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Madondo v. Smyrna Police Department

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

June 4, 2018




         Angeline Madondo has filed a pro se Complaint (Doc. No. 1) against defendants Smyrna Police Department and Smyrna Police Officer R. Edwards, asserting claims based on alleged violations of her constitutional rights. Because she proceeds in forma pauperis, the complaint is before the Court for an initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         I. Legal Standard

         The Court is required to conduct an initial review of any in forma pauperis complaint and to dismiss any portion of it that is facially frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).

         In conducting this review, “a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that she was aggressively and unnecessarily assaulted by Smyrna Police Officer R. Edwards, Badge # 1004, during the course of an arrest for driving under the influence, on January 3, 2018. She claims that she had already suffered a broken leg prior to the incident, but, as a result of the malicious assault by Officer Edwards, her injury was exacerbated and required surgery. She seeks compensation for pain and suffering, as well as for the permanent disability and disfigurement of her right foot and leg, and reimbursement for all costs associated with her treatment. Although she asserts that she is innocent of the drunk-driving charge against her, she does not actually allege that she was arrested without probable cause or that she suffered any violation of her Fourth Amendment rights other than through being subjected to the use of excessive force. She nonetheless demands that the criminal charges against her be dropped and that she be reimbursed for all costs associated with her arrest.

         The Complaint does not contain any allegations regarding the official actions or policies of the Smyrna Police Department or the effect of these on the officer's actions. In her prayer for relief, Plaintiff states that she would “like Smyrna Police Department to be held responsible for this traumatic incident as well as the pain and suffering.” (Doc. No. 1, at 3.) She further requests that all cases in which Officer Edwards was involved be reopened and evaluated to verify whether other innocent people have been victimized by his “gruesome misconduct.” (Id.)

         III. Legal Analysis

         A. Excessive Force Claim Against Officer Edwards

         Plaintiff asserts that her constitutional rights have been violated. Because 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a civil cause of action for the violation of constitutional rights, the Court liberally construes the complaint as bringing claims under § 1983.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must establish “(1) that [the] defendant was acting under color of state law, and (2) the offending conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights secured under federal law.” Mezibov v. Allen, 411 F.3d 712, 716 (6th Cir. 2005). The rights of a person who suffers the use of unreasonable force during the course of an arrest are protected by the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” U.S. Const. Amend. IV; see also Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989) (holding that “all claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force-deadly or not-in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other ‘seizure' of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its ‘reasonableness' standard”).

         The Complaint states a colorable claim against Officer Edwards under § 1983 based on the use of unreasonable force, as it alleges facts that, if true, could establish that Officer Edwards, as a police officer, was a person acting under color of state law and that he violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. Moreover, because the excessive force claim apparently has no bearing on the validity of the pending state charges against the plaintiff for driving under the influence, there is no need refrain from exercising jurisdiction or to stay the claims under the abstention doctrine established in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).

         B. Claim Against Smyrna ...

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