Guity v. State of Hawaii et al
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS re 15 , 21 , 26 - Signed by JUDGE LESLIE E. KOBAYASHI on 1/11/2022. On the basis of the foregoing, the following motions are HEREBY GRANTED: the State Defendants 39; Motion to Dismiss Complaint Filed on January 21, 2021, filed April 9, 2021; Kaneshiro's Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights Filed January 21, 2021, filed April 29, 2021; and Minn's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (EC F 1) with Prejudice, filed May 10, 2021. Guity's Complaint is therefore DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. This Court DIRECTS the Clerk's Office to enter final judgment and close the case on January 25, 2022, unless Plai ntiff files a timely motion for reconsideration of this Order as provided for in the Local Rules. (eta)COURT'S CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE - Walter N. Guity served by First Class Mail to the address of record listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) on January 11, 2022. Registered Participants of CM/ECF received the document electronically to the email addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF).
Case 1:21-cv-00055-LEK-KJM Document 53 Filed 01/11/22 Page 1 of 15
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF HAWAII
WALTER N. GUITY,
CIV. NO. 21-00055 LEK-KJM
STATE OF HAWAII, KEITH M.
KANESHIRO, KAREN S.S. AHN,
REGINALD P. MINN,
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS
On January 21, 2021, pro se Plaintiff Walter N. Guity
(“Guity”) filed his Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights
[Dkt. no. 1.]
On April 9, 2021, Defendants
State of Hawai`i and Karen S.S. Ahn (“the State,” “Judge Ahn,”
and collectively “the State Defendants”) filed their Motion to
Dismiss Complaint Filed on January 21, 2021 [Doc 1] with
Prejudice (“State Motion”).
[Dkt. no. 15.]
On April 29, 2021
Defendant Keith M. Kaneshiro (“Kaneshiro”) filed his Motion to
Dismiss Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights Filed
January 21, 2021 (“Kaneshiro Motion”).
[Dkt. no. 21.]
May 10, 2021, Defendant Reginald P. Minn (“Minn”) filed his
Motion to Dismiss Complaint (ECF 1) with Prejudice (“Minn
[Dkt. no. 26.]
On May 4, 2021, May 11, 2021, and
September 21, 2021, Guity filed his respective oppositions to
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the State Motion, the Kaneshiro Motion, and the Minn Motion
(collectively “Defendants’ Motions”).
[Dkt. nos. 24, 27, 41.]
On May 21, 2021, September 2, 2021, and October 4, 2021,
Kaneshiro, the State Defendants, and Minn (collectively
“Defendants”) filed their respective replies.
[Dkt. nos. 30,
The Court finds these matters suitable for disposition
without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.1(c) of the Local Rules
of Practice for the United States District Court for the
District of Hawaii (“Local Rules”).
Defendants’ Motions are
hereby granted for the reasons set forth below.
The events giving rise to Guity’s claims occurred in
2011 and 2012.
Guity alleges he was wrongfully convicted when
his defense attorney, Minn, colluded with both the prosecutor,
Kaneshiro, and the judge assigned to the case, Judge Ahn, to
have Guity plead guilty to a crime he was falsely accused of.
Guity also alleges he fired Minn during his prosecution and he
cross-examined Minn when Minn then became a witness for the
Guity claims that, after firing Minn, he invoked
his constitutional right to counsel and asked Judge Ahn to
appoint him counsel and to withdraw his guilty plea.
denied the requests.
Guity was sentenced to eighteen months of
imprisonment and five years of probation.
[Complaint at pg. 5.]
Guity does not include in the Complaint the crime or crimes that
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he pled guilty to, but he does claim he was required to register
as a sex offender.
Guity states all of the charges have since
[Id. at pg. 6.]
Guity brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Specifically, Guity claims the following rights were violated:
“A criminal defendant’s right to an attorney found under the
Sixth Ammenedment [sic]; Fifth Amendment, No person shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself
or deprive of Freedom; and the Sixth Amendment guarantee to
[Id. at pg. 4.]
Guity alleges his claims against
Kaneshiro and Judge Ahn in their official capacities, and his
claims against Minn in his individual capacity.
[Id. at pgs. 2–
Guity seeks: (1) $1,200,000 in compensatory damages;
(2) $10,000,000 in special damages; and (3) $15,000,000 in
[Id. at pg. 6.]
The State Defendants’ Motion
The State Defendants argue Guity’s § 1983 claims
against them should be dismissed with prejudice because:
(1) they are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment of
the United States Constitution; (2) Judge Ahn has absolute
judicial immunity; and (3) all statutes of limitations have
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Under the Eleventh Amendment, “[s]tates, their
agencies, and their officials in their official capacities are
immune from damage suits under state or federal law by private
parties in federal court unless there is a valid abrogation of
that immunity or an unequivocal express waiver by the state.”
Monet v. Hawai`i, Civ. No. 11-00211 SOM/RLP, 2011 WL 2446310, at
*4 (D. Hawai`i June 14, 2011) (some citations omitted) (citing
Sossamon v. Tex., 131 S. Ct. 1651, 1658 (2011)).
Here, there is
not a valid abrogation of sovereign immunity or an unequivocal
express waiver by the State.
First, “Congress, in passing 42
U.S.C. § 1983, did not abrogate the Eleventh Amendment immunity
of state governments.”
Oyama v. Univ. of Hawaii, Civ. No. 12-
00137 HG-BMK, 2013 WL 1767710, at *6 (D. Hawai`i Apr. 23, 2013).
Second, “[t]he State of Hawaii has not waived its sovereign
immunity from suit in federal court for civil rights actions.”
Thus, Guity’s § 1983 claims against the State are dismissed
because the State is entitled to sovereign immunity.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007))).
The dismissal is with prejudice
Case 1:21-cv-00055-LEK-KJM Document 53 Filed 01/11/22 Page 5 of 15
because the claims cannot be saved by amendment.
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See Hoang v.
Bank of Am., N.A., 910 F.3d 1096, 1102 (9th Cir. 2018)
(“Dismissal with prejudice and without leave to amend is not
appropriate unless it is clear . . . that the complaint could
not be saved by amendment.” (citation and quotation marks
Moreover, Guity’s § 1983 claims against Judge Ahn in
her official capacity are not “against the official personally,
for the real party in interest is the entity.”
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985).
See Kentucky v.
Guity’s claims against Judge
Ahn in her official capacity are therefore dismissed with
prejudice for the same reason as the § 1983 claims against the
See, e.g., Abing v. Evers, CIVIL NO. 21-000095 JAO-WRP,
2021 WL 3871299, at *6 (D. Hawai`i Aug. 30, 2021) (applying
Eleventh Amendment immunity to the plaintiffs’ claims against
the state judge defendants, in their official capacities,
because such claims were effectively claims against the state).
“Under the doctrine established in Ex parte Young, 209
U.S. 123 (1908), the Eleventh Amendment does not bar a suit ‘for
prospective declaratory and injunctive relief against state
officers, sued in their official capacities, to enjoin an
alleged ongoing violation of federal law.’” Oyama, 2013 WL
1767710, at *7 (quoting Wilbur v. Locke, 423 F.3d 1101, 1111
(9th Cir. 2005)). Guity only seeks damages and, thus, the Ex
parte Young doctrine is inapplicable here.
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Absolute Judicial Immunity
On the face of the Complaint, Guity only alleges his
§ 1983 claims against Judge Ahn in her official capacity.
even if the Complaint is liberally construed as alleging his
claims against Judge Ahn in her individual capacity, his claims
fail because Judge Ahn is entitled to absolute judicial
“It is well established that judges are absolutely
immune from liability for acts done by them in the exercise of
their judicial functions.”
Sakuma v. Ass’n of Condominium
Owners of Tropics at Waikele, Civil No. 08-00502 HG-KSC, 2009 WL
89119, at *3 (D. Hawai`i Jan. 13, 2009) (citing Miller v. Davis,
521 F.3d 1142, 1145 (9th Cir. 2008); Mullis v. Bankr. Ct. for
the Dist. of Nevada, 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987), cert.
denied, 486 U.S. 1040, 108 S. Ct. 2031, 100 L. Ed. 2d 616
Judicial immunity is an immunity from suit,
not just from ultimate assessment of damages.
Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11, 112 S. Ct. 286,
116 L. Ed. 2d 9 (1991). “Accordingly, judicial
“The Court must look to the nature of the suit, rather
than how it is labeled by Plaintiffs, in order to determine
whether the suit is an individual-capacity suit or officialcapacity suit, or both.” Abing, 2021 WL 3871299, at *5 (citing
Larson v. Domestic & Foreign Com. Corp., 337 U.S. 682, 687-88
(1949)). Further, because Guity is proceeding pro se, his
Complaint must be liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). The Court therefore
liberally construes the Complaint as also alleging claims
against Judge Ahn in her individual capacity.
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immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad
faith or malice, the existence of which
ordinarily cannot be resolved without engaging in
discovery and eventual trial.” Id. Judicial
immunity applies “however erroneous the act may
have been, and however injurious in its
consequences it may have proved to the
plaintiff.” Moore v. Brewster, 96 F.3d 1240,
1243–44 (9th Cir. 1996) (superceded by statute on
other grounds). “Grave procedural errors or acts
in excess of judicial authority do not deprive a
judge of this immunity.” Id. (quoting Schucker
v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1204 (9th Cir. 1988),
cert. denied, 488 U.S. 995, 109 S. Ct. 561, 102
L. Ed. 2d 587 (1988)). Even if the judges acted
incorrectly, with improper motive, or as part of
a conspiracy, they are immune from suit for acts
performed pursuant to their official functions.
“[J]udges of courts of superior or general
jurisdiction are not liable to civil actions for
their judicial acts, even when such acts are in
excess of their jurisdiction, and are alleged to
have been done maliciously or corruptly.” Stump
v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355, 356–57, 98 S. Ct.
1099, 55 L. Ed. 2d 331 (1978) (citation omitted);
Pierson [v. Ray], 386 U.S. [447,] 554 [(1967)]
(“[I]mmunity applies even when the judge is
accused of acting maliciously and corruptly”).
Id. (some alterations in Sakuma).
However, there are two limitations on the doctrine of
“First, Judges are absolutely immune from
civil liability for actions taken in their official capacities,
unless committed in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.”
Id. (citing Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11–12; Stump, 435 U.S. at 360;
Pierson, 386 U.S. at 554).
Second, only judicial acts are protected by
absolute judicial immunity.” Mireles, 502 U.S.
at 12. The United States Supreme Court in Stump
explained that “whether an act by a judge is a
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‘judicial’ one relate[s] to the nature of the act
itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally
performed by a judge, and to the expectations of
the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the
judge in his judicial capacity.” Stump, 435 U.S.
at 362; see also Forrester [v. White], 484 U.S.
[219,] 227–229 (1988)]. . . .
Id. at *4 (some alterations in Sakuma).
Here, Guity’s § 1983 claims against Judge Ahn arise
from her alleged conduct as the presiding judge in Guity’s
As a former judge for the State of
Hawai`i, First Circuit Court, Judge Ahn had general jurisdiction
over criminal proceedings.3
See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 603-21.5(a)
(“The several circuit courts shall have jurisdiction . . . of:
(1) Criminal offenses cognizable under the laws of the
State . . . .”).
Judge Ahn therefore “did not act in the clear
absence of all jurisdiction.”
See Sakuma, 2009 WL 89119, at *3.
Additionally, Guity alleges Judge Ahn violated his
constitutional rights when she did not grant his requests for
the appointment of counsel or to withdraw his guilty plea.
Judge Ahn’s denials of Guity’s requests are judicial acts
because they are “normal judicial function[s],” and “the
This Court takes judicial notice of the fact that Judge
Ahn is now retired and no longer an active judge. See Fed. R.
Evid. 201(b)(2) (“The court may judicially notice a fact that is
not subject to reasonable dispute because it . . . can be
accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy
cannot reasonably be questioned.”).
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controversy centered around a case then pending before the
See Duvall v. Cnty. of Kitsap, 260 F.3d 1124, 1133 (9th
Cir. 2001) (identifying four factors “relevant to the
determination of whether a particular act is judicial in
Guity argues Judge Ahn is not entitled to absolute
judicial immunity because the Hawai`i Intermediate Court of
Appeals (“ICA”) held that Judge Ahn “‘clearly violated Hawai`i
Rules of Penal Procedure . . . Rule 11(g).’”
[Mem. in Opp. to
State Defendants’ Motion at PageID #: 80 (quoting State v.
Guity, NO. CAAP-12-0000287, 2016 WL 6427681, at *7 (Hawai`i Ct.
App. Oct. 31, 2016)4).]
Yet, even a clear violation of
procedural rules does not deprive a judge of absolute judicial
See Moore, 96 F.3d at 1244; Stump, 435 U.S. at 356.
Accordingly, Judge Ahn is entitled to absolute judicial
immunity, and Guity’s § 1983 claims alleged against her are
dismissed with prejudice.
Kaneshiro argues the § 1983 claims against him should
be dismissed with prejudice because: (1) the statute of
The Hawai`i Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the ICA
because the ICA erroneously held that Guity was only entitled to
withdraw his guilty plea in one of the two cases in which he
pled guilty. See State v. Guity, 144 Hawai`i 557, 563, 445 P.3d
138, 144 (2019).
Case 1:21-cv-00055-LEK-KJM Document 53 Filed 01/11/22 Page 10 of 15
limitations bars the claims; (2) Guity failed to allege facts to
support any claim against Kaneshiro; (3) Kaneshiro is immune
from suit; and (4) any official capacity claim is in effect a
claim against the city, and Guity has not alleged sufficient
allegations for such a claim.
Even if the Court assumes Guity has sufficiently
alleged § 1983 claims against Kaneshiro, it is barred because
the statute of limitation has expired.
The Ninth Circuit has
Because 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not contain
its own statute of limitations, “[a]ctions
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are governed
by the forum state’s statute of limitations for
personal injury actions.” Knox v. Davis, 260
F.3d 1009, 1012–13 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Wilson
v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276, 105 S. Ct. 1938, 85
L. Ed. 2d 254 (1985)). In Hawai`i, the statute
of limitations for personal injury actions is two
years. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 657-7.
. . . “Although state law determines the
length of the limitations period, federal law
determines when a civil rights claim accrues.”
Knox, 260 F.3d at 1013 (quoting Morales v. City
of Los Angeles, 214 F.3d 1151, 1153–54 (9th Cir.
2000)). Under federal law, the “discovery rule”
typically governs the accrual of § 1983 claims so
that “a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or
has reason to know of the injury which is the
basis of the action.” Id. (quoting TwoRivers v.
Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 992 (9th Cir. 1999)).
Bird v. Dep’t of Hum. Servs., 935 F.3d 738, 743 (9th Cir. 2019)
(per curiam) (some alterations in Bird).
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Guity alleges the last event giving rise to his claims
occurred on March 5, 2012.
See Complaint at pg. 5.
unclear, however, whether the March 5, 2012 date corresponds
with any alleged misconduct by Kaneshiro.
Even giving Guity
“the benefit of any doubt,” see Annan-Yartey v. Honolulu Police
Dep’t, 475 F. Supp. 2d 1041, 1045 (D. Hawai`i 2007) (citing
Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th
Cir. 1988)), that the March 5, 2012 date was the last date in
which Kaneshiro “colluded” with the other defendants, the
statute of limitations would run on March 5, 2014.
his Complaint on January 21, 2021.
Thus, the statute of
limitations for Guity’s § 1983 claims against Kaneshiro expired
over six and a half years before he filed this action.
Guity does not argue that he did not know or have
reason to know of the injury caused by Kaneshiro when it
Nor can he make such an argument.
itself, suggests that he had reason to know of some perceived
See, e.g., Guity, 2016 WL 6427681, at *6 (the ICA
noted that Guity argues the circuit court “erred in accepting
[his] guilty plea”).
But, even assuming that Guity did not have
knowledge of wrongdoing until the ICA held that the circuit
court violated the Hawai`i Rules of Penal Procedure, he had
Case 1:21-cv-00055-LEK-KJM Document 53 Filed 01/11/22 Page 12 of 15
notice when the ICA’s decision was issued on October 31, 2016.5
Under this hypothetical scenario, Guity needed to file his
§ 1983 suit by October 31, 2018.
He did not do so, and
therefore the statute of limitations would bar Guity’s claims
Guity instead argues the statute of limitations should
be equitably tolled because his criminal case was not resolved
by the Hawai`i Supreme Court until June 2019.
Kaneshiro Motion at PageID #: 115.]
[Mem. in Opp. to
“[A] litigant is entitled
to equitable tolling of a statute of limitations only if the
litigant establishes two elements: ‘(1) that he has been
pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary
circumstances stood in his way and prevented timely filing.’”
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wis. v. United States, 577 U.S. 250,
255 (2016) (quoting Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649
“Extraordinary circumstances must be ‘both
extraordinary and beyond [the litigant’s] control.’”
Perez v. United States, 8 F.4th 1095, 1102 (9th Cir. 2021)
(alteration and emphasis in Quintero Perez) (quoting Menominee
Indian Tribe, 557 U.S. at 255).
“Equitable tolling is
appropriate in § 1983 cases where there is ‘timely notice,
[lack] of prejudice to the defendant, and reasonable and good
The issue of whether Kaneshiro colluded with Minn or Judge
Ahn was not before either the ICA or the Hawai`i Supreme Court.
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faith conduct on the part of the plaintiff.’”
Wideman v. Ige,
CIV. NO. 20-00162 LEK-KJM, 2020 WL 2530347, at *5 (D. Hawai`i
May 18, 2020) (alteration in Wideman) (quoting Donoghue v.
Orange Cty., 848 F.2d 926, 931 (9th Cir. 1987)).
Here, “nothing prevented [Guity] from commencing his
suit during his criminal appeal,” see Mills v. City of Covina,
921 F.3d 1161, 1168 (9th Cir. 2019), because Guity’s § 1983
claims against Kaneshiro accrued well before his criminal
conviction was set aside.
In other words, his § 1983 claims
against Kaneshiro did not depend on the outcome of the appeal
from his conviction.
As such, Guity fails to show that: (1) he
was pursuing his rights diligently; and (2) that the late filing
was due to extraordinary circumstances outside of Guity’s
Equitable tolling is therefore inappropriate, and
Guity’s § 1983 claims against Kaneshiro are dismissed.
amendment cannot cure the claims’ defect, the dismissal is with
III. Minn Motion
Minn also argues Guity’s § 1983 claims against him are
barred by the statute of limitations.
Motion at 10–11.]
[Mem. in Supp. of Minn
He is correct.
Assuming that Guity alleges plausible § 1983 claims
against Minn, such claims are barred for the same reasons as the
claims against Kaneshiro.
See supra Discussion Section II.
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Giving Guity the benefit of any doubt, the last dates Guity
needed to file his claims against Minn were either March 5, 2014
(if the statute of limitations started to accrue on the date of
the injury alleged) or October 31, 2018 (if the statute of
limitations started to accrue when the ICA’s decision was
Further, equitable tolling is not proper here because
Guity neither pursued the claims diligently nor showed
extraordinary circumstances outside of his control.
Accordingly, Guity’s claims against Minn are dismissed with
On the basis of the foregoing, the following motions
are HEREBY GRANTED: the State Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
Complaint Filed on January 21, 2021, filed April 9, 2021;
Kaneshiro’s Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Violation of Civil
Rights Filed January 21, 2021, filed April 29, 2021; and Minn’s
Motion to Dismiss Complaint (ECF 1) with Prejudice, filed
May 10, 2021.
Guity’s Complaint is therefore DISMISSED WITH
This Court DIRECTS the Clerk’s Office to enter final
judgment and close the case on January 25, 2022, unless
Plaintiff files a timely motion for reconsideration of this
Order as provided for in the Local Rules.
Case 1:21-cv-00055-LEK-KJM Document 53 Filed 01/11/22 Page 15 of 15
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED AT HONOLULU, HAWAII, January 11, 2022.
WALTER N. GUITY VS. STATE OF HAWAII, ET AL; CV 21-00055 LEK-KJM;
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS
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