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Claxton v. Byrne

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 24, 2013

OFFICER BYRNE (Star # 5304), OFFICER BOLTON (Star # 3289) and OFFICER SKARUPINSKI (5th District), Defendants.


THOMAS M. DURKIN, District Judge.

Nicholas Claxton filed a pro se complaint against Chicago police officers Joseph Byrne, Richard Bolton, and Chris Skarupinski alleging that the Officers arrested him in violation of the Fourth Amendment and state law. R. 5. The Officers have moved to dismiss both claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Claxton's false arrest claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Claxton's state law malicious prosecution claim is barred by the statute of limitations. R. 14. Claxton concedes that his malicious prosecution claim is time-barred, R. 22 at 5, and thus, the Court grants the Officers' motion to dismiss with respect to Claxton's malicious prosecution claim. For the following reasons, the Court also grants the Officers' motion with respect to the false arrest claim.


The following facts, drawn from the complaint, are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences are drawn in Claxton's favor. Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013).

On September 21, 2011, the Officers responded to a "shots fired" call. R. 5 at 4. When the Officers arrived at the scene, Claxton and four of his friends were walking out of an alley. Id. The Officers stopped Claxton and his friends and questioned them for two hours. Id. The Officers also recovered a.22 caliber rifle in a wooded area about 250 yards from where they encountered Claxton and his friends. Id. The Officers arrested Claxton but released his friends. Id.

Claxton alleges that the Officers did not perform a gunshot residue test or locate any gun shells prior to arresting him. Id. The Officers stated they were going to ensure Claxton "went down for this charge" and made various statements on how they could get the charges to "stick" to him. Id. At the police station, the Officers "made a verbal pact... to make up allegations that they found shells on the scene, [t]hat the weapon was fully loaded, [and] that [Claxton] was running from them" at the time they arrived on the scene. Id. at 4-5. Claxton also alleges that the Officers "made a false statement on [Claxton's] behalf without a lawyer" present and they "manipulated the laws to have him charged... without any actual evidence." Id. at 5.

Claxton was charged with two counts of felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon under 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1) and (a)(2), see R. 14-1 Ex. B, which makes it a crime for a person to carry a concealed firearm on him or herself, or on "any public street, alley, or other public lands." He was also charged with one count of felony reckless discharge of a firearm pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/24-1.5(a), see R. 14-1 Ex. B, which criminalizes the discharge of a firearm in a "reckless manner which endangers the bodily safety of an individual." On March 21, 2012, Claxton was convicted on the two counts of felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, but the court directed a verdict in Claxton's favor on the reckless discharge of a firearm charge. See R. 14-1 Ex. B.

Claxton filed post-conviction motions to reconsider and vacate the verdict against him and for a new trial. R. 27 at 1. The court denied those motions at sentencing on May 25, 2012. Id. Claxton did not file a notice of appeal within the 30 days required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 606(b), and did not move for an extension of time to file a notice of appeal within the six months required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 606(c). Id. Nevertheless, it may be possible for Claxton to seek permission to appeal by invoking an exception to Rule 606. See, e.g., People v. Ross, 891 N.E.2d 865, 876 (Ill. 2008). Claxton informed his counsel on this motion that he drafted a pro se appeal and sent it to be filed on October 18, 2013. R. 27 at 2.

Claxton filed this action on April 10, 2013. See R. 1.

Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This "standard demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While "detailed factual allegations" are not required, "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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.'" Mann, 707 F.3d at 877 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Mann, 707 F.3d at 877.

Complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs are held to "a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011)). Because pro se plaintiffs do not have the benefit of legal expertise, courts are to ensure that their claims are given "fair and meaningful consideration." Philos Tech., Inc. v. Philos & D, Inc., 645 F.3d 851, 858 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). This is especially true for cases that implicate Heck because "pro se prisoners are often tripped up by Heck's complexities." Navejar v. Iyiola, 718 F.3d 692, 697 (7th Cir. 2013).[1]


The Officers argue that Claxton's false arrest claim is barred by the rule in Heck that a complaint must be dismissed if "a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of [the plaintiff's] conviction or sentence." 512 U.S. at 487. Claxton contends that his false arrest allegation is not barred by Heck because he is not here challenging the validity of his conviction; rather, ...

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