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Pulley v. Springfield Police Department

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

April 1, 2014

CHRISTOPHER PULLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
SPRINGFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT, T.W. DAY, R. LEHR, and CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, Defendants.

MERIT REVIEW OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court for a merit review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, of Plaintiff Christopher Pulley's claims.

I.

MERIT REVIEW UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A)

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A, the Court is required to carefully screen a complaint filed by a plaintiff who seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or a portion thereof, if the plaintiff has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id.

The test for determining if an action is frivolous or without merit is whether the plaintiff can make a rational argument on the law or facts in support of the claim. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint fails to state a claim for relief if the complaint does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

In reviewing the complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them in plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8; Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (holding that, in order to determine if a complaint states a plausible claim, the court must take non-conclusory, non-speculative facts as true, draw all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor, and isolate and ignore statements that simply rehash claim elements or offer only legal labels and conclusions). Instead, sufficient facts must be provided to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Alexander v. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(internal quotation omitted).

II.

ANALYSIS

Pulley is a pre-trial detainee who is currently being housed at the Sangamon County Detention Center awaiting trial. Pulley alleges that on February 28, 2013, Springfield Police Officers T.W. Day and R. Lehr used excessive force in arresting him.

According to Pulley, Officer Day stopped a vehicle in which Pulley was a passenger. After Officer Day and Officer Lehr conducted a search of the vehicle, Pulley asked Officer Lehr why he was being placed under arrest. Pulley then turned to face Officer Lehr because Officer Lehr did not respond to his inquiry.

Officer Lehr then took Pulley to the ground and slammed his head onto a storm drain. Thereafter, Pulley alleges that Officers Day and Lehr struck Pulley in the back of his head and on his neck. Pulley alleges that he was not resisting arrest and that his hands were pinned underneath his body. Pulley claims that he suffered damages as a result of Officers Day and Lehr's use of excessive force.

"Claims of excessive force during arrest are analyzed under Fourth (not Eighth) Amendment jurisprudence." Swift v. Rinella, 2008 WL 4792700, * 2 (S.D. Ill. Oct. 31, 2008). As the United States Supreme Court has explained, the test for determining whether an officer used excessive force in arresting or subduing a suspect or an arrestee is difficult to precisely define, but the ultimate test is one of reasonableness that requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion of the individual's Fourth Amendment rights. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989). Specifically, the Supreme Court has opined:

Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is "reasonable" under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. Because the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application, however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity ...

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