MacArthur v. Garden et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER re 5 Complaint. Signed by Judge Dee Benson on 4/20/2017. (blh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH
BRET GOLDEN MACARTHUR,
ORDER & MEMORANDUM DECISION
RICHARD GARDEN et al.,
Case No. 2:15-CV-117-DB
District Judge Dee Benson
Plaintiff, inmate Bret Golden MacArthur, filed this pro se civil rights suit, see 42
U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2017), in forma pauperis, see 28 id. § 1915. The Court now screens his
Complaint and orders Plaintiff to file an amended complaint to cure deficiencies before further
pursuing his claims.
Deficiencies in Complaint
(a) names Utah State Prison (USP) and Utah Department of Corrections as defendants,
although they are not entities that may sue and be sued.
(b) appears to try to bring claims against other defendants who are referred to only in the
Complaint’s text and not named in the Complaint’s heading.
(c) raises issues of classification change in a way that does not support a cause of action.
(d) does not state a proper legal-access claim (see below).
(e) requests injunctive and declaratory relief, the granting of which would require
confirmation that Plaintiff is still in USP.
(f) inappropriately alleges civil-rights violations on a respondeat-superior theory.
(g) does not affirmatively link some defendants to civil-rights violations.
(h) inappropriately alleges civil-rights violations on the basis of denied grievances.
(i) alleges conspiracy claims that are too vague (see below).
(j) has claims apparently regarding current confinement; however, the complaint was
apparently not drafted with the help of contract attorneys.
Instructions to Plaintiff
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to 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." Rule 8's requirements mean to guarantee "that defendants enjoy fair notice of
what the claims against them are and the grounds upon which they rest." TV Commc'ns Network,
Inc. v ESPN, Inc., 767 F. Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991).
Pro se litigants are not excused from complying with these minimal pleading demands.
"This is so because a pro se plaintiff requires no special legal training to recount the facts
surrounding his alleged injury, and he must provide such facts if the court is to determine
whether he makes out a claim on which relief can be granted." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106,
1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Moreover, it is improper for the Court "to assume the role of advocate for
a pro se litigant." Id. Thus, the Court cannot "supply additional facts, [or] construct a legal
theory for plaintiff that assumes facts that have not been pleaded." Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d
1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989).
Plaintiff should consider the following points before refiling his complaint. First, the
revised complaint must stand entirely on its own and shall not refer to, or incorporate by
reference, any portion of the original complaint. See Murray v. Archambo, 132 F.3d 609, 612
(10th Cir. 1998) (stating amended complaint supersedes original).
Second, the complaint must clearly state what each defendant--typically, a named
government employee--did to violate Plaintiff's civil rights. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d
1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976) (stating personal participation of each named defendant is
essential allegation in civil-rights action). "To state a claim, a complaint must 'make clear
exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom.'" Stone v. Albert, No. 08-2222, slip op. at 4
(10th Cir. July 20, 2009) (unpublished) (emphasis in original) (quoting Robbins v. Oklahoma,
519 F.3d 1242, 1250 (10th Cir. 2008)).
Third, Plaintiff cannot name an individual as a defendant based solely on his or her
supervisory position. See Mitchell v. Maynard, 80 F.2d 1433, 1441 (10th Cir. 1996) (stating
supervisory status alone does not support § 1983 liability).
Fourth, "denial of a grievance, by itself without any connection to the violation of
constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983."
Gallagher v. Shelton, No. 09-3113, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 25787, at *11 (10th Cir. Nov. 24,
• Legal Access
Next, the Court notes that one of Plaintiff's claims involves legal access. As Plaintiff
fashions his amended complaint, he should therefore keep in mind that it is well-recognized that
prison inmates "have a constitutional right to 'adequate, effective, and meaningful' access to the
courts and that the states have 'affirmative obligations' to assure all inmates such access." Ramos
v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 583 (10th Cir. 1980). In Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), the
Supreme Court expounded on the obligation to provide access to the Courts by stating "the
fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist
inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with
adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law." Id. at 828
(footnote omitted & emphasis added).
However, to successfully assert a constitutional claim for denial of access to the courts, a
plaintiff must allege not only the inadequacy of the library or legal assistance furnished but also
"that the denial of legal resources hindered [the plaintiff's] efforts to pursue a nonfrivolous
claim." Penrod v. Zavaras, 84 F.3d 1399, 1403 (10th Cir. 1996) (emphasis added); Carper v.
Deland, 54 F.3d 613, 616 (10th Cir. 1995). In other words, a plaintiff must show "that any
denial or delay of access to the court prejudiced him in pursuing litigation." Treff v. Galetka, 74
F.3d 191, 194 (10th Cir. 1996). Moreover, the non-frivolous litigation involved must be "habeas
corpus or civil rights actions regarding current confinement." Carper, 54 F.3d at 616; accord
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 353-55 (1996).
As to Plaintiff's conspiracy claim, he "must specifically plead 'facts tending to show
agreement and concerted action.'" Beedle v. Wilson, 422 F.3d 1059, 1073 (10th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Sooner Prods. Co. v. McBride, 708 F.2d 510, 512 (10th Cir. 1983)). Plaintiff has not
met this responsibility in his current complaint; his vague assertions that multiple people lied to
effect breaches of his civil rights, and, therefore, a conspiracy must be involved, are not enough.
He must assert more detail to pursue this claim further.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
(1) Plaintiff must within thirty days cure the Complaint’s deficiencies noted above.
(2) The Clerk's Office shall mail Plaintiff a copy of the Pro Se Litigant Guide with a form
complaint and form habeas petition for Plaintiff to use should he choose to file an
amended complaint or habeas petition.
(3) If Plaintiff fails to timely cure the above deficiencies according to this Order's
instructions, this action will be dismissed without further notice.
DATED this 20th day of April, 2017.
BY THE COURT:
JUDGE DEE BENSON
United States District Judge
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