United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JEROME M. HARDENE, Plaintiff,
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS POLICE DEPT., and TRAVIS MONTGOMERY, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jerome M. Hardene, proceeding pro se, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights, and related violations of state law, during a traffic stop and two-hour detention while his vehicle was being searched.
Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (Doc. 2). Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit regarding his finances. His monthly expenses and debt payments exhaust the $710 per month in Social Security Disability Income that he receives, and he has no other substantial assets. Therefore, the Court concludes that Plaintiff cannot afford to pay the $400 filing fee necessary to commence this action. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for pauper status (Doc. 2) will be granted.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), this case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint. Section 1915(e)(2)(B) requires dismissal of any portion of the complaint that is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Frivolousness is an objective standard that refers to a claim that "no reasonable person could suppose to have any merit." Lee v. Clinton, 209 F.3d 1025, 1026-27 (7th Cir. 2000). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "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). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility. Id. at 557. At this juncture, the factual allegations of the pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).
According to the complaint, on February 9, 2011, while he was driving in St. Clair County, Illinois, Plaintiff was pulled over by defendant Travis Montgomery, a Fairview Heights, Illinois, police officer. Plaintiff and his passenger-both of whom are African American-were ordered out of the vehicle. When a "drug team" and drug-sniffing dog arrived, Plaintiff was placed in the rear of Officer Montgomery's patrol car. Plaintiff was detained for approximately two hours while his vehicle was searched, without his consent. No drugs were ever found. Officer Montgomery ultimately issued Plaintiff a citation for failing to display proof of insurance.
Within the enumerate counts of the complaint, it is further asserted that Plaintiff was assaulted when he refused to consent to the search of his vehicle, he was attacked by the police dog, he and his passenger were racially profiled, and the interior of Plaintiff's vehicle was damaged. During the course of these events, Plaintiff sustained injuries to his back, arms, wrists, legs and neck, as well as emotional upset, anxiety, depression and the loss of enjoyment of life.
By order dated August 1, 2012, Plaintiff's motion to suppress was granted by the Honorable Judge Julie K. Katz, who found no probable cause for the vehicle stop.
Plaintiff filed this action on March 19, 2014, naming Officer Travis Montgomery and the Fairview Heights Police Department as defendants. He seeks declaratory relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and an award of costs.
Based on the allegations in the complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into six counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.
Count 1: Officer Travis Montgomery and the Fairview Heights Police Department violated Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth Amendment when Officer Montgomery: (1) effected an unlawful traffic stop; (2) detained Plaintiff; (3) physically assaulted Plaintiff; and issued a citation without probable cause;
Count 2: Officer Travis Montgomery and the Fairview Heights Police Department violated Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection when Officer Montgomery racially profiled Plaintiff and his passenger;
Count 3: Officer Travis Montgomery and the Fairview Heights Police Department violated Plaintiff's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when Officer Montgomery deprived Plaintiff of his ...