United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall, U.S. District Court Judge.
November 15 2015, Plaintiff Shawn Townsel initiated this
Bivens action against Defendants, U.S. Postal
Service employee Ellen Spaulding and Postal Inspectors Jason
Jamerson and Mark Maskas,  for violations of Plaintiff's
Fourth Amendment rights. Townsel alleges that the Defendants
used excessive force (Count I), conducted an unreasonable
search and seizure (Counts I and III), and falsely detained
him (Count II) during the course of their investigation into
claims that he improperly possessed a firearm on Postal
Service property For the reasons stated herein,
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and
denied in part.
Court treats the following allegations as true for purposes
of evaluating this motion. See Gillard v. Proven Methods
Seminars, LLC, 388 F. App'x 549, 550 (7th Cir.
2010). Plaintiff was employed at the U.S. Postal Service
(USPS) O'Hare Airport International Service Center (ISC).
(Dkt. 1 ¶ 21.) On November 23, 2013, three female
employees at the ISC informed Defendant Ellen Spaulding,
Manager of Distribution Operations, that Plaintiff had
threatened a coworker with a firearm and had also threatened
them. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 12.)
following day, Spaulding interviewed Plaintiff regarding
these allegations in the presence of Defendant Jamerson and
Postal Inspector Mark Maskas (the Inspectors). (Dkt. 1 ¶
13.) After the interview, the Inspectors searched
Plaintiff's locker and belongings, where they discovered
his car key. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 14.) Defendant Jamerson remained
with Plaintiff in the ISC while Maskas located
Plaintiff's vehicle. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 14.) After his car
was located in the ISC parking garage, Plaintiff was placed
in handcuffs and driven to his vehicle. (Dkt.1 ¶ 15.)
Inspectors searched Plaintiff's vehicle where they found
a cased and unloaded 9mm Beretta and a box of 9mm ammunition
in violation of federal law. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 15.) After finding
the gun, the Inspectors transported Plaintiff to a holding
cell at the ISC while paperwork and evidence were processed.
(Dkt. 1 ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was then shackled and
transported to a different holding facility. (Dkt. 1 ¶
17.) Plaintiff claims that during his transport all of the
Defendants cursed or yelled at him, and that Inspectors
Jamerson and Maskas assaulted him. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶
16-17.) After six hours at the second holding facility, the
Inspectors transported Plaintiff back to the ISC where he was
detained and eventually released. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 18,
20.) As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was put on
off-duty status based on an Emergency Placement
recommendation from Ms. Spaulding, and was eventually
terminated. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 21.)
eventually paid a fine for possessing a firearm on USPS
property, a misdemeanor in violation of 39 C.F.R. §
232.1(1) (2017) (“Notwithstanding the provisions of any
other law, rule or regulation, no person while on postal
property may carry firearms, other dangerous or deadly
weapons, or explosives, either openly or concealed, or store
the same on postal property, except for official
complaint to survive a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6), it must contain sufficient factual matter to
state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim
is plausible on its face when the complaint contains factual
content that supports a reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the harm. Id. In making the
plausibility determination, the Court relies on its
“judicial experience and common sense.”
McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th
Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The
complaint should be dismissed only if the plaintiffs would
not be entitled to relief under any set of facts that could
be proved consistent with the allegations. Christensen v.
Cty. of Boone, IL, 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007)
(citations omitted). For purposes of this motion, the Court
accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true
and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's
favor. See Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911,
915 (7th Cir. 2013).
Defendants are all federal employees, Plaintiff brings his
claims pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics
Agents, 403 U.S. 374 (1971) and 28 U.S.C. §
1331. Bivens actions provide “an
implied private action for damages against federal officers
alleged to have violated a citizen's constitutional
rights.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. While
“[t]he factors necessary to establish a Bivens
violation will vary with the constitutional provision at
issue”-Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-the Court in
Bivens noted that any violation of an
individual's right to be secure in their person from
unreasonable search and seizure “by a federal agent
acting under color of his authority gives rise to a cause of
action for damages consequent upon his unconstitutional
conduct.” Bivens, 403 U.S. at 389.
advance four arguments in support of their motion to dismiss.
First, they argue that Plaintiff's claims are barred by
the Supreme Court's rule in Bush v.
Lucas, which precludes Bivens actions by
federal employees whose claims could be addressed by a
comprehensive statutory scheme that provides for remedies
against the United States. Gustafson v. Adkins, 803
F.3d 883, 889 n.5 (7th Cir. 2015); see also Bush v.
Lucas, 462 U.S. 367, 378 (1983). Second, Defendants
contend that because Plaintiff did not invalidate his
underlying gun possession conviction, his claims are barred
by the Supreme Court's rule in Heck v. Humphrey,
that “a constitutional claim that would undermine a
criminal conviction if vindicated cannot be brought until the
defendant's conviction is nullified.” Wallace
v. City of Chicago, 440 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2006),
aff'd sub nom. Wallace v. Kato, 549
U.S. 384 (2007); see also Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477, 486-87 (1994). Third, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's suit should be dismissed because he failed to
adequately plead his Fourth Amendment claims against each of
the Defendants individually. Finally, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because they are
entitled to qualified immunity.
Bush v. Lucas
first argue that the Supreme Court's decision in Bush
v. Lucas and its progeny preclude Plaintiff's suit.
(Dkt. 23 at 7.) In Lucas, the Supreme Court
determined that federal employees are not entitled to bring
constitutional tort suits when comprehensive statutory
remedies can address their claims. Lucas, 462 U.S.
at 388-89. This reasoning applies to any administrative
scheme that “provide[s] meaningful redress and thereby
foreclose[s] the need to fashion a new, judicially crafted
cause of action.” Corr. Servs. Corp. v.
Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 68 (2001). The Seventh Circuit has
specifically precluded constitutional tort suits brought by
USPS employees pursuant to Bush v. Lucas. See Ellis v.
U.S. Postal Serv., 784 F.2d 835, 839-40 (7th Cir. 1986)
(noting that “Congress expressly authorized”
appropriate civil service remedies).
argue that pursuant to Lucas, Plaintiff's suit
is barred because, as a USPS employee, the Civil Service
Reform Act and the Federal Employees Compensation Act provide
comprehensive administrative remedies to address his claims.
(Dkt. 28 at 2-3.) Plaintiff contends that, because he is not
seeking redress for an employment action, Lucas is
inapplicable. (Dkt. 27 at 6-7.)