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Martushoff v. Luvera

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 10, 2019

ADAM MARTUSHOFF, an individual, Plaintiff,
THERESA LUVERA, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and Supplement Complaint. Dkt. #52. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 27, 2018, Plaintiff Adam Martushoff, appearing pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. #1. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint on January 2, 2019, which serves as the current complaint in this case. Dkt. #7. Plaintiff's complaint alleges civil rights violations by the State of Washington and various state agencies resulting from a law enforcement investigation into allegations that Plaintiff neglected and abused his children. Dkt. #7 at 47-51. Plaintiff claims that the criminal investigation was conducted improperly and included falsified evidence, id. at 51-53, and that the criminal proceedings and investigation served as the basis for civil proceedings wherein Plaintiff was denied the right to see or interact with his children. See generally, Id. Plaintiff seeks a variety of injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         Since filing the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has moved to amend and supplement his complaint several times to revise his legal claims and change the listed defendants. See, e.g., Dkts. #21, #45, #49. Prior to the Court ruling on these motions, Plaintiff terminated or withdrew his motion to amend. See, e.g., Dkt. #24, #46, #50. On March 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Amend and Supplement Complaint. Dkt. #52. In support of this Motion, Plaintiff attached a proposed Second Amended Complaint totaling 137 pages. See id., Ex. A. On April 8, 2019, Defendants filed their Response opposing Plaintiff's Motion. Dkt. #57.


         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), a “court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Courts apply this policy with “extreme liberality.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003). Five factors are commonly used to assess the propriety of granting leave to amend: (1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, (4) futility of amendment, and (5) whether plaintiff has previously amended the complaint. Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 373 (9th Cir. 1990); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). In conducting this five-factor analysis, the court must grant all inferences in favor of allowing amendment. Griggs v. Pace Am. Group, Inc., 170 F.3d 877, 880 (9th Cir. 1999). In addition, the court must be mindful of the fact that, for each of these factors, the party opposing amendment has the burden of showing that amendment is not warranted. DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987); see also Richardson v. United States, 841 F.2d 993, 999 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The Court acknowledges that, by nature of his pro se appearance, Plaintiff should be afforded “the benefit of any doubt” with respect to compliance with local and federal civil procedure. Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'”) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Cf. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(f) (“All pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice”).

         B. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and Supplement

         Even construing Plaintiff's pleadings liberally, the Court finds that granting Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and Supplement, Dkt. #52, would impose undue prejudice on Defendants. Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion partly because Plaintiff failed to comply with Local Rule 15, which requires a party moving to amend a pleading to indicate how the proposed pleading differs from the original, either by bracketing or striking through the text to be deleted and underlining or highlighting the text to be added. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 15. Although Plaintiff's Motion fails to comply with these requirements, see Dkt. #52, Ex. A, his addition of nearly seventy pages of text in the proposed amended complaint diminishes the usefulness of this rule. See Dkt. #58 at 2.

         The more fundamental flaw of Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint is its violation of Rule 8. This rule requires a pleading stating a claim for relief to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), and that “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d). The Court agrees with Defendants that both Plaintiff's original and proposed amended complaints fail to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. See Dkt. #57 at 3.

         Although courts must construe a pro se plaintiff's pleadings liberally, a plaintiff must nevertheless allege a minimum factual and legal basis for each claim so that defendants are given fair notice of the plaintiff's claims and the grounds upon which they rest. See Brazil v. United States Dep't of the Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995) (“Although a pro se litigant . . . may be entitled to great leeway when the court construes his pleadings, those pleadings nonetheless must meet some minimum threshold in providing a defendant with notice of what it is that it allegedly did wrong.”). A complaint that does not clearly and concisely describe the factual allegations nor provide defendants with notice of who is being sued on which theory, violates Rule 8. See, e.g., McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177-79 (9th Cir. 1996); Nevijel v. North Coast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 1981). For example, a properly plead federal civil rights claim would specify each defendant, set forth a short and plain statement of each claim showing that a specific defendant took a specific action, participated in another's action, or omitted to perform an action that caused each alleged constitutional deprivation.

         After careful review of Plaintiff's current amended complaint and proposed second amended complaint, the Court finds that both fail to comply with Rule 8. With respect to defendant Theresa Luvera, both complaints allege that Defendant “failed to follow law enforcement protocols and training” including “failure to question witnesses, failure to weigh evidence, failure to investigate evidentiary leads, etc.” and that Defendant failed to act upon evidence that Plaintiff's children were in imminent danger of neglect and psychosexual abuse. Dkt. #7 at 7; Dkt. #52, Ex. A at 18. For the remaining defendants, Plaintiff alleges a general claim throughout both complaints that various defendants were “informed of” and “given direct evidence” of criminal activities conducted by ...

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