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Pennington v. Flack

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 25, 2019

ROBERT LAMONT PENNINGTON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MARK FLACK, TOM LILLARD, and ILLINOIS STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert Lamont Pennington, Jr., a pretrial detainee currently being held at Jerome Combs Detention Center, brings this action for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Amended Complaint (Doc. 9)[1], Plaintiff alleges Defendants conducted two unconstitutional traffic stops. He asserts claims under the Fourth Amendment.

         This case is now before the Court for preliminary review of the Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner Complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Any portion of a 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 must be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Amended Complaint

          Plaintiff makes the following allegations in his Amended Complaint (Doc. 9): On January 23, 2018, while traveling on Interstate 57, Plaintiff was pulled over for speeding by Illinois State Trooper Mark Flack. (Id. at p. 6). Flack issued Plaintiff a written warning and had Plaintiff get out of the vehicle for a prolonged stop. Flack had no reason to detain Plaintiff after he issued the written warning.

         After Plaintiff was released from the first stop, Illinois State Trooper Tom Lillard received information from Flack about Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 6). Lillard initiated another traffic stop of Plaintiff which lacked reasonable suspicion as he acted only on Flack’s statements and no other information. Lillard informed Plaintiff that he had made an improper lane change. Plaintiff’s rights under the Fourth Amendment were violated by both Flack and Lillard.

         Discussion

          Based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, the Court finds it convenient to divide the pro se action into the following Counts:

Count 1:Mark Flack unreasonably prolonged the January 23, 2018 traffic stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Count 2:Tom Lillard made a pre-textual traffic stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

         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. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice as inadequately pled under the Twombly pleading standard.[2]

         Preliminary Dismissals

          Plaintiff cannot maintain his lawsuit against the Illinois State Police because it is a state agency. “Neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons’ under § 1983.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir.2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Moore v. Ill. State Police, No. 01 C 7231, 2001 WL 1636920, at * 2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 20, 2001) (the Illinois State Police is a state agency treated the same as the state itself for purposes of Eleventh Amendment immunity). Accordingly, the Illinois State Police is DISMISSED from this action with prejudice.

         Coun ...


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