Reno v. Nielson, Civ. No. 19-00418 ACK-WRP

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
Writing for the CourtAlan C. Kay Sr. United States District Judge
PartiesDAVID A. RENO, Plaintiff, v. SCOTT U. NIELSON, individually And in his capacity as Police Officer; HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT; CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, Defendants.
Docket NumberCiv. No. 19-00418 ACK-WRP
Decision Date08 May 2020

DAVID A. RENO, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT U. NIELSON, individually And in his capacity as Police Officer;
HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT; CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, Defendants.

Civ. No. 19-00418 ACK-WRP

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAI‘I

May 8, 2020


ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendant the City and County of Honolulu's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 34 ("City's Mot."), as to all of Plaintiff's federal law claims; GRANTS Defendant Scott Nielson's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 35 ("Nielson's Mot."), as to all of Plaintiff's federal law claims; and in its discretion declines supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from an encounter between Plaintiff David Reno ("Plaintiff") and Defendant Officer Scott Nielson ("Defendant Nielson"). On August 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed a

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complaint asserting claims for constitutional and state law violations against Defendant Nielson both in his individual and official capacities, against the Honolulu Police Department ("HPD"), and against the City and County of Honolulu (the "City," and, collectively with Defendant Nielson and HPD, "Defendants"). ECF No. 1. The Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim on December 17, 2019. ECF No. 29. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 16, 2020, again asserting claims for constitutional and state law violations against Defendants. ECF No. 31 ("Amended Complaint" or "FAC"). The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

Plaintiff sought to document with HPD a matter involving his insurance agent allegedly falsifying information on Plaintiff's insurance documents. FAC at 5. Plaintiff previously reported the matter to the state attorney general's office but wished to provide HPD with the same complete set of documents and evidence, as well as a two-page statement summarizing the contents. FAC at 5 and Ex. C. Plaintiff met with Defendant Nielson on August 4, 2017 in an effort to do so. FAC at 5.

Defendant Nielson initially refused to take Plaintiff's information and indicated this was because, according to Plaintiff, the state attorney general's office was

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already looking into the matter. FAC at 5-6 and Ex. B at 6-8. Defendant Nielson stated that "[w]e don't just give report numbers to document[s]." FAC at 6 and Ex. B. at 8. Plaintiff realized partway through the encounter that he had been filming the interaction on his cell phone and pointed his cell phone camera at Defendant Nielson. FAC at 6. At this time, Defendant Nielson recognized Plaintiff was recording the interaction. FAC at 6. Defendant Nielson then accepted Plaintiff's statement and issued Plaintiff a report number. FAC at 6-7.

On August 21, 2017, Plaintiff inquired with HPD about his statement and learned that Defendant Nielson's police report was the only document that had been filed in HPD's records; the documents and CD that he gave to Defendant Nielson were not. FAC at 13; Opp. at 10.1 Plaintiff filed two administrative complaints against Defendant Nielson through HPD's Professional Standards Office and was informed these complaints were "sustained." FAC at 13. HPD did not permit Plaintiff to file a criminal complaint against Defendant Nielson. FAC at 13.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Nielson's conduct was in keeping with the City and HPD's unwritten and other unspecified policies, which permit a culture of corruption or

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culture of immorality by allowing public officials to depart from written policies and failing to enforce the law against them. FAC at 14-16. This is evidenced by HPD's refusal to permit Plaintiff to file a criminal complaint against Defendant Nielson, instead only permitting him to file administrative complaints. FAC at 13, 16.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Nielson's actions violated Plaintiff's First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. FAC at 5; 19-34. Plaintiff also asserts an "Other" cause of action that "Defendants are liable for their misconduct while acting under corrupt and immoral policies, procedures and accepted practices, including, but not limited to, negligence, recklessness, malice, as well as, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress." FAC at 35-41. Plaintiff seeks (1) an order requiring Defendant Nielson's allegedly falsified police report to be permanently withdrawn; (2) punitive damages "for the negligent, intentional infliction of emotional distress"; (3) damages for willful malice, negligence and civil rights violations because "the 'peace of mind' associated with Police Officers, Law Enforcement which I once enjoyed, is forever gone"; (4) damages for loss of earnings; and (5) that "an example be made of Nielson, and against all Defendants in this case." FAC at 46-47.

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On January 23, 2020, Plaintiff filed an Addendum to the Amended Complaint, ECF No. 32 ("Add."). Plaintiff therein asserts that there were five violations of his due process rights, rather than only one as stated in his Amended Complaint, Add. at 2-3; asserts that there were four separate violations of his Fifth Amendment rights, Add. at 4; and elaborates on his claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, Add. at 4-6. Plaintiff adds a citation to 18 U.S.C. § 242, but acknowledges the action is not a criminal case. Add. at 6-7, 9. Plaintiff appears to request the Court order HPD to accept all statements from citizens with a rejected-for-cause basis for exclusion. Add. at 7. Plaintiff further requests the Court order Defendant Nielson to disclose what he did with Plaintiff's documents after the August 4, 2017 interaction. Add. at 9-10.

On February 6, 2020, Defendant the City and County of Honolulu and Defendant Nielson each filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 34, 35. Plaintiff filed oppositions to each of the motions to dismiss on February 26, ECF No. 38, 39, and Defendants filed a joint reply on March 24. ECF No. 41. The Court held a telephonic hearing on April 7, 2020.2

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STANDARD

I. Rule 12(b)(6)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to dismiss a complaint that fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

The Court must "accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of material fact, and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 784 (9th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting

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Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

"[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Accordingly, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. "The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

When the Court dismisses a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) it should grant leave to amend unless the pleading cannot be cured by new factual allegations. OSU Student All. v. Ray, 699 F.3d 1053, 1079 (9th Cir. 2012).

II. Special Considerations for Pro Se Litigants

Pro se pleadings and briefs are to be construed liberally. Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). The Court should act with leniency toward

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pro se litigants when they technically violate a rule. Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 924 (9th Cir. 1986); Motoyama v. Haw. Dep't of Transp., 864 F. Supp. 2d 965, 976 (D. Haw. 2012). However, pro se litigants are "not excused from knowing the most basic pleading requirements." Am. Ass'n of Naturopathic Physicians v. Hayhurst, 227 F.3d 1104, 1107 (9th Cir. 2000). Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. Motoyama, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 976.

DISCUSSION

Although Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and late-filed addendum elaborate at length on his various asserted causes of action, at bottom, Plaintiff's factual allegations remain the same as those already dismissed by this Court. See ECF No. 29, Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss ("Prior Order"). Plaintiff's host of newly-added conclusory allegations do not revive his arguments, and the Court finds Plaintiff has once again failed to state a claim.

I. Threshold Procedural Issues

a. The Statute of Limitations Does Not Bar Plaintiff's Claims

In its Prior Order, the Court raised, but did not rule on, a potential statute of limitations issue. Prior Order at 9-10 n.1. It explained:

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