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Odom v. Sheriff and Staff

April 26, 2007

TIMOTHY C. ODOM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHERIFF AND STAFF, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Bernthal U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER

In January 2007, Plaintiff Timothy Odom, acting pro se, filed a Complaint (#7) against the Champaign County Sheriff and staff. The face of the complaint states that it is a suit against state officials for constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because the complaint arguably alleges federal constitutional claims, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction based on federal question pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

In March 2007, Defendants, Champaign County Sheriff, Dan Walsh, and unknown staff, filed a Motion To Dismiss (#13). Plaintiff filed a response. After reviewing the parties' pleadings and memoranda, this Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion To Dismiss (#13).

I. Background

Plaintiff's Statement of Claim states as follows: "The conduct of the Sheriff and staff with a individual that is disabled with mental retardation and Grave's [disease] keep me from other option at time of ablation of thyroid threat of jail." (Sic) (#7, p. 4.)

Plaintiff filed a document titled Motion To Dismiss Defendants (sic) Motion (#17), which the Court deems to be a response to Defendants' motion. Because this document provided information explaining Plaintiff's claims, the Court granted Defendants leave to file a reply.

II. Standard

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. Cole v. U.S. Capital, Inc., 389 F.3d 719, 724 (7th Cir. 2004). When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1368-69 (7th Cir. 1997). The Court should dismiss the claim only if the nonmoving party cannot prove any set of facts consistent with the allegations of the complaint that would entitle him to relief. Turner/Ozanne v. Hyman/Power, 111 F.3d 1312, 1319-20 (7th Cir. 1997).

Like any complaint, a pro se complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Id. at 520-21. The Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Where a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34 (1992).

III. Analysis

Defendants' primary argument is that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because the complaint does not give Defendants notice of what Plaintiff's claims are about.

Under federal rules, a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" to avoid dismissal on the pleadings.

FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of the complaint is to give "the opposing party fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds of the claim and a general indication of the type of litigation involved; the discovery process bears the burden of filling in the details." 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1215 (2d ed. 1990). Nevertheless, a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to allow the Court and the defendant to understand the gravamen of the complaint. Doherty v. City of Chi., 75 F. 3d 318, 326 (7th Cir. 1996).

The Court agrees that Plaintiff's complaint does not give Defendants any idea of the nature of Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff's response to the motion to dismiss provides more information about what he is alleging. It is well established that a plaintiff cannot amend his complaint by statements made in briefs filed in opposition to a motion to dismiss. See Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 470 n.6 (7th Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, in the interests of judicial efficiency, ...


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