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Oliver v. City of Clarksville

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

February 10, 2017

MARDOCHE OLIVIER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CLARKSVILLE, POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Kevin H. Sharp Chief United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Mardoche Olivier, a resident of Clarksville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis action against the “City of Clarksville, Police Department”, Deputy Chief f/n/u Gray, Darren Koski, and Bradley Holder, alleging violations of the Plaintiff's civil rights.[1] (Docket No. 1). The Plaintiff seeks $100, 000 fines from the City of Clarksville and “the officers, ” as well as attorney fees. (Id. at p. 3).

         I. Required Screening of the Complaint

         The Plaintiff is proceeding as a pauper in this action; therefore, the Court must conduct an initial review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and dismiss it or any portion of it that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that “the dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)”).

         “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions[] are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F. App'x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F. App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, “[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her”); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004) (“District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants.”); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F. App'x 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not only would that duty be overly burdensome, it would transform the courts from neutral arbiters of disputes into advocates for a particular party. While courts are properly charged with protecting the rights of all who come before it, that responsibility does not encompass advising litigants as to what legal theories they should pursue.”).

         II. Alleged Facts

         According to the complaint, on December 9, 2016, after the Plaintiff and Troy Lozano filed suit against the City of Clarksville, more than one unidentified “officers” forced the Plaintiff and Mr. Lozano out of the Plaintiff's car and questioned the two men about the Plaintiff “calling threts [sic] to the Mayor's office.” (Docket No. 1 at p. 2). The complaint alleges that the Plaintiff demanded that the officers produce a warrant. (Id.) The Plaintiff believes his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated during this exchange. (Id. at p. 1).

         III. Analysis

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must plead and prove that a defendant, while acting under color of state law, deprived him or her of some right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981).

         First, the Plaintiff names Deputy Chief Gray, Darren Koski, and Bradley Holder as Defendants. It is a basic pleading essential that a plaintiff must attribute factual allegations to particular defendants. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544 (holding that, in order to state a claim, a plaintiff must make sufficient allegations to give a defendant fair notice of the claim). The Plaintiff has failed to attribute any conduct at all to Deputy Chief Gray. Similarly, although the complaint alleges that “officers” forced the Plaintiff out of his vehicle and questioned the Plaintiff about threats to the mayor, the complaint does not identify the officers involved in the December 9, 2016, incident by name. Where a defendant is named but the plaintiff fails to allege that the defendant engaged in any specific conduct, the complaint is subject to dismissal, even under the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints. See Gilmore v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 92 F. App'x 188, 190 (6th Cir. 2004) (dismissing complaint where plaintiff failed to allege how any named defendant was involved in the violation of his rights). Therefore, the Plaintiff's claims against Deputy Chief Gray, Darren, and Bradley will be dismissed.

         Even assuming arguendo that the Plaintiff had identified Koski and Holder as the officers involved in the event, as relief for the alleged wrongs committed by the officers, the complaint seeks money damages from the officers in their official capacities only. (Docket No. 1 at p. 3). A suit against a police officer in his official capacity is a suit against the entity by whom the officer is employed. A fair reading of the instant pro se complaint is that officers Koski and Holder are employees of the City of Clarksville or the City's police department.

         The Plaintiff has named the “City of Clarksville, Police Department” as a Defendant or as two separate Defendants to this action. However, the Clarksville Police Department is not a suable entity under § 1983. See Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., No. 3:10-cv-0496, 2010 WL 3341889, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010) (“[F]ederal district courts in Tennessee have frequently and uniformly held that police departments and sheriff's departments are not proper parties to a § 1983 suit.”)(collecting cases)). Thus, the Plaintiff's claims against the Clarksville Police Department must be dismissed.

         While the City of Clarksville is a suable entity, it is responsible under § 1983 only for its “own illegal acts. [It is] not vicariously liable under § 1983 for [its] employees' actions.” Connickv. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1359, 179 L.Ed.2d 417 (2011) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Under § 1983, a municipality can only be held liable if the plaintiff demonstrates that the alleged federal violation was a direct result of the city's official policy or custom. Burgess v. Fisher, 735 F.3d 462, 478 (6th Cir.2013) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 693, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)); Regets v. City of Plymouth, 568 Fed.Appx. 380, 2014 WL 2596562, at *12 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Slusher v. Carson, 540 F.3d 449, 456-57 (6th Cir. 2008)). A plaintiff can make a showing of an illegal policy or custom by demonstrating one of the following: (1) the existence of an illegal official policy or legislative enactment; ...


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