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Rollins v. Willett

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 19, 2014

RODNEY ROLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH WILLETT, KERRY DURKIN, CURTIS PERRY, GENE SHEDORE, DEMETRIUS COOK, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES B. ZAGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Rodney Rollins has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Joseph Willett, Kerry Durkin, Curtis Perry, Gene Shedore and Demetrius Cook for various constitutional violations in connection with his arrest. Defendants now move to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

On June 27, 2012 Plaintiff was traveling northbound on Halsted St. in Glenwood, IL. Plaintiff turned into an Aldi Grocery store, and, upon exiting his vehicle, found that a police officer had pulled up behind him with his lights flashing. Sergeant Willet exited his vehicle, and two additional officers, Officer Shedore and Officer Perry arrived separately shortly thereafter.

This was apparently a traffic stop, though the record is not clear as to what prompted it. When Plaintiff was unable to produce a valid driver's license (he offered instead his Department of Transportation Number from his Motor Carrier Safety Registration), he was ordered out of the car, searched, and ultimately arrested. He was later charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license.

On August 20, 2012 Plaintiff pled guilty to the charge, though he now asserts that he did so under duress. Plaintiff now brings this § 1983 action against the arresting officers, claiming numerous constitutional violations in connection with the arrest. Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

DISCUSSION

When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court treats all well-pled allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Justice v. Town of Cicero, 577 F.3d 768, 771 (7th Cir.2009). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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. Id.

In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 489 (1994), the Supreme Court held that there is no cause of action under § 1983 when a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of an underlying conviction or sentence and that conviction or sentence itself has not been reversed or otherwise found invalid. Under Heck, any such would-be § 1983 claim must be dismissed.

The facts in Wiley v. City of Chicago, 361 F.3d 994, 997 (7th Cir. 2004), provide a helpful illustration of the principle. In an earlier criminal trial, Mr. Wiley had been convicted of a drug possession charge. In his subsequent § 1983 claim against the arresting officers, Mr. Wiley asserted that the officers had actually planted the drugs on him. Were Plaintiff to have prevailed on that claim, however, the outcome would have necessarily implied the validity of his earlier criminal conviction: a conviction for drug possession cannot be valid if law enforcement planted the drugs on the defendant. The § 1983 claim was Heck -barred. Mr. Wiley first had to successfully challenge the validity of his conviction through one of the permissible avenues (for example, by direct appeal or habeas corpus proceedings). Then, upon prevailing there, he could proceed with his § 1983 claim.

It is worth noting, as Mr. Rollins asserts, that Heck does not bar all § 1983 claims.

For example, a suit for damages attributable to an allegedly unreasonable search may lie even if the challenged search produced evidence that was introduced in a state criminal trial resulting in the § 1983 plaintiff's still-outstanding conviction. Because of doctrines like independent source and inevitable discovery, and especially harmless error, such a § 1983 action, even if successful, would not necessarily imply that the plaintiff's conviction was unlawful.

Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 n. 7 (emphasis in original, internal citations omitted).

Here, the underlying conviction at issue is for driving on a suspended or revoked license. Plaintiff was pulled over in an apparent traffic stop and could not produce a valid driver's license. Plaintiff now claims that this initial stop was in violation of his Constitutional rights. Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, is emphatic in his briefing that he does not seek to challenge the validity of his conviction. What Plaintiff must understand, however, is ...


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