Robertson-Little v. Forte et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Senior District Judge C. LeRoy Hansen granting Plaintiff's 15 MOTION for Extension of Time to make initial partial payment and granting 19 MOTION to Continue in forma pauperis ; dismissing 32 MOTION to Join Case and 27 Application for Free Process; denying 29 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction and dismissing 1 Complaint for failure to state a claim. (bap)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. CV 16-1360 LH/SCY
ANTHONY J. FORTE and
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL
THIS MATTER is before the Court sua sponte under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) and 12(b)(6)
and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)(2)(B) on the Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights filed by Caska
Robertson-Little on December 13, 2016 (Doc. 1) (“Complaint”). The Court will dismiss
Robertson-Little’s Complaint for failure to meet the requirements of Rule 8(a) and failure to state
a claim for relief, and will deny Robertson-Little leave to file an amended complaint as futile
under the Heck doctrine.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Robertson-Little originally filed this proceeding as a prisoner civil rights action under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). He names only two Defendants—Anthony J. Forte, Director of the
Risk Management Division of the State of New Mexico and Susana Martinez, Governor of the
State of New Mexico. (Doc. 1 at 5). Robertson-Little was convicted by a jury on charges of
Aggravated Battery Against a Household Member (Great Bodily Injury) and False Imprisonment
in State of New Mexico, County of Santa Fe, First Judicial District Court cause number D-101CR-201200630. He is incarcerated at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility, serving a
sentence on his conviction and as a habitual offender. (Doc. 1 at 5, 66-67, 79; No. D-101-CR201200630). In his 14-page Complaint with 69 pages of attachments, he makes wide-ranging,
rambling, and largely incomprehensible allegations against judges, defense counsel, prosecutors,
correctional officers and other state officials that he is illegally incarcerated in violation of his
constitutional rights. (Doc. 1). He attaches a copy of the United States Constitution and, by his
initials, indicates his rights have been violated under: Article I, Sections 6 (compensation of
Senators and Representatives), 8 (power to lay and collect taxes), 9 (migration or importation of
persons), and 10 (States may not enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation); Article III,
Sections 1 (judicial power of the United States) and 2 (judicial power extends to all cases);
Article IV, Sections 1 (full faith and credit) and 2 (privileges and immunities); Article VII
(ratification); and Amendments I (freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly), IV (search
and arrest warrants), V (rights in criminal cases), VI (rights to a fair trial), VIII (bails, fines, and
punishments), and XIV (civil rights). (Doc. 1 at 6, 19-27). In his request for relief, RobertsonLittle states:
“The sum of One Billion Dollars $1,000,000,000.00 is being presented
for the courts to award me for the continuous conflicts of interest
pertaining to all personnel involved working under the color of
State of New Mexico Law as Governor and the Risk Management are all
aware of the situation of my case. ‘To go home and live worry less open
dozens of businesses.’”
(Doc. 1 at 8).
Since the filing of his original Complaint, Robertson-Little has filed 12
supplements to his Complaint (Doc. 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 24, 25, 30, 34, 35) and has sent the Court
10 letters addressing and expanding on his allegations (Doc. 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 22, 23, 26, 28, 39).
Also pending before the Court is Robertson-Little’s letter motion for a preliminary
injunction. (Doc. 29). His letter motion states “[t]here have been (8) Eight Attorneys that have
not given any type of Assistance in my behalf. Your ‘Honors Please’ I ask to be released in a
PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION . . . Thank you with all Due Respect Relief is to be released to
begin needed studying to begin trial.” (Doc. 29).
II. ROBERTSON-LITTLE’S PENDING MOTIONS
Plaintiff Robertson-Little has several motions pending before the Court. First, he has
filed two motions directed to proceeding in forma pauperis in this Court, a motion for a ten-day
extension of time to make the initial partial payment and a motion to continue in forma pauperis.
(Doc. 15, 19). The Court will grant both motions. Robertson-Little has also filed an Application
for Free Process, seeking to be granted free process in a New Mexico state court proceeding.
(Doc. 27). This Court lacks authority to determine whether Robertson-Little should be granted
free process in state court and will dismiss the Application. Similarly, Robertson-Little has filed
a Motion to Join Case, seeking to be made a party to a pending state court proceeding. (Doc. 32).
This Court does not have jurisdiction to order Robertson-Little joined as a party in a New
Mexico state court case and, again, will dismiss the Motion.
Last, Robertson-Little has filed a letter motion for a preliminary injunction. (Doc. 29). A
party seeking a preliminary injunction must establish: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits;
(2) a likelihood that the party will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary
injunction; (3) that the balance of equities tips in the party's favor; and (4) that the injunction
serves the public interest. Little v. Jones, 607 F.3d 1245, 1251 (10th Cir.2010). A preliminary
injunction requiring the nonmoving party to take affirmative action is an extraordinary remedy
that is generally disfavored. Druley v. Patton, 601 F. App'x 632, 634 (10th Cir. 2015).
Robertson-Little’s letter motion does not address any of the requirements for issuance of a
preliminary injunction and, therefore, will be denied.
III. PLAINTIFF’S FILINGS DO NOT MEET RULE 8(a) REQUIREMENTS
The decision to strike a pleading or to dismiss an action for failure to comply with Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8 is within the sound discretion of the district court. See Kuehl v. FDIC, 8 F.3d 905,
908 (1st Cir.1993); Atkins v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 967 F.2d 1197, 1203 (8th Cir.1992);
Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir.1988). In order to state a claim for relief, Rule
8(a) requires a plaintiff's complaint contain “(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon
which the court's jurisdiction depends, ... (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing
that [he] is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief [he] seeks.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a). Although the Court is to construe pro se pleadings liberally, a pro se plaintiff must
follow the rules of federal and appellate procedure, see Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F.3d 452,
455 (10th Cir.1994).
A pro se complaint may be stricken or dismissed under Rule 8(a) if it is
“incomprehensible.” See Carpenter v. Williams, 86 F.3d 1015, 1016 (10th Cir.1996); Olguin v.
Atherton, 215 F.3d 1337 (10th Cir. 2000). Rule 8(a)'s purpose is to require plaintiffs to state
their claims intelligibly so as to give fair notice of the claims to opposing parties and the court.
Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1148 (10th Cir. 2007); Monument Builders of Greater Kansas
City, Inc., v. American Cemetery Ass'n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir.1989).
Imprecise pleadings undermine the utility of the complaint and violate that purpose of Rule 8.
See Knox v. First Security Bank of Utah, 196 F.2d 112, 117 (10th Cir. 1952). Rambling and
incomprehensible filings that bury material allegations in “a morass of irrelevancies” do not meet
Rule 8(a)'s pleading requirement of a “short and plain statement.” Mann, 477 F.3d at 1148;
Ausherman v. Stump, 643 F.2d 715, 716 (10th Cir.1981).
Moreover, a plaintiff may not seek to supplement or modify a complaint in a manner that
turns the complaint into a “moving target.” It is unreasonable to expect the Court or the
defendants continually to have to adapt as the plaintiff develops new theories or locates new
defendants. There comes a point when even a pro se plaintiff has had sufficient time to
investigate and to properly frame his claims against specific defendants. Minter v. Prime
Equipment Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1206 (10th Cir.2006).
Plaintiff’s rambling, incomprehensible filings do not comply with the requirements of
Rule 8. Plaintiff’s filings bury any material allegations in “a morass of irrelevancies” and do not
meet Rule 8(a)'s “short and plain statement” pleading requirement. Mann, 477 F.3d at 1148;
Ausherman, 643 F.2d at 716. Further, in addition to being difficult to follow, his filings turn the
proceeding into a constantly moving target. Minter, 451 F.3d at 1206.
IV. ROBERTSON-LITTLE’S COMPLAINT FAILS TO STATE A CLAIM
Plaintiff Robertson-Little is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. The Court has the
discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted under either Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not
conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading.
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th
Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if
“it is ‘patently obvious’ that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting McKinney v. Oklahoma Dep’t of Human Services,
925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim should be dismissed
where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570.
Under § 1915(e)(2)(B) the Court may dismiss the complaint at any time if the Court
determines the action fails to state a claim for relief or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(2). The authority granted by § 1915 permits the court the unusual power to pierce
the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions
are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). See also Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d at 1109. The authority to “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations” means
that a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the
pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez,
504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). The Court is not required to accept the truth of the plaintiff's
allegations but, instead, may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other materials filed by
the parties, as well as court proceedings subject to judicial notice. Denton, 504 U.S. at 32-33.
In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See
Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff’s
pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff
must abide by the applicable rules of court. Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th
Cir. 1994). The Court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or to supply factual
allegations to support the plaintiff’s claims. Nor may the Court assume the role of advocate for
the pro se litigant. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1110.
In deciding whether to dismiss the complaint, in whole or in part, the Court is to consider
whether to allow plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint. Pro se plaintiffs should be
given a reasonable opportunity to remedy defects in their pleadings. Reynoldson v. Shillinger,
907 F.2d 124, 126 (10th Cir. 1990). The opportunity to amend should be granted unless
amendment would be futile. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109. An amendment is futile if the
amended claims would also be subject to immediate dismissal under the rule 12(b)(6) or §
1915(e)(2)(B) standards. Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004).
Applying the § 1915(e)(2)(B) standard, the original Complaint filed by Robertson-Little
fails to state a claim for relief against any of the named Defendants under § 1983. First,
Robertson-Little names Risk Management Director Anthony J. Forte and New Mexico Governor
Susana Martinez as Defendants. (Doc. 1 at 3). 42 U.S.C. § 1983 states:
“Every person who, under color of any statue, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State, Territory or the District of Columbia,
subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States
or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of
any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law . . .”
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (emphasis added). To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must assert acts by government officials acting under color of law that result in a
deprivation of rights secured by the United States Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). There must be a connection between official conduct and violation of a
constitutional right. Conduct that is not connected to a constitutional violation is not actionable
under Section 1983. See Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998).
Further, a civil rights action against a public official or entity may not be based solely on
a theory of respondeat superior liability for the actions of co-workers or subordinates. A plaintiff
must plead that each government official, through the official’s own individual actions, has
violated the Constitution. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1948 (2009).
Plaintiff must allege some personal involvement by an identified official in the alleged
constitutional violation to succeed under § 1983. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th
Cir. 2008); Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1249-50 (10th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in the
Although Robertson-Little names Risk Management Director Forte and Governor
Martinez as Defendants, the only allegations he makes are that:
“ [t]his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint is being filed on both the Governor and
Director of Risk Management in the State of New Mexico. I have evidence
in my possession proving the above case number was not done per New Mexico
Rule and State Statutes in the Courts. Those (2) two, “personnel,” “officials,”
“staff” of the United States Government are both aware in regards to this situation”
and “Governor and the Risk Management are all aware of the situation of my case.”
(Doc. 1 at 2, 8).
Robertson-Little does not allege any acts or personal involvement by
Defendants Forte and Martinez in any alleged violation of the United States Constitution. His
allegations that they somehow have knowledge of his case are not sufficient to state any
plausible claim for relief against them under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d at
1162; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
Last, Robertson-Little’s claims are also barred under Heck v. Humphry, 512 U.S. 477,
487 (1994). In Heck, the Supreme Court addressed the question of when a prisoner may bring a §
1983 claim relating to his conviction or sentence. The Court held that when a state prisoner seeks
damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the
plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the
complaint must be dismissed. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. The Heck doctrine also applies without
respect to whether the relief sought is in the form of damages or equitable declaratory or
injunctive relief. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81–82 (2005). If success in the action would
necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of the sentence or conviction, the claim is barred by Heck.
See Harris v. Fulwood, 611 Fed.App’x 1, 2 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
Although it is difficult to follow Robertson-Little’s contentions, his Complaint indicates
that he has been convicted on criminal charges and is serving a sentence in a correctional facility.
(Doc. 1 at 5, 7, 9, 66-67, 79). The relief Robertson-Little seeks includes immediate release from
custody. (Doc. 1 at 8, 29). Because a favorable ruling on Robertson-Little’s claims would
require treating his sentence in his state criminal cases as invalid, the Complaint also must be
dismissed under the Heck doctrine. See, Beck v. City of Muskogee Police Dept., 195 F.3d 553,
556–57 (10th Cir.1999).
V. THE COMPLAINT WILL BE DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND
The Court will dismiss Robertson-Little’s Complaint without leave to amend because the
Court determines that amendment of the Complaint would be futile. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at
1109. Regardless of the allegations he makes, unless his conviction is overturned or set-aside,
Robertson-Little’s claims for damages and injunctive relief on the grounds that he is illegally
incarcerated will always be barred by the Heck doctrine. Therefore, any amendment of the
Complaint would not state a claim for relief and would be futile. Beck v. City of Muskogee
Police Dept., 195 F.3d at 556–57.
IT IS ORDERED:
(1) Plaintiff Caska Robertson-Little’s motion for a ten-day extension of time to make the
initial partial payment and motion to continue in forma pauperis (Doc. 15, 19) are GRANTED;
(2) Plaintiff Caska Robertson-Little’s Application for Free Process (Doc. 27) and Motion
to Join Case (Doc. 32) are DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction;
(3) Plaintiff Caska Robertson-Little’s letter motion for a preliminary injunction (Doc.
29) is DENIED; and
(4) Plaintiff Caska Robertson-Little’s Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights filed
December 13, 2016 (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED for failure to state a claim and failure to comply
with Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?