s claims
against them are DISMISSED for failure to state a claim. Moreover, principles of
abstention caution this Court from interfering with an ongoing state court criminal
action. This action is therefore DISMISSED, and because amendment is futile, this
dismissal is without leave to amend.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: February 1, 2017 at Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Phillip Osuna v. Judge Wong, etc.; Civil No. 17-00019 DKW-KJM;
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION
Osuna v.Wong, 1:17-cv-00019 DKW-KJM; psa scrg/2017 Osuna dkw (dsm Younger ftsc immunities)
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