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Carlyle v. Calhoun County Treasurer

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 21, 2017

DONALD G. CARLYLE, # N-77711, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Donald Carlyle, currently incarcerated at Robinson Correctional Center, [1] brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights.[2] Plaintiff claims that Defendants caused him to be wrongfully arrested and incarcerated and defamed his character when they contributed to or allowed the issuance of a warrant for failure to appear in court that resulted in his arrest and temporary incarceration. Plaintiff's Complaint is now before the Court for a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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. A Complaint is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011); Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

         After fully considering the allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court concludes that this action is subject to summary dismissal.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff was released from prison on September 11, 2015, after serving a sentence at Pinckneyville Correctional Center. (Doc. 1, p. 5). During his time in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Plaintiff was aware that he had an outstanding warrant from Calhoun County for failure to appear on fines and court costs from a 2006 case for the obstruction of justice. Id. Plaintiff had filed a motion to quash that warrant, but his motion was denied. Id. Upon his release, Plaintiff had a “Blue I.D. Card, ” indicating that he had an outstanding warrant from Calhoun County. Id.

         After his release, Plaintiff was arrested by Caseyville police on the Calhoun County warrant for failure to appear. Id. He was taken to St. Clair County Jail, where he posted bond and was released with a pending court date in Calhoun County. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). However, Plaintiff did not show up for the Calhoun County court hearing because “he called them and explained to them that the debt was sold and [he did]] not owe them any longer.” (Doc. 1, p. 6).

         After missing the court date, Plaintiff was arrested “on that warrant and was held for like 12 days in Jersey County Jail waiting to see a judge.” Id. Plaintiff's father called and attempted to “explain they were wrong but they wouldn't listen.” Id. When Plaintiff saw the judge in his case, he explained the situation. Id. The judge directed the clerk to look up whether Plaintiff's debt had been sold, and determined that it indeed had been. Id. Plaintiff was then released. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts that “the person responsible should [have] quashed the warrant upon selling of the debt.” Id. He alleges that the Calhoun County Treasurer was responsible for selling the debt to the collection agency and should have informed the Circuit Clerk to quash the warrant for F.T.A. on fines and court costs.” (Doc. 1, p. 1). He also asserts that the Calhoun County Commissioner/Superintendent was responsible for passing the law turning fines and court costs over to collection agencies and should have appointed someone to throw out or quash his warrant. (Doc. 1, p. 2). As for Calhoun County, Plaintiff alleges that they sold his debt to a collection agency but did not thereafter quash his warrant, resulting in his wrongful arrest and incarceration. Id.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary relief for his “mental anguish, wrongful incarceration, loss of wages, defamation of character, and malicious prosecution.” (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Merits Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following 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. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Fourth Amendment claim for false/wrongful arrest, where Plaintiff no longer owed a debt to Calhoun County for fines and court costs, because the County sold its debt to a collection agency;
Count 2: Fourth Amendment claim for false/wrongful imprisonment, where Plaintiff was jailed for 12 days based on the Calhoun County warrants that should not have been issued because Plaintiff no longer owed fines or costs to the County;
Count 3: State tort claim for defamation of character in connection with Plaintiff's wrongful arrest and incarceration;

         Counts 1 and 2 will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The state tort claim in Count 3 will be dismissed without prejudice because no viable federal claims will remain in the action, and the Court declines to assert supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state-law claim under these circumstances.

         Dismissal of Count 1 - ...

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