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Diaz v. Drew

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 4, 2017

LUIS DIAZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JEREMY DREW, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT (#66).

          M. PAGE KELLEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction.

         On August 3, 2016, pro se plaintiff Luis Diaz, a pretrial detainee housed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction, filed this action against several correctional officers, Department of Corrections staff members, and various other individuals[1]alleging violations of state and federal statutes and Diaz's constitutional rights[2] stemming from an ongoing “campaign of obstruction and intimidation[]” undertaken in an effort to retaliate against plaintiff for filing grievances and this action. (#1 at 1-2.) Over the course of the litigation, Diaz has filed a number of supplements to his complaint as well several motions in which additional facts are proffered and supposedly incorporated into the complaint. See ##1, 4, 8, 10, 33, 43, 44, 56, 58, 61. From all that appears, it is plaintiff's intention that these documents be construed together as his complaint. See, e.g., #58 at 9 (“all statement[s] of fact[] in all supplemental and original complaints and any statement of fact supplement in any and all filed documents . . . must be considered as a whole.”).

         Presently before the court is a motion by defendants Jeremy Drew, Elena Clodius, Harrold Wilkes, Mathew Sawash, William Byrnes, and Michael Kasprzak seeking a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e), Fed.R.Civ.P. (#66.) As explained below, the court finds Diaz's pleadings deficient to the extent that a repleader is necessary.

         II. Standard of Review.

         A party may move for a more definite statement when the pleading “is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). The “rule ‘is designed to remedy unintelligible pleadings, not merely to correct for lack of detail.'” Jones v. Revenue Assistance Program, No. CV 15-14017-NMG, 2016 WL 3919843, at *8 (D. Mass. July 14, 2016), appeal dismissed (Nov. 16, 2016) (quoting Ivymedia Corp. v. iLIKEBUS, Inc., 2015 WL 4254387, at *6 (D. Mass. July 13, 2015)). “Rule 12(e) relief is the most suitable remedy where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se and the parties are unable to engage in discovery until they are capable of identifying the specific claims against the specific individuals.” Carter v. Newland, 441 F.Supp.2d 208, 214 (D. Mass. 2006) (citing Hilska v. Jones, 217 F.R.D. 16, 25 (D.D.C. 2003)).

         III. Discussion.

         “While the court is mindful that it must construe pro se complaints liberally, even pro se litigants are bound by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Janosky v. Massachusetts P'ship for Corr. Healthcare, No. 15-CV-12929-IT, 2017 WL 1164490, at *1 (D. Mass. Mar. 28, 2017) (citing Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 75-76 (1st Cir. 2014) and F.D.I.C. v. Anchor Properties, 13 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 1994)). Here, the litany of filings that make up Diaz's complaint fall far short of the threshold requirements established by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         A. Rule 8 General Rules of Pleading.

         Rule 8, Fed. R. Civ. P., mandates that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In other words, the complaint must include “‘enough detail to provide a defendant with fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Silverstrand Investments. v. AMAG Pharmaceutical, Inc., 707 F.3d 95, 101 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation and further internal quotation marks omitted)); Barbosa v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, No. CV 14-13439-ADB, 2016 WL 3976555, at *2 (D. Mass. July 22, 2016). This means that the statement of the claim must “‘at least set forth minimal facts as to who did what to whom, when, where, and why.'” Calvi v. Knox County, 470 F.3d 422, 430 (1st Cir. 2006) (quoting Educadores Puertorriqueños en Acción v. Hernández, 367 F.3d 61, 68 (1st Cir. 2004)). Although the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) are minimal, “‘minimal requirements are not tantamount to nonexistent requirements.'” Id. (quoting Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 514 (1st Cir. 1988)).

         The plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his claims “requires more than labels and conclusions.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A court is not “‘bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Id. (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Further, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief” states a claim upon which relief may be granted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” the complaint does not show that “‘the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) in second quotation).

         Just as Rule 8 establishes the threshold requirements of what must be set forth in a complaint, so too does it provide a bookend as to the extent of what information a litigant is entitled to include therein. “Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). The documents that make up Diaz's complaint are verbose, disjointed, and fail to comport with the requirements of Rule 8.

         As an initial matter, plaintiff continues to file documents in which he seeks to add additional facts, claims, defendants, and forms of relief sought. When read together, these documents fail to articulate any coherent claim beyond a general displeasure with the way in which he has been, and continues to be, treated while in custody. Even though Diaz is proceeding pro se, that does not give him license to bombard defendants with new allegations throughout these proceedings. The court is aware that the alleged misconduct against plaintiff is ongoing, however, he need only allege as much in the complaint; he need not supplement his pleadings with each new instance of alleged wrongdoing.

         Another flaw in Diaz's filings is that he fails to detail against whom specifically he is asserting the various causes of action that are strewn throughout the papers. In its current form, the complaint does not permit defendants to identify the specific wrongdoing alleged against the specific actor(s). The complaint must connect each ...


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