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Richardson v. Collinsville Police Dept.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 7, 2015

JERRY RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COLLINSVILLE POLICE DEPT. and DETECTIVE WARREN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

On December 11, 2014, Plaintiff Jerry Richardson, proceeding pro se, filed a civil complaint in this Court. On the court-provided form, Plaintiff indicated that he was filing this action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680, or other law. (Doc. 1, p. 1). Plaintiff is attempting to sue the Collinsville Police Department and Detective Warren for arresting and charging him for offenses that were eventually dropped. Id. at 6. Plaintiff also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (Doc. 3).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a federal district court may allow a civil case to proceed without prepayment of fees if the movant "submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets [he] possesses [showing] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor." Plaintiff has done so in the instant case. But the Court's inquiry does not end there, because 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires careful threshold scrutiny of the complaint filed by an IFP plaintiff.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), "at any time" a court can deny a qualified plaintiff leave to proceed as a pauper, or it can dismiss a case if the action is clearly frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or is a claim for money damages against an immune defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). An action fails to state a claim 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. 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). 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).

The Complaint

Plaintiff asserts that on August 28, 2013, Defendants, "the Collinsville Police Department with Detective Warren, " came to his home and took him into custody for questioning. (Doc. 1, p. 6). The complaint states that Defendant Warren alleged that Plaintiff was "playing loud and obscene music while driving past young girls at a bus stop, while making obscene hand and mouth gestures.'" Id. at 7. Plaintiff was held in jail and then released on his own recognizance from the City of Collinsville Jail on August 30, 2013; he was issued two tickets: one for driving on a revoked license and the other for disorderly conduct. Id.

The charges against Plaintiff were reported in the local news. Id. Subsequently, Plaintiff was kicked out of his home, and he later received a letter from the school district where his children attend school notifying him that he was prohibited from entering school property and banned from all athletic events. Id.

After a year of continuances, Defendant Warren failed to appear in court, and the charges were dropped. Id. Plaintiff seeks compensation for "the pain and suffering my family and I have gone through" and "an apology from the police." Id. at 7. He also asserts that his name is "forever tarnished." Id.

Discussion

The Court is satisfied from Plaintiff's affidavit that he is indigent. For the following reasons, however, the Court finds that the complaint fails to survive a threshold review under 1915(e)(2) and must be dismissed.

First, the form Plaintiff filled out indicates that he seeks to bring this action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680, or other law. The FTCA provides jurisdiction for suits against the United States regarding torts committed by federal officials. The only named Defendants in this case, the Collinsville Police Department and Detective Warren, are not federal officials. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim does not fall within the jurisdiction of the FTCA.

The Court recognizes that pro se litigants proceed without the benefit of legal advice; as such, naming the wrong statute or asserting an incorrect legal theory is not necessarily fatal to a pro se litigant's claim. See Kennedy v. Nat'l Juvenile Det. Ass'n, 187 F.3d 690, 695 (7th Cir. 1999). "It is, by now, axiomatic that district courts have a special responsibility to construe pro se complaints liberally and to allow ample opportunity for amending the complaint when it appears that by so doing the pro se litigant would be able to state a meritorious claim." Donald v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 1996).

To survive a merit's review, however, even a pro se litigant's complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter" to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "Naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" will not suffice. Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Here, Plaintiff alleges that he was taken into custody and held for two nights on allegations that he had engaged in obscene behavior, for which he was issued a ticket. Later the charges were dropped when Defendant Warren failed to appear in court. Other than the fallout that occurred as a result of these allegations, Plaintiff offers no facts in support of a claim that his rights were violated under either ...


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